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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkMexico & Banderas Bay Area News 

Couple Says PV Vision Mission a Rewarding Experience

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March 7, 2016

Jamestown Lions Club members Dwaine and Joyce Heinrich were among the North Dakota volunteers who screened approximately 1,000 youth and adults at the Puerto Vallarta Lions Club last month.

Jamestown, North Dakota - Jamestown Lions Club members Dwaine and Joyce Heinrich said a vision-screening mission to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, did as much to bless them as it did the people they wanted to help.

"It was a very worthwhile and rewarding experience," Dwaine Heinrich said. "It was one of those things you can't buy."

Hosted by the Puerto Vallarta Lions Club, North Dakota volunteers screened approximately 1,000 youth and adults from Feb. 21-24. The screenings determined a person's vision health and when glasses were needed, there were suitcases full of donated prescription glasses to match.

"We gave away over 1,000 pairs of glasses to 773 people," Heinrich said. "Some needed reading glasses and the regular ones since we didn't have bifocals."

The majority of those needing glasses were farsighted, he said. Out of all the screenings, only six people wound up not needing glasses.

In the event there wasn't a pair of glasses to match a prescription, Heinrich said volunteers would pick out a set of frames and the Puerto Vallarta Lions Club would purchase the lenses.

The glasses were donated by people from around North Dakota, he said, and after being cleaned and repaired, the glasses came to Jamestown, where staff from Lifetime Vision Source, Professional EyeCare Centers and Looysen I Care checked the prescriptions for each pair.

"All involved, starting with those who donated glasses, played a part in improving the lives of less fortunate individuals," Heinrich said. "Seeing the smiles and feeling the appreciation of those who received glasses was of course very heartwarming."

The Lions Club made eradicating blindness part of its mission in 1925, he said. Leaders met with Helen Keller and learned that blindness is treatable and preventable in many cases, especially when people are young, he said.

In North Dakota the Lions Club provides vision screenings for youth ages 6 months to 6 years old, but not for adults, he said. The international screenings have a different focus in treating adults and giving out glasses, he said.

"In Mexico we did screen some children but primarily the people we worked with there were the working poor," he said. "During this trip we had some discussions with some folks locally there so that we can get into the school and do some screenings if we go back."

The Fargo and Puerto Vallarta Lions clubs formed the mission through the International Foundation of Lions Clubs International, he said. The Heinrichs' joined the Fargo Lions Club and Fargo Gateway Lions Club project with other Lions Club members from Bismarck, Mandan, Minot and New England, who paid for their own travel and lodging expenses.

Steve Thom, an ophthalmologist in Fargo, provided eye examinations when a screening showed more concern than needing glasses. Allie Thom, his daughter, is a Spanish-speaking student at Concordia University in Moorhead, Minn., and worked as an interpreter on the mission.

"They both were simply fantastic," Heinrich said.

The Puerto Vallarta Lions Club is small, but dedicated, he said. Its president, Enrique Perez Florez, appeared on the local radio and television stations to let people know about the screening event, he said.

"The Puerto Vallarta Lions obviously care about their people," Heinrich said. "This mission was directed toward the working poor."

The patients were "very gracious, friendly and appreciative" of the screenings, he said.

"It was really an experience and certainly one that you have to do to understand what it's like and to appreciate what it all means - not only to the people you are serving but also to the people that went here to serve," Heinrich said.

Original article