The Lions Eye Bank of NW PA was founded and supported by the Pennsylvania Lions Clubs of District 14-F. The Lions Clubs organization has supported sight preservation and restoration since 1917 through various acts: purchasing special prosthetics for the visually handicapped, supplying glasses, covering eye surgery costs, and fund raising.
The International Association of Lions Clubs is today the largest service organization in the world with over 1.4 million members in more than 43,300 clubs in 714 Districts covering 182 countries and geographic areas.
Dedicated to the basic cause, in 1952 the first interests in eye banking were expressed in communications between “Doc” George and Mr. Rudolph Spitzer, Executive Director of the Buffalo Eye Bank & Research Society, Inc. On November 6 of that year, six enthusiastic members of the Lawrence Park Lions Club (R.A. George, Charles Wiler, Vern Combs, R.E. Carroll, D.B. Peterson and T.T. Means) converged on the Buffalo center. They returned to Erie, totally alert to the strengths and weaknesses of an eye bank program, and prepared a comprehensive report – the results of which culminated into the eventual formation of our local outlet.
On November 16, 1957, the first corneal transplant in Erie was performed on a 28-year-old woman who had been blind for ten years; followed by a second corneal transplant on February 17, 1958. Stimulated by those successes, and gliding on the momentum resulted from the Buffalo visit, Ralph George, and others enlisted the services and support of other Lions Clubs in the Region 2 District 14-F area. In early March 1958, a letter of intent was sent to the Buffalo Center, formally requesting information and the requirements for the establishment of an Eye Bank Center. The necessary data was quickly received. Armed and inspired, on May 5, 1958, Mr. George called together a meeting of a Steering Committee to discuss such plans. On May 22, 1958, the first organizational meeting was held which laid the ground work for the Greater Erie Eye Bank…there followed many months spent in intensive planning and preparation.
Articles of Incorporation were filed October 26, 1959 in the Erie County (PA) Court of Common Pleas and set forth November 9, 1959. Since incorporation, we have continue to provide corneas for transplant to our local surgeons, as well as surgeons across the country and throughout the world.
The IRS granted our tax exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit status July 20, 1964.