Elizabeth Sipos collects old eyeglasses from St. Vincent de Paul Church and other locations, and through a program run by the Lions Club International, the glasses are sent to developing countries for people in need. (Photo provided)
Elizabeth Sipos collects old eyeglasses from St. Vincent de Paul Church and other locations, and through a program run by the Lions Club International, the glasses are sent to developing countries for people in need. (Photo provided)

The term “recycling” is tossed around a lot these days. 

Recycling usually means properly discarding plastic bottles, ensuring trash is sorted correctly or composting food scraps. But of all the things tied to recycling, eyeglasses aren’t usually something that comes to mind. 

But Elizabeth Sipos, a senior at Loudonville Christian School in Colonie, has been working at her parish, St. Vincent de Paul in Albany, to recycle and refurbish hundreds of used eyeglasses for those in need. 

The parish currently holds two collection boxes — one at the Madison Street entrance and in the office by the parking-lot entrance — where parishioners can donate any old or worn-out prescription glasses that will be refurbished and distributed to medical facilities in developing countries. There, patients will be matched up with one of the refurbished glasses that fits their needed prescription. 

“It’s amazing how many eyeglasses people have turned into us,” said Katherine Malle Sipos, Elizabeth’s mom. 

The eyeglasses project is a volunteer opportunity offered by the Lions Club International, a national nonprofit. The program, run by volunteers like Elizabeth, collects used eyeglasses through public donation boxes. Volunteers bring the collected glasses to their local Lions Club branch where the glasses are sent off to be refurbished and then distributed. 

“If you have sight, you have the opportunity for employment, you have the opportunity for education … and that will improve the quality of your life,” Sipos said.

Elizabeth — who is involved with the music ministry at the Church and sings at the 8:30 a.m. Sunday Mass — started collecting used eyeglasses two years ago, after inheriting the project from her older sister, Alexandra, who started back in 2016. The two sisters got the idea when they stumbled upon a collection of old eyeglasses while cleaning out their grandfather’s basement. 

“We didn’t want to just leave them,” ­Elizabeth said. “We looked up where we could donate them and we found the ­Lions International.”

Alexandra collected glasses around the Capital Region for two years — including from the Pastoral Center in the Diocese of Albany —  until she graduated from Albany High School in 2018; that’s when Elizabeth took over. 

Elizabeth currently has collection boxes at St. Vincent de Paul’s parish, two at her high school, and one at each of the ­Albany Public Library branches.

Once a box is full, Elizabeth brings it home, separates the glasses from the cases and counts the haul. She estimates having collected several hundred eyeglasses, and has five filled boxes already collected in her basement. 

She adds that a number of glasses she’s received are from St. Vincent de Paul’s parish. The church makes sure the collection boxes are advertised in the parish announcements at the end of Mass, and a notice is placed in the parish bulletin asking for parishioners to bring in any used eyeglasses for donation. 

“We recycle bottles, we recycle paper, why not recycle eyeglasses and help somebody?” said Sipos.