David Anderson remembers the vacation as an event that led him to a new focus in his life--and a very cluttered garage.
Anderson and his wife, Siriwan, were visiting her native Thailand last year when he picked up an English-language newspaper from a tiny stand near one of their favorite seaside cafes. Paging through the Bangkok Post, Anderson was moved by a story about a doctor's mission to provide free eye care to children in the country's most remote rural areas.
"It really pulled at me," said Anderson, 54. "It was like I had to do something.
"He talked about a child whose vision was so blurred he couldn't see the ground to walk and literally staggered. [The child] put on glasses and could walk a straight line."
When Anderson returned to his Leesburg home, he gathered a few collection boxes and put them on counters at United Airlines, where he works as a pilot. Then he contacted the Lions Club, known for its work with the visually impaired.
Pretty soon Anderson's garage was filled with thousands of eyeglasses bound for Thailand, addressed to the doctor who had been featured in the newspaper story.
Last week, Anderson prepared his second major delivery, gently easing cardboard boxes filled with delicate cargo into an aluminum crate at Dulles International Airport. More than 20,000 pairs of glasses inside are headed for Pannet Pangputhipong's eyeglasses bank.
The doctor and his staff will distribute the glasses during their monthly trips through the country's poorest areas, Anderson said.
The Lions Recycling Center of Northern Virginia in Falls Church supplied about 10,000 pairs of glasses for this shipment. Clark Erickson, who helps run the center, said Anderson has played a crucial role in their efforts to get discarded glasses to people who can use them.
"We can collect them and process them, but we still need people to get them out to the people who need them," Erickson said. "Dave has stepped up."
The donated glasses come in every imaginable size and strength, discarded by children who have outgrown their frames or adults who choose new frames as fashions and their prescriptions change.
Anderson collected the glasses from the Lions' Falls Church center and another in New Jersey. He also persuaded United Airlines to ship the cargo free.
Erickson said the Lions have six recycling centers across the country and send glasses--often delivered by church groups--to developing countries around the globe. The Falls Church center has sent glasses to Russia, Peru and Honduras and is preparing a shipment for Africa.
Volunteers at the recycling centers clean the glasses and use a special machine to determine the strength of the lenses, Erickson said. Glasses with prescriptions of similar strengths are packaged together in small boxes.
Anderson said his first shipment contained 400 pairs, hand-delivered to Thailand by his wife. The couple sent about 13,000 pairs in January, and last week's shipment filled the doctor's storage area completely, Anderson said.
"We were all pretty excited" as the cargo was loaded, Anderson said. "There wasn't an inch of space left in that container."
CAPTION: United Airlines Pilot David Anderson and his wife, Siriwan, have collected thousands of eyeglasses, with the help of the Lions Club. The glasses are packed in boxes, below, and then shipped by the airline to a doctor in Thailand.