CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) - Although the weather has started to warm up, one Chippewa Falls couple had a chance to get away from the cold and spend a few weeks in Mexico, but their souvenirs are the experience of what they left behind.
Every winter, John Lausen and his wife, Ruth Anne Gilbertson escape the icy grip of old man winter in Chippewa Falls for the warm embrace of Mexico’s west coast in a town called Troncones.
“We're about 100 yards away from the ocean, that's always a nice attraction and the beach is right there,” Lauson said.
But it's not a typical tourist destination.
“I guess we'd call it depressed financially and educationally. With 400 people in the town, they don't have a lot of extra services. So it's definitely kind of the old town.”
The retired educators have made friends in the area and wanted to help. Resort owners Mike Price and Debbie Meador told them about a growing need in the community.
“What a revelation. I always thought, gee they were really blessed with the right genes because I don't see many Mexicans wearing glasses. Their vision must really be (great). Not the case at all. It's kind of ‘duh,’ and found out they can't afford it and they don't have any eye care in the village,” Lauson said.
So he and his wife started collecting reading glasses and brought a couple dozen down last year. They went quickly.
This year, Ruth Anne asked her eye doctor Denise Glantz Arneson if she had any to donate. She and her husband Lon Arneson with Northwoods Family Eyecare in Chippewa Falls have done eye mission trips to areas in need before and were able to help.
“If one person needs a pair of glasses, there's probably going to be 10 or 15 others that could use the same thing. So we said, heck rather than sending 50 pair, let's send a few hundred pair down and whatever you guys can put in your suitcases,” Dr. Lon Arneson said.
“So we put these out in some baskets and said free, take one pair please only,” Lauson said. “We started at 11 o’clock and by 1:30, 300 pair of glasses were distributed in the village.”
“They would come over to us and thank us and thank us over and over again. They were very very grateful.”
“A lady came up and picked up some glasses and put them on, and she started to weep and she was crying and told my wife, now I can read the bible. So that was really something.”
“That's something we really take for granted here in our culture. We've got it, especially here in the areas that we live.”
“The next few days, we'd walk around on the streets and we'd look and see people wearing glasses. And those were the glasses we had brought down. That was pretty rewarding. It makes your heart feel good.”
Lon Arneson said the Lions club and other suppliers were able to get the big supply of glasses at a low cost.
Lauson said he plans on bringing more every year, but not as many, unless he sees a great need again.