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Laguna Beach

 Volume 13, Issue 19  |  March 5, 2021

Change a life by donating reading glasses, sunglasses, and hats to Village HopeCare

A dollar doesn’t buy much these days. However, by donating your reading glasses, sunglasses, and baseball hats to Village HopeCare (VHC) – or by donating funds to purchase them – it can change lives. 

The deadline of February 15 is quickly approaching.

One hundred percent of donations go to VHC.

For ten years, Tom Berndt, a realtor with Coldwell Banker in Laguna, has been supplying reading glasses and sunglasses for recipients halfway around the world at Village HopeCore (VHC) at the base of Mt. Kenya (over 6,000 ft) in Cogoria, Kenya. 

Berndt says, “It is a long way from their village (Chogoria) to any kind of store. And they really don’t have the money for glasses, anyway. 

“This year I have only a short time to collect what gets hand carried to the villages. In the past I had six months and marketing meetings with Realtors, who contributed 90 percent of all the donations. But things have changed due to COVID-19. I have only 28 days to collect. 

“One pair of reading glasses can change a life. And my auxiliary, I created 10 years ago, can promise every donation gets to those who need it. By an amazing tiny woman now 80 years young who brings doctors, nurses, dentists, assistants, vitamins, etc. My department is reading glasses, hats, sunglasses.”

Change a life kids

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Submitted photo

Kids at orphanage wearing donated baseball hats

Chogoria, Kenya, is a high elevation area on Mt. Kenya. A very simple donation of hats, reading glasses, and sunglasses, which can cost as little as $1, can really affect a life. 

Berndt reports that the box has been filled twice in four days.

“Last year, I also included baseball caps for the two orphanages, and sunglasses. At that altitude, the children develop cataracts early on, hence the glasses and hats. The reading glasses went to the adults. I delivered 1,500 readers, over 400 hats, and over 400 sunglasses. They all know my name on Mt. Kenya, even though I’ve never been there.” 

“Village HopeCore started in the year 2000, with Founder and CEO Dr. Mugambi, the current Medical Director Dr. Phil Rasori, 12 women, and $5,000 USD. Since then, they have launched, grown, and evolved all of their programs to support the health of children and their mothers. 

Change a life Tom

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Submitted photo

Tom Berndt 

Their website states, “HopeCore’s approach is sustainable and replicable. We treat children and their mothers from conception through 18 years of life. All programming works within existing institutions to ensure longevity of programming. We partner with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, schools, and many others to ensure all activities are working hand in hand with other area interventions and that we do not duplicate efforts.”

Berndt relies on local realtors for donations.

“I started nine years ago just collecting reading glasses. I started this because I use reading glasses, and they’re only a dollar at the 99 Cents store. That’s where I go when I get monetary donations. I clean out the store of all their glasses. Realtors write checks to me, or hand me cash, not expecting a receipt. That’s just the way they are. And they trust I will get their donation to the right place.”

Change a life Kathy

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Submitted photo

Kathy Sangster 

A friendship with Lido Island resident Kathy Sangster sparked Berndt’s interest in VHC. “I became involved knowing Kathy for many years. She lives on Lido Island. She couldn’t be 90 pounds soaking wet and endures usually two to three months there, often returning sick. It is not a healthy environment. Kathy is forced to hand carry all of the items I deliver as luggage, because if sent ahead, it would likely be stolen in the Nairobi airport.”

Berndt says that Kathy, who goes there each year, also collects vitamins. “She travels there with doctors and nurses, dentists, and hygienists. The diet there is terrible, as is the general health. Dentists end up just pulling teeth all day. The doctors treat all manner of malady. And they go there on their own dime. The nurses too.”

To donate reading glasses, sunglasses, or baseball hats, there are drop boxes at Coldwell Banker at 31582 S Coast Hwy in Laguna Beach or at Coldwell Banker at 27111 Camino De Estrella in Dana Point.

To donate funds, call Tom at (949) 633-5100 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For more information about Village HopeCore, go to


Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Maggi Henrikson, Sara Hall, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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