The gift of better vision is available to those who qualify for free exams and eyeglasses through a local nonprofit agency, Lions service club officials say.

The gift of better vision is available to those who qualify for free exams and eyeglasses through a local nonprofit agency, Lions service club officials say.

Hundreds of low-income community members are already seeing better, thanks to a new partnership that began in February between the Southern Oregon Lions Sight & Hearing Center, Prevent Blindness America, Vision Service Plan, the statewide Oregon Lions organization, and area vision specialists, said Glory Cooper, executive director of the local Lions center. "We have helped over 400 people since February," Cooper said. "We served 85 people in May. And we're ready to help more."

Qualified applicants for the Lions Eyeglasses Assistance Program, or LEAP, will receive a free exam and one pair of glasses, thanks to $10 million in annual funding that is coming from Vision Service, Cooper said.

"People are overjoyed with this new program," Cooper said. "We have endless vouchers available for qualified applicants."

The Vision Service plan is similar to the "Sight for Students" program that helps provide vision screening and eyeglasses to low-income children, she said.

To enroll in LEAP, clients must be at least 18 years old, and have no other vision care options, including certain Medicare coverages, Cooper said.

Those who meet the criteria will receive a voucher for both the exam and the glasses, which can include single-vision lenses, bifocals or even trifocals, Cooper said.

"They get to choose from a list of 13 area vision providers that accept the voucher and work with us as a partner," Cooper said. "These partners are our lifeline."

Lions Sight and Hearing Center also is the local repository for old eyeglasses, hearing aids and closed-circuit television screens that magnify text.

A drop box is maintained outside the center at 228 N. Holly St., Medford. Receipts are available inside the office, open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Local optometrists volunteer their time to adjust donated eyeglasses before distributing them in Central America. Some even maintain drop boxes in their offices.

Call 541-779-3653 for low-income guidelines, prequalification and to schedule an interview.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.