Volunteer Spotlight - Kip Palmer & the San Miguel Lions Club

Kip and Marjann Palmer enjoying dinner in San Miguel de Allende.Nearly a decade ago, Kip Palmer and his wife Marjann decided to move from Honolulu, Hawaii to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for retirement. The beautiful city with a population of 115,000 is in the middle of the country at a high elevation of 6,500 feet. It’s such a temperate city with breathtaking views and baroque Spanish architecture that it draws several expats like the Palmers to enjoy retirement. This, coupled with the great need of those locally, causes San Miguel de Allende to be a bustling metropolis filled with art, culture and over 140 nonprofits that help with everything from teaching English, to helping kids attend high school, to medical clinics. As a result, volunteer opportunities abound and it’s home to the largest library of English books in Mexico.

Kip joined the San Miguel Lions Club 8 years ago and has been helping with their Thursday morning eyeglass clinic ever since. Each Thursday, the eyeglass clinic opens at 8am and stays open until the 20-30 individuals who have made appointments are seen by one of the two opticians. The clinic shares a building with another nonprofit who does dentistry and medical care for children up to 16 years old. Often times, these children are referred to the eyeglass clinic. Adults also travel to be seen at the eyeglass clinic and rarely don’t need glasses.

“We’ve seen some great things over the years,” says Kip. “I’m shocked by how many people come in needing high prescriptions who have never worn glasses before. We had a husband and wife who came in who were in their 70s. Both had limited eyesight and needed glasses. They had never seen each other really. We were able to fit them both with glasses and they sat there looking at each other smiling.”

The San Miguel Lions Club keeps a computerized inventory of over 37,000 pairs of glasses. Many of their older glasses came from the Texas Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center. Currently, Kip works with Saving Sight’s Eyeglass Recycling Program to help replace old and broken pairs in their inventory and additional glasses come from efforts of Lions Club members. In addition to the clinic, the club also does outreach projects in the community and passes out reading glasses.

Over the past 8 years Kip has been involved with the eyeglass clinic, he has worked with Saving Sight to request and help facilitate the distribution of roughly 15,000 pairs of recycled glasses to San Miguel de Allende.

“It’s fun and it’s rubber meeting the road,” says Kip. “I like helping people and something good happens every week. They say the more you help the happier you are and I believe that’s true.”

Lions Club members helping in the eyeglass clinic in Mexico.