Group of local inmates working to make a difference behind bars - KPTV - FOX 12

Group of local inmates working to make a difference behind bars

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WILSONVILLE, OR (KPTV) -

A group of inmates at local prison are working to make a difference behind bars. They're helping the Oregon Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation provide the gift of sight to people all around the world.

When you meet Tracy Brown, you get the sense rather quickly she loves what she does.

"I'm actually getting paid to do this, I pinch myself every morning," said Lions Optical Program Administrator Tracy Brown.

Brown helps run the Oregon Lions Foundation Eyeglass Recycling Program at the nonprofit's northwest Portland warehouse. 

"We are sorting through eyeglasses collected throughout state," said Brown.

All of the eyewear was donated to the Lions, by people who don't need them anymore.

"The glasses that are in good shape with two lenses go into a box," said Brown. 

The old tossed away glasses are about to go on a journey, with renewed purpose. 

"The boxes are all going out to Coffee Creek," said Brown.

A journey that takes them to state prison and into the hands of inmates.

"They come in pretty dirty and we have to go through them," said inmate Emily Sattig. "When I came here I didn't really think there would be much else but being a convicted felon. This program changed my life."

Sattig is one of just 16 woman at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility that was accepted into the prison's paraoptometric training and eyeglass recycling program.

"It's a tough program to get into," said Corrections Education Director Kevin Bradley. "I feel like we have the cream of the crop here really."

Inmates will clean, calibrate and sort the heaping piles of donated glasses every day. 

"We do about 6,000 a month," said Bradley. 

Most of the eyewear gets sent back out to the Lions to bring on their mission trips all around the world.

"Without the hard work these women do, we would not be able to give the gift of sight on our international sight missions," said Kelly Asbra, Optical Director at the Lions Foundation. "We are just so grateful."

The prison program, run by Portland Community College, also allows women to become nationally certified in optometry.

The group learns how to make glasses for other inmates all across the state.

"We get to help people and can feel good that we're doing something right in our lives," said Sattig.

Something right, after past wrongs.

"I made a bad choice," said Sattig.

Though in a way, it's through being at the prison Sattig is refocused.

"This program is definitely beyond life changer," said Sattig. "Not a lot of us would have this opportunity were it not for prison. I came from living the street life and not really having set goals in my life. But, now I'm coming out a changed person, someone with a career and that definitely speaks volumes."

A changed person, like Tracy Brown.

"I've done a lot of crazy stuff, I've been to prison several times," said Brown.

Brown is a graduate of the eyeglass program at Coffee Creek herself. She recently got a tattoo on her wrist to express her gratitude for the program.

"It just represents that eyeglasses are my passion, I love to be able to help people," said Brown.

A passion that led to a job and a new lens on life.

"It's amazing, most days I cry at least once a day, probably more than once," said Brown. "I cry on my way to work just because I get to go to work and do what I do, which is help people."

If you want to help the Oregon Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation visit www.olshf.org/

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