Start Making A Reader Today

First published in the SMART Newsletter
February 9, 2005

© F.I. Goldhaber
SMART Volunteer

Most writers are also avid readers. Some of us have an almost-religious reverence for words and/or books. I know my parents read to me from the time I was very small and I in turn read to my younger brother (okay, so I was reciting the stories from memory) and sister (by then, I probably really read to her). I still have what’s left of some of the books I made my parents read to me over and over and over again.

Someone from SMART spoke to the Mid-Valley Lions in Corvallis one night a few years ago. The presenter talked of children entering the program who had never had an adult read even a single story to them. With tears streaming from my eyes, I filled out an application on the spot.

I have done many kinds of volunteer work in my life. I can’t think of a single one I have found more rewarding. I spend an hour at an elementary school in Salem, Oregon each week. This year, I have two first graders to whom I read.

When he enters the room, the eyes of one little boy–the kind of little boy who can barely sit still for five minutes let alone a half hour–light up the minute he finds mine. His goal is to get me to read as many books as possible to him in the time we have together.

My other little boy speaks English as a second language. He can sound out the words in Spanish, but it’s taken me months to convince him that the same trick works in English.

Each month we let the children pick out a book that they get to take home to keep. We give them stickers with their names on it. The first month of the program, I had the honor of giving this second boy the first book he has ever owned in his entire life. I watched him stroke the page with his name now plastered on it with reverence. When he left the table where we read, he had to pause, on his knees, to reexamine the book that now belonged to him.

SMART needs more volunteers. Beth has told you about how the program benefits the students. But I can tell you from experience that it is the volunteers who are profoundly affected and I urge you to consider sharing an hour of yourself for your own benefit as well as theirs.

If you live in Oregon, you can learn more about the program here. If not, I hope you will look for a comparable program in your own state.

Sight after Death a Rewarding Gift That Leaves a Living Legacy

First published in the Corvallis Gazette Time
June 5, 2003

I had the privilege recently of delivering human ocular tissue to the Lions Eye Bank of Oregon in Portland. The eyes I delivered will be used for research and perhaps to help find better ways to treat macular degeneration or glaucoma, two of the leading causes of blindness.

Lions International Logo (two lions heads facing in opposite directions in yellow on blue with LIONS in blue on yellow above them and International in blue on yellow below. In the center is an L in yellow on blueMy contribution was really a minor one. I wasn’t called in the middle of night. I didn’t have to get out of a comfortable bed and drive through the cold rain, as many of my fellow Lions have done. I happened to receive the call on a morning when I was traveling to Portland anyway and all I had to do was leave a couple of hours before I had planned.

My small contribution was the result of much hard work on the part of many people, including the thousands of volunteers in the Lions Club who founded and support the Lions Eye Bank. It’s one of the best eye banks in the world. Among those who help are the local funeral home directors who take responsibility for preparing eyes for transport. In Corvallis, Elaine Farstad worked very hard to set up the courier system for the Corvallis and Mid-Valley Lions Clubs. She and fellow Lions Woody Sommer and Kelly Tharp serve as coordinators to make sure that when the Oregon Lions Eye Bank calls, someone is found who can transport eyes from Corvallis to Salem or Portland, even if it is in the middle of the night.

Because of all those efforts, more people can see. Fewer people are blind. The Lions Eye Bank of Oregon provides transplant and research tissue to facilities all over the world. Doctors come from everywhere to study the transplant techniques pioneered here.

All of the hard work of these volunteers, professionals and practitioners would be wasted without the donors. I hope the family of the person whose eye tissue I took to Portland can take some comfort in knowing that their loved one’s eyes will help others see. But more donors are always needed. Eyes and other organs can help people live longer and better lives. Signing a donor card is not enough. You must talk to your family members and let them know your wishes in case they are ever asked.

F. I. Goldhaber is a Corvallis novelist and the president of the Mid-Valley Lions Club. More information about the Lions Eye Bank of Oregon is available at