History

Starting in the late 1970's the Rancho California Lions started a club project named Friends Across the Border. They delivered toys, food, and clothing to the very poor in Mexicali, Mexico; including the orphanages. As the club project grew it became an endorsed project for the Lions of District 4L-5. Essentially, the District 4L-5; encompassed all of the Lions Clubs in Riverside and San Bernardino County, California. Lions Joe Cruz and Poncho Villa headed the district project. At various times as many as three-tractor trailers loaded with food, clothing, and equipment were taken to Mexicali, to assist the orphanages and establish other projects south of the border.

In 1992 the project died out. In the spring of 1993 a group of dedicated Lions including Joe Cruz, Ed Morden, Alex and Stella Cedano, Angel Chavez and Paul Ingram held a meeting and the project was reborn. With the help of other lions and their families they started by transporting a 45-foot trailer full of medical supplies to the Mexicali General Hospital. The group soon learned of a need by farm workers, in an area called "K-57", comprised of three small towns that straddled the states of Sonora and Baja California, Mexico. With the help of the Sonora-Baja California Lions a joint effort was taken to help raise money for school buses desperately needed for the area.

The Hemet Lions club soon became involved spurred by Lion Percy Parish who drove the Hemet Eye Bus and joined by optometrists, the group dispensed recycled eyeglasses and eye care became a reality. Lion John Benton took over the driving chores when we lost Lion Percy Parish from cancer. The Hemet Lions and later Rialto Breakfast Lions continued to supply recycled glasses for the project. Lion Joe Delgado and others scrounged up surplus school furniture, food, school supplies, bi-lingual coloring books, children's clothing, and FIVE school buses!

In 2002 Lion Don Ranney became joint chairman with Lion Paul Ingram. The project soon attracted more opticians and optometrists along with many dedicated Lions who come along when they can on the twice-yearly clinic. Friends Across the Border has also enjoyed the service of Don Kluge, a certified Oculist, who lovingly, has made several trips and artificial eyes and limbs for the people of the K-57 area.

Over time it became more difficult to get permission to take supplies south of the border and eventually Friends Across the Border made the decision to maintain itself strictly, as a source for eye care. While the project continued to reach out to the K-57 area, it also adsorbed the Hemet Lions Club project in Tecate, Mexico. With the assistance of the Tecate Lions Club, vision screenings with dispensing of recycled eyeglasses have been done in Tijuana, El Hongo Penitentiary and other small outlying communities in Mexico.

Friends Across the Border also made one trip to Ghana, Africa and worked with the local Lions putting on 5 screenings in 5 days and basically taught them our vision screening process. Additionally, we left them with an auto-refractor and other examination equipment and recycled eyeglasses to carry on their own vision screenings. We continue to work on the problem of keeping them supplied with an eyeglass inventory, for their continued vision screenings.

In 2004, Lion District Governor Hugh Grant made Friends Across the Border his District Project and with the help of the Lions, an Automatic Keratometer/Refractor was purchased for use at the vision screenings. Over the course of time a 12-passenger van and trailer was purchased with funds generated by and/or donated to Friends Across the Border. With matching funds from the Lions of District 4L-5 and Lions Clubs International, via Governor Lion Bob Shine, more eye examination equipment including an Automatic Air-Puff Tonometer was purchased. A computerized eyeglass inventory system was developed along with more automatic lensometers were purchased to assist the verification process.

As the economy has gotten shakier, Friends Across the Border became more involved in doing more vision screenings in southern California. With the need becoming larger and the need for funding growing, a decision was made to change the official name and organizational status with the IRS.

In July of 2010, Friends Across the Border became the California Lions Friends in Sight. This move was done to help the organization meet its goals and assist as many people as possible with their eye care needs.