Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

The word “Shriners” has become synonymous with “Children’s Burn Hospitals” – a major feat of good works in the community and good marketing by the Shriners. Odd Fellows also do good works in the community, but our works are painted over so many different and diverse canvasses that no single good work has become identified with Odd Fellows. In the “old days” Odd Fellows were distinguished for running hospitals, nursing homes, retirement communities, orphanages, and cemeteries. Today, there are no hospitals and nursing homes, no orphanages, and very few retirement communities and cemeteries. We give a fair amount of money to an Educational Foundation, the SOS Village in Cambodia, a pilgrimage to the United Nations for youth, and research into arthritis, among other things. But again, no high level of public recognition or attention to our collective good works.

Interestingly, there is a pretty important piece of work that Odd Fellows engage in that has helped, currently helps, and will provide future help to many people in this country and around the world. It is a project that has the potential of becoming synonymous with IOOF in as significant a way as the Shriners enjoy with hospitals for children. We have been doing it for over half a century. And yet, it is a project that the public does not identify with our Order, and in fact, most Odd Fellow are only vaguely aware of it. What is it? It’s none other than our work, as an Order, in visual research. So, I write this newsletter to help inform the members of our Order of this important work.

Here is a quick overview in what our Order does to foster visual research.

The Sovereign Grand Lodge launched a project in 1956 to establish the World Eye Bank and Visual Research Foundation. Funds were collected and used to establish a Chair of Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Silverstein was the first professor to fill that chair. The initial fund setting up the chair was $625,000. Since that time, only interest has been drawn from this fund; the University has provided any needed monies to cover other expenses. By 2010, some $2.5 million had been raised to support the fund. In 1989, Dr. Silberstein retired, and was replaced by Dr. Green. In 2006, Dr. Jampel replaced Dr. Green, who also retired. Jr. Jampel is widely recognized for his work in glaucoma.

In 1961, the Jurisdiction of California joined the effort and the California Eye Bank and Visual Research Foundation was created. Articles of incorporation were filed with the California Secretary of State in 1964. In 1967, the California Eye Bank and Visual Research Foundation, Inc. signed an agreement with the University of California Medical Center Eye Bank to solicit and collect eye tissue. In 1968 , a similar agreement was signed with the Estelle Doheny Eye Foundation in Los Angeles.

In 1995 SGL dropped “Eye Bank” from the title and in 2009, California did the same.

California’s Foundation manages two funds. There is a General Fund which is used for various programs such as visual research, local braille programs, low vision work, and the like. There is also a memorial fund, used only to benefit California, consisting of monies donated to help members of the Order with vision problems. Money from the Memorial fund can be used to assist members, including payments for needed ophthalmology services that are beyond the capacity of the member to pay. Members of the Order can also contribute to the fund by sending a check to the Grand Lodge or the Rebekah Assembly. Checks should indicate “Visual Research General Fund” or “Visual Research Memorial Fund” in the memo line.

The Foundation also has a limited number of “video eye imager” kits for loan to members to allow them to remain independent in their own homes. These kits consist of a flat screen monitor, a reading platform, a surge protector and other items. When set up, the kit allows the user to see images (like a book or knitting) magnified 25x, or 50x, or 100x, on a 27-inch screen.

The Board of Directors of the Visual Research Foundation has developed a pamphlet that explains in detail these and other features of the program. Copies of the updated pamphlet have been sent to every Odd Fellows and Rebekah Lodge in California. More information is also available at

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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