Journey of a Pair of Glasses Part I: Behind the Scenes with RestoringVision’s Operations Manager

This year, RestoringVision will transform 3.5 million lives worldwide with clear vision through the provision of vision services and eyeglasses. How does it all happen in a world of complicated logistics, supply chain issues, and other obstacles? Meet Shaun Starkey, RestoringVision’s Operations Manager, the person behind the scenes coordinating the logistics of our mission to ensure millions of people worldwide experience clear vision.

How does RestoringVision tackle the logistics of shipping glasses around the world?

RestoringVision acquires products through in-kind donations and purchases glasses to support its work. We have a 40,000-square-foot donated facility located outside of Columbus, Ohio, within the Walmart optical distribution center. At this distribution center, our team processes hundreds of thousands of in-kind glasses donations and fulfills orders. We ship about 3.5 million glasses a year worldwide to less developed countries. While a percentage of our purchased glasses arrive in Ohio, the majority of these are shipped in containers from China directly to project countries. These shipments aid in assisting over 100,000 people in underserved areas per shipment.

Can you describe the operational “journey” of a pair of glasses?

Our glasses originate from manufacturers and retailers who donate and/or direct purchase from the manufacturer. Glasses arrive at our facility through donations via many methods of transportation, including small parcel and freight shipments. They arrive in boxes, on pallets, on trailers, or in containers. We also ship product directly from the manufacturer in China to our project countries. Those glasses are shipped in containers via maritime, rail, or occasionally by air. Transportation is sometimes arranged by the donor or arranged by our Ohio team, depending on the agreement of the donation or purchase.

How are they organized?

When working with in-kind glasses donations, one of the first steps is to sort the product to identify what has been received.  While the product we receive is always new, our receiving team sorts the shipments by type (reading glasses, minus glasses, sunglasses), gender, adult vs children, and diopter. These glasses are then counted and received systematically. Items are organized within the warehouse in the same manner these were sorted.  Within the warehouse, readers, minus glasses and sunglasses are all stored within their respective areas. Reading glasses and minus glasses are then stored by their level of strength.

How are the glasses shipped?

Our glasses are shipped much in the same way they were received but are now ready for our partners to utilize. Depending on the size of the order, we ship orders via small parcel, LTL/LCL, by trailer, or within a container. Product shipping direct from our manufacturer ships via a container, typically on a vessel.  This product is already packaged by gender and diopter, and is ready for our on the ground partners to utilize in the field.

How did you get into this type of work?

I started as a temporary warehouse associate in 2004 on a packaging line for a large third-party logistics company.  I received multiple promotions over the next 5 years and was promoted to Operations Supervisor in 2009. I then moved to a large Fortune 500 company and was promoted to an Operations Manager where I managed a 350,000-square-foot facility that employed over 400 people during its busy Christmas season. I then joined RestoringVision in June of 2021.

How is this work rewarding for you personally?

Working with RestoringVision has a different “feel” than working for a for-profit company.  While my focus has always been on saving money and increasing the company’s profit margin in the for-profit world, I now think in terms of “people helped.” How can we achieve our goals efficiently and effectively to help the most people? It is very different to think that the work you’re completing daily is touching people’s lives in a real and meaningful way.

Stay tuned for Part II: Journey of a Pair of Glasses – The Final Mile.