AURORA | Molly Markert will be taking her seat in the Aurora Municipal Center for the last time in a few weeks after more than 12 years on Aurora City Council.
But the indelible councilwoman won’t be exiting without making a few final community contributions, at least one of which could impact people more than 8,000 miles away.
In cooperation with friends and a pair of optometric-minded constituents, Markert has worked for the past several months to accrue a stockpile of more than 2,000 pairs of prescription eyeglasses, which she plans to donate to children living in Aurora’s sister city, Adama, Ethiopia.
The idea to collect the glasses was sparked earlier this year when Markert traveled to Adama as a part of Aurora’s recently rejuvenated Sister Cities program.
She said that upon visiting a local elementary school, she noticed something strange about the position of the pupils in the classrooms.
“When we were in the schools, I saw all of the kids sitting in the front row,” Markert said during an interview last month. “And I asked (the teacher), ‘You have that many eager learners who all sit right on the edge of their seats?’ And the teacher said, ‘No, they can’t see.’”
Markert said that is was at that moment when she realized the overall dearth of eyeglasses there.
“It struck me that I hadn’t seen anybody in Ethiopia wear glasses — maybe one or two people out of every 200,” Markert said. “They told me that they have four optometrists for the entire region.”
When she returned to the U.S., Markert began calling in favors in an attempt to begin rounding up as many glasses as she could find. She’s worked closely with longtime friends Annie Dozoretz and Arnie Schultz as well as local optometrists Rheda Gerlock and Bob McQuaid, who live in Ward IV, over the course of the collection efforts.
“Rheda was my kids’ optometrist — everybody in Aurora knows everybody, just a couple of degrees removed,” Markert said. “Bob and Rheda really did it all.”
On top of helping to collect the eyeglasses, McQuaid said that he and Gerlock’s respective practices, Front Range Ramily Eyecare in Greenwood Village and Vision Care Specialists in Aurora, have also gathered about $18,000 worth of optometric equipment ready to be sent to Adama by ship later this month.
“I basically said, ‘I’ll see what I can do,’ and just hit the jackpot,” McQuaid said.
Other equipment donations came from a pair of fellow optometrists who responded to a call-out in the monthly newsletter for the Colorado Optometric Association as well as retired optometrist Jerry Pedersen, according to McQuaid.
He added that receiving a proper eye exam or a pair of glasses could be life changing for people in a country like Ethiopia.
“Even if someone has eye care, being able to afford glasses is a second hurdle,” McQuaid said. “In the third world, vision can be taken for granted, and you have people who don’t see well and that’s it — that’s their lot in life. But you can effectively take someone out of blindness with a pair of glasses. It’s significant.”
Markert’s duties as Ward IV city councilwoman will cease as of the regular council meeting on Dec. 7.