The Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Central Whidbey Lions Clubs have been prominent fixtures in the community for decades, heading service projects and hosting highly anticipated events.
But not all Whidbey residents know that these clubs’ influence and good will extend far beyond the island.
For the past five years, the three clubs have participated alongside Lions Clubs from California, Mexico and other Washington locations in an international initiative to provide medical supplies and services to Mexicali, Mexico. Whidbey residents can contribute to their efforts right now.
Throughout the year, these three Whidbey Lions Clubs collect donations of medical supplies, including eyeglasses, wheelchairs, crutches, walkers and sterile dressings. Once a year, usually in the spring, volunteers from Central Whidbey Lions Club drive the donations down to Mexicali, where a clinic is held over a long weekend.
“The clinic is staffed with medical doctors, podiatrists, optometrists, opticians, veterinarians, and dentists,” Central Whidbey Lion Wanda Grone wrote in a press release to the News-Times.
This year, the ongoing pandemic made it difficult for the Lions to get the donated supplies across the border.
“This year we brought down the supplies in March and it took about six months for customs to say it was okay to bring it to the General Hospital in Mexicali,” Central Whidbey Lion Ted Mihok said. “They got it across finally.”
The Whidbey clubs first became involved in this effort when Mihok and his wife moved to Whidbey Island eight years ago. Mihok’s brother, an optometrist living in Oakdale, Calif., has been participating in the program for 40 years.
The two got their California Lions Club to join the effort, and when Mihok relocated to Whidbey Island, he pitched the program to the clubs here, which have now been participating for more than five years.
“It’s an international project that we’re really proud of,” Mihok said. “It’ll continue as long as we’re able to do it.”
The clinic they host in Mexicali serves hundreds of people every year. Besides donating eye exams and supplies to Mexicali residents in need, the clinic also provides training for local interns and other medical professionals.
“It’s wonderful,” Mihok said. “You get more out of it than you put into it.”
Collection boxes for eyeglasses are in several locations around Coupeville, including the Island County administrative building and the Coupeville post office.
To donate other medical supplies, contact Mihok at firstname.lastname@example.org.