New Eyes for the Needy was founded in 1932 by Short Hills resident Julia Lawrence Terry. She was a volunteer for the Red Cross in Manhattan during the Great Depression and noticed that the applicants could not see to read their applications. So, she asked her Short Hills neighbors for their “unused spectacles” and lent them out to the Red Cross applicants. Terry soon realized that the eyeglass frames were made from gold and silver and took them to a smelter in Newark. With the proceeds, she then bought new prescription eyeglasses for her Red Cross clients — and New Eyes was born.
New Eyes provides the simple, yet critical, tool of eyeglasses to those in financial need so that they may have the clear vision necessary to build productive and successful lives. We purchase new prescription eyeglasses for U.S. residents at or below 200% of the federal poverty level; and accept, sort and distribute gently used eyeglasses to the poor overseas through mission partners. We partner directly with social service agencies, optical industry companies and overseas NGOs. With over 14 million Americans with poor vision who need, but cannot afford, eyeglasses, as well as over 2 billion people worldwide, New Eyes mission is as relevant today as it was 87 years ago.
Our fiscal year just began on April 1 with a goal of providing 15,000 U.S. residents with new eyeglasses and distributing 275,000 used eyeglasses overseas. We look to further grow our donor base by 10% and increase our other revenue streams (like our online sales of donated items) by 25%.
Long-term, New Eyes seeks to become more self-sustaining through creating social enterprise initiatives to develop independent revenue and funding sources (e.g. selling New Eyes branded frames to the public) to meet the growing need and demand for our services.
New Eyes is tackling trends in a few different areas. Seeking to grow New Eyes’ level of awareness and fundraising efforts, we are focusing efforts on our social media platforms and other media outlets. As millennials age, become more affluent and replace baby boomers as the main source of individual donations, we know we have grab their attention where they spend their time.
We are currently conducting our 20/20 for 2020 campaign, which we launched in 2016 with goals to raise $1 million for new prescription eyeglasses for U.S. residents and 1 million used eyeglasses for our overseas program by the end of 2020. To date, we have raised $740,000 and 710,000 used glasses.
New Eyes has also begun conducting its own vision clinics in New Jersey, with the first one held at our facility in Short Hills in December 2018. We are investigating other venues and opportunities where New Eyes can deal directly with the most vulnerable in New Jersey to provide them with new eyeglasses and clear vision.
New Eyes is taking advantage and adapting technology to its business model of providing new eyeglasses to the needy in the United States. We have replaced our former paper-intensive, postal mail procedures with a fully online process, leveraging technology to drastically shorten the time our clients wait to receive their glasses from 6-8 weeks to 1-2 weeks and cutting our costs by over 60%, allowing us help many more people in financial need.
New Eyes benefits from many New Jersey corporate social responsibility programs. These corporate volunteer groups are critical to sorting the hundreds of thousands of used eyeglasses New Eyes receives for our overseas program. These groups are consistently enthusiastic, engaged and easily trained. CSR programs also undertake fundraising campaigns for New Eyes and conduct used glasses drives within their companies.
“I joined New Eyes in 2009 as the community relations coordinator and became executive director in 2013. As a person with high myopia, New Eyes’ mission of providing eyeglasses to those in need deeply resonated with me. Without the clear vision that glasses and contacts have afforded me since I was 8 years old, I know I would not have been able to accomplish what I have in my life.” — Jean Gajano
Location: Short Hills
Key member: Jean Gajano, executive director