With a little help from two community organizations, the prayer of a legally blind Pasco County nun has been answered.
On Thursday, the Pasco Times reported that Sister Helen Lange, a 99-year-old Benedictine nun who has severe macular degeneration, needed a new glass reader to magnify her books and papers onto a large television screen. The Dade City-Heritage Park Lions Club announced a fundraising campaign for a new $1,200 reader for Sister Lange, who lives at the Heritage Park Health and Rehabilitation Center in Dade City.
As luck would have it, the Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind had exactly what Sister Lange needed.
"When we read the story, we called Heritage Park immediately," said Sylvia Perez, executive director of the local Lighthouse division. "We knew we had to do something to help."
Sister Lange, who recently celebrated her 80th anniversary with the Benedictine Sisters of St. Leo, is far from retired: She spends her days visiting with fellow residents at Heritage Park, and she has been busy writing letters to raise money for a new residential hall for the Sisters of St. Leo at Holy Name Monastery.
Unfortunately, her 10-year-old glass reader has stopped working.
When the story appeared Thursday about the effort to get a new reader for Sister Lange, the offers poured in.
"It was so exciting to see that people were willing to help," said Mary Beth Lumbra, social services director at Heritage Park and president of the Dade City-Heritage Park Lions Club, who was flooded with emails and phone calls from people wanting to help.
One of those calls came from the Lighthouse for the Blind, which had received a fully functional video magnifier earlier in the week.
"We had loaned the reader to a gentleman with vision problems," Perez said. "When he passed away, his family returned the magnifier to us."
Lighthouse officials plan to deliver the magnifier to Sister Lange on Monday. They will set it up and show her how to use it, all at no cost.
Usually, people who want to receive free vision equipment from the Lighthouse for the Blind must undergo an assessment process, Perez said.
"In this case, though," she said, "we saw that the need was pressing."
Lumbra reports that other agencies, including ABC Action News, also came forward with offers to donate magnifiers to Sister Lange. She said that any donation checks sent in for the effort will be donated to the Lions Club Foundation for the Blind, Southeastern Guide Dogs and other vision-related charities the Lions support.
Sister Lange, for her part, said she is pleased and humbled by the donation.
"Oh, my God, people are so good," she said after hearing the news. "I could sit down and cry. I want to get down on my knees and pray for every one of them."