Naugatuck Lions Club spreads the love to borough

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Leilannie Santana, a student with the Community Program of Naugatuck High School, wraps eyeglasses at the high school Wednesday. Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Lions Club recently showed its appreciation to borough students who partner with the club through a Naugatuck High School program to give back to the community.

Special-education teacher Keri Macdowall, along with the help of a couple of others, run the Community Program at the high school. The 18 students who participate have already earned their diploma but go on to earn life skills. The program originated at City Hill Middle School and then moved to the high school, according to Macdowall.

“This program is for students between the ages 18 and 22 for life skills and vocational,” Macdowall said. “We do a lot. We have jobs within the community at the library, the bus company, the YMCA. We do lots of different things.”

Through the program, Naugatuck Lions Club members bring donated prescription eyeglasses from various drop-off locations and give them to the special education students. The students clean and prepare the glasses before club members pick them up to send to an organization that goes through the eyewear and matches them up with people of need.

Naugatuck Lions Club President Kim deLevie told the class of about a dozen students on Wednesday at the high school that they should feel good about themselves in helping the community and she was happy for all of their work in assisting the donation program.

Former club president Jeff Davey and deLevie awarded the class a certificate of appreciation and a $250 donation.

“I think it’s wonderful to be able to work with your hands. I think it’s wonderful to be able to reach out to people who are outside of this community,” deLevie said. “These glasses go across the nation, across the world. I think it’s just really important to know that you can make such an impact globally.”

Nathan DoNascimento, a student with the Community Program of Naugatuck High School, wraps eyeglasses at the high school Wednesday. Andreas Yilma Republican-American

Davey dropped off about 80 pairs of eyeglasses but picked up about 314 pairs of eyeglasses from students on Wednesday. Last year about 600 pairs of eyewear went out to people in need. The students work on the eyeglasses several times a year and will do so at least a few more times this school year, according to Macdowall.

“I think it’s great. There’s a lot of enthusiasm with kids when they’re doing it,” Davey said. “It lets them know that they’re helping the community as well.”

The Lions Club has run the eyeglass donation program since the inception of the club about 100 years ago, but began partnering with the school in the last five years. Lions Club membership coordinator Sharon Hurlbut started the program at the high school, Davey said.

Students in the program said they’re happy to help others through the eyeglass donation program.

Nathan DoNascimento and Leilannie Santana both said they felt good to help others.

“I feel fine to help them,” DoNascimento said.

“It makes me feel happy that I’m able to help people in need,” Santana said.

Students in the program also run a faculty and staff salad bar on Tuesdays and Fridays for which the students will shop twice a week and prepare, deliver and sell the food. Students also run a coffee bar every morning for faculty as they have their own kitchen in their room. The students are compensated as well, said Macdowall, who has been in the program for 13 years.

“We pay them a stipend and it’s a really good program for the individuals,” Macdowall said.