The messages posted on the Marianas Eye Institute signboard every month is always a source of laughter, joy, and encouragement, no matter what the signs of the times are.
The institute’s CEO, Russ Quinn, said that putting up humorous messages on their signboard started three years ago.
“In the early days, we used to throw a lot of our marketing materials on the signboard, but I don’t think anybody ever looked at it because it was all advertising. Then three years ago, I saw a sign that cracked me up so I put it up—‘The boss told me to change the sign so I did,’” he said.
That was the start of something unexpected.
“We got many reviews from that and people were asking if that was really our worker that put that up and I was like, yes and I used it a couple of back and forth because it’s really funny. People told me about it and I thought that’s cool to know that people like to look and read at our sign,” he added.
Being intentional about the messages they put up on the signboard began after Soudelor.
“After Soudelor happened, the island needed an upper as there was damage and destruction everywhere. Our sign was completely torn apart except for the center section where I can put a message up. That was the only thing that remained and I thought I put up a sign that said, ‘Stay strong Saipan we can get through this together,’” he said.
“Then we started getting feedback from the community and they were thankful for such a great encouraging thing. From then on, we changed it a couple of times where we would say ‘Let’s show the world what a great community Saipan is’ and things like that,” he added.
The more the community responded to their signs, the more MEI became engaged and asked people for suggestions.
“I put up Helen Keller sayings and everyone was just giving me good feedback on that…For Christmas and New Year, we put up a holiday greeting or add a message to whatever is going on. If there is a sporting event on island, we put up ‘Good luck, Tagaman,’” he said.
“I get people that call me and tell me ‘Oh I got ideas!’ The one sign that’s currently up there was contributed by a 13-year-old girl that sent me a message and I said, this one is funny and that’s going to go to next month’s sign,” he added.
Quinn said that MEI is serious with its work as an eye-care center but humor finds its way into their everyday operations.
“We have two doctors, Dr. Williams, an ophthalmologist and he does the surgery on the eyes and does the treatment for cataracts and diabetic retinopathy and those kinds of services. We have Dr. Robertson who is an optometrist who does treatment of disease for diabetic retinopathy but he also does and provides prescription glasses and a lot of other medical referral services to our ophthalmologist,” he said.
“We also have a very fun crew here so we kind of portray that in the community as well,” he added.
The interview inspired Quinn to come up with a promo that will give back some benefit to the community for their continued patronage of MEI and support their signs.
“I want to offer a contest to the community. Say for anybody that can submit a sign to me and through our website (www.marianaseye.com) a funny or inspiring quote and we use their message for the month, I’ll give them a 50-percent discount on a pair of sunglasses. If we use your sign, we will happily give them a great discount on a pair of sunglasses in the shop,” he said.
“Everyone is just giving me good feedback on the signs… it just became this thing where people were like ‘when are you going to change your sign?’ ‘We have a suggestion for your sign,’” he added.
Expect more messages in the future as the MEI signboard has become more than just letters and words.
“I’ve had a mother tell me that her daughter is homesick for Saipan while in college in the states. Her daughter asked her to take a photo of the MEI sign because that always makes her feel good. That to me was like ‘wow’ and it turned out to be something I’ve never expected it to be. People now look forward to what the next sign is going to say,” he said.