The Lions Sight & Tissue Foundation was founded in 1956 as the Dallas Eye Bank, organized by a Dallas insurance underwriters organization and Dallas ophthalmologists with the help of two Lions Clubs. The Oak Cliff Lions Club contributed $8,000.00 to get the new organization started and members of the Richardson Host Lions Club participated on its board of directors. The catalyst for the new organization was Mrs. Grace Neighbors, R.N., who was on the staff of the Department of Ophthalmology at Southwestern Medical School, as it was known at that time.
The Dallas Eye Bank became known as the Texas Lions Eye Bank in 1965, and then later as the Lions Sight & Tissue Foundation in 1977. This 501 c 3 organization has been in continuous operation providing a variety of eye-tissue and vision correction related services to the needy in our Greater Dallas community for over 47 years.
In 1977, in partnership with the Dallas Independent School District, began offering a Saturday Morning Eye Clinic for needy children. Over the years, the Texas Commission for the Blind (TCB) and Dallas Services for Visually Impaired Children have been added as partners.
In the summer of 1981, in partnership with transplant services, bone banking was added to donor tissue activity. The name of the Skin Transplant Center for Burns was changed to The Transplant Services Center, which became a full service department of the University. Many additional donor tissues are now being handled at the Center such as tendons, cartilage and heart valves. In September of 2001, nearly 70 square feet of donor skin was provided to burn victims at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
In the fall of 1996, ophthalmic equipment was purchased and stored in a small trailer so that the equipment could be taken to outlying cities and set up to examine qualifying needy children at the request of local Lions Clubs. The Remote Clinic is available twice a month during the school year.
Students qualifying for the school lunch program are eligible to be seen at the clinic if they fail vision-screening tests at school and are referred to the clinic by their school nurses. The TCB has covered the costs of examination and eye glasses for about 1,300 students each year that meet the Commission’s age and income criteria and the Lions Sight & Tissue Foundation covers the cost of the balance of children seen. During the 1986/1987 school year, 1,780 students were examined and most needed and received glasses.
The TCB has indicated that due to budget constraints they may no longer be able to provide this support starting in the fall of 2003.
The Lions Sight & Tissue Foundation has been active with projects in Latin America. Lions from the Dallas Central Lions Club, sponsored by the Lions Sight & Tissue Foundation, were instrumental in starting eye bank activities in Mexico. Lion Al Cortez and Past District Governor Pancho Luna hand carried many corneas to Monterrey, Mexico. Those Lions were instrumental in helping to get Mexican Law changed to allow the removal of eyes from deceased people for eye bank purposes.
The Lions Sight & Tissue Foundation has purchased eyeglasses for needy adults and occasionally for needy children who are not involved in the school eyeglass programs for a number of years. Eyeglass purchase is generally not available from any other welfare source other than Lions organizations.
Recently another new partner, Lenscrafters, has come on board to assist the Lions Sight & Tissue Foundation with supplying eyeglasses for the adult eyeglass program.
The LSTF also collects used eyeglasses, which have been to India, Latin American countries and the Caribbean. The LSTF annually provides over 100,000 pairs of donated glasses to missionaries and other groups making mission trips overseas. Visit the LSTF.org website here for more information.