Utah eclipse glasses program calls for volunteers after overwhelming donation response

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PROVO — A Utah eclipse glasses donation program is asking for volunteers to help them sort through hundreds of thousands of glasses people have been sending in from all over the country.

The family behind the program couldn't believe the response they received as they tried to keep up with all the deliveries.

Around a dozen boys in Boy Scout Troop 37 showed up at a storage unit complex in Provo, standing in front of two open units as Roger Sarkis and his wife gave the instructions. The directions were simple.

"I need you to start opening these boxes and these envelopes," Sarkis said, referencing large cardboard bins filled with packages inside the units.

The sorting system was also easy for the Scouts.

"The bad ones go in the grays; the good ones go in the blues," Sarkis said, pointing to gray "bad" plastic tubs and blue "good" ones.

What's making this project complicated is the fact that there's so much to sift through.

"Who knew it would be so hard to just open a little tiny little box," said Boy Scout Luke Wojcik, as he struggled to cut through tape with a pocketknife.

Another Scout stood near him, looking down at a stack of flat paper glasses in his hand.

"Wait. Do I have to inspect these one by one!?" he asked.

The Boy Scouts were unboxing used solar eclipse glasses for a donation program run by Sarkis and his family.

"To make sure that we are sending good solar eclipse glasses to kids in South America and Africa," Luke Wojcik explained.

Luke Wojcik of Boy Scout Troop 37 helps sort through eclipse glasses.
Luke Wojcik of Boy Scout Troop 37 helps sort through eclipse glasses. (Photo: Lauren Steinbrecher, KSL-TV)

Sarkis, who owns a side project business, Eclipse Glasses USA , takes in and sends out like-new glasses — completely free of charge — to underprivileged schools in other countries. It blew up after last month's solar eclipse as packages began pouring in.

Maybe, just a little too much.

"As you can see, there's a lot of mail to go through," Sarkis said, referencing the several pallets with bins behind him.

He estimates they've received 3,000 packages daily and about 400,000 glasses between all the packages, which range from envelopes with a single pair of glasses to boxes with hundreds at a time.

"So, people responded — which is the really cool thing," Sarkis said. "People were eager to get these to us."

He rented two storage units to keep up, but with just his family running the program, going through all the pairs has become overwhelming. Sarkis is now urging people to hold off donating any more glasses, at least for the time being.

Especially because he can't ship many of them back out.

"A lot of these are not usable," Sarkis explained. "Either they're counterfeit, or they're damaged. So we think there's probably going to be about a 10% retention on these."

One of two storage units Roger Sarkis rented to hold an estimated 400,000 pairs of used solar eclipse glasses.
One of two storage units Roger Sarkis rented to hold an estimated 400,000 pairs of used solar eclipse glasses. (Photo: Lauren Steinbrecher, KSL-TV)

Even at a low retention rate, Sarkis estimates he'll be able to ship about 40,000 approved solar eclipse glasses to schools in Africa, South America and Hawaii.

Sarkis can only take certified glasses that include the ISO logo. He said they have to have the actual logo; he pointed out that the ones that say "ISO approved" without the logo don't count.

They also must be made in the U.S. and list the full manufacturing address in the United States. Sarkis explained that ones manufactured in China do not meet standards for safe eclipse viewing.

What Sarkis needs right now is volunteers to help sort it out. He's hoping anyone in the Provo area who is interested will email him at info@eclipse23.com to sign up.

Luke Wojcik and the boys in Troop 37 caught on quickly when they arrived to tackle one of the big bins.

"I just look at the brands," Luke Wojcik said, looking down at a box he opened. He shuffled through the glasses, quickly able to tell if they were real or fake.

"I wouldn't want to send them a pair of glasses that would harm them and potentially blind them for the rest of their life," he said.

Luke Wojcik hopes the pairs that make it through will make a difference during the next big solar event.

"I would want to give the kid an opportunity to see something really cool happen in the world," he said.

Certified eclipse glasses are pictured in Provo.
Certified eclipse glasses are pictured in Provo. (Photo: Lauren Steinbrecher, KSL-TV)

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Lauren Steinbrecher
Lauren Steinbrecher is an Emmy award-winning reporter and multimedia journalist who joined KSL in December 2021.


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