First published in the March 2011 issue of Corporate Philanthropy Report available electronically to subscribers on February 24, 2011.
There are many ways in which a company can use its products to help disaster-stricken communities recover from the ensuing mayhem and rebuild their lives and livelihoods. In the wake of the earthquake that devastated much of Haiti, companies ranging from pharmaceutical and medical supply manufacturers to makers of construction and building equipment quickly came to the country’s aid, donating millions of dollars’ worth of supplies and equipment that proved vital to stemming the human losses and getting the Haitian people back on their feet.
But sometimes, it’s the little-noticed items that help these battered populations cope with daily life and move forward. Answering a call from experts who visited Haiti and noted a need for reading glasses—a simple item offering a world of benefits—FGX International stepped up to the plate.
A subsidiary of French ophthalmic products manufacturer Essilor International, FGX recently announced a donation of some 47,000 pairs of reading glasses to charity, a gift valued at about $5.7 million. The glasses will be distributed through a partnership with the Lions Club’s Eye Recycling Center in New Jersey. One half of the donation, composed of both Magnivision and the iconic Foster Grant branded reading glasses, will benefit eye care centers in Haiti and Africa. The remaining half will be sent on medical missions to other third-world countries in need.
The donation will fill an important void in the current recovery efforts in Haiti, according to Dr. Paul Berman, co-director of EyeCare4Haiti, which helped facilitate the donation.
“Non-prescription reading glasses can certainly help patients in Haiti and elsewhere—not only to read, but to be able to do other tasks that require the ability to focus up close,” said Berman. The glasses will make doing simple things like cooking, cleaning and even darning socks easier for scores of Haitians, he said.
After visiting Haiti in the wake of the devastating January 2010 earthquake, Berman quickly went to work coordinating the delivery of reading glasses to the country.
“For the first time in awhile, people could see up close, read, sew and perform other everyday jobs,” he said.
In announcing the product donation, Alec Taylor, FGX’s chief executive, noted the slow progress in Haiti’s recovery.
“It has been one year since the devastating Haiti earthquake, and the reality is that there is still so much work to be done to help Haiti recover,” he said. “If we can aid in some small way with the donation of eyewear, we are pleased to be able to do so. It is our sincere hope that our reading glasses donation both in America and abroad will help patients in need throughout the world.”
This is not the first time FGX has utilized its core product line to support charity.
The company launched the Pink Hope sunglasses line, marketed under the Angel Eyewear brand, to support its partnership with the Keep a Breast Foundation. The company adapted one of its newest styles—the Wonder—to reflect the partnership and its dedication to breast cancer awareness and prevention. For every pair of Pink Hope glasses sold, the company has pledged to donate $5 to the foundation.
FGX also made a significant product donation to Attitudes & Attire, a nonprofit agency dedicated to promoting personal growth for women seeking self-sufficiency. The organization provides the tools that raise self-esteem, promote ethics and build the confidence necessary to succeed in the workplace by reinforcing positive self-image, appropriate workplace behavior and appearance in traditional workplace training programs.
The company also donated reading glasses to the Rhode Island Free Clinic, the state’s only clinic exclusively providing free comprehensive primary medical care, prevention education and referrals to the uninsured.
For a relatively small company—it employs just 350 people—FGX is putting its products to use in a big way, and making a positive difference worldwide.
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