It’s so nice to be needed, isn’t it? As dentists, we can pretty much bet every single person will need us for something at one point or another. Most people know that a broken tooth, a cavity, or a toothache means a dentist is the best person to help them solve their problem. But for those that are unable to see a dentist due to financial reasons or because there isn’t a dentist where they live, it can be a painful and disheartening need that may take years to be met.
Being a woman of faith, a dentist, and an entrepreneur, I have had the most wonderful opportunity to give back in a way that will help those less fortunate for years to come. Giving back to the community or coming to the rescue of others comes in many forms; from volunteering at a free clinic, to traveling to other countries for missionary work, to fundraising for various dental charities. This is my story.
I grew up in a larger town in Southeast Missouri. After getting my start in dentistry in a very rural part of the state, I saw first-hand the needs of those living in parts of the Midwest. As fate would have it, I met my husband and ended up moving to a suburb of St. Louis. Two years ago, about three months after getting engaged, I bought a practice in St. Peters, MO from a retiring dentist and renamed it Cardinal Dental. The practice had several dentists and a specialist who practiced there right before the market crashed in the early 2000’s. The practice had 18 fully functioning operatories.
You read right – EIGHTEEN!
For the last 10 years or so, the dentist I bought the practice from was only working out of one half of the building (about seven ops). I knew that running a large multi-specialty practice was not in my dental career game plan, and that someday I would have to figure out what to do with all of that equipment. The 6500 square foot building that I bought along with the practice was only being partially utilized for the first year and a half. After much discussion, my husband and I decided that it would make better sense financially and for our family to move his chiropractic practice into the other half of the building. That meant I had nine operatories that were full of equipment that I couldn’t keep.
Pastor Tim Russell of Lighthouse Church in Dexter, Missouri informed me about Smiles for Hope. This program, with the assistance of many volunteers, helps Pastor Tim’s church provide low cost dental extractions to people in need. Dentists from as far as three hours away come in to help with their monthly dental clinics. Pastor Tim also became a friend of mine during this process.
The day that he came to my office with a small U-Haul to collect my donations was such a beautiful day. He was shocked to find that I had nine fully operational dental chairs we were ready to donate! With the help of my husband, Pastor Tim, his daughter and a church volunteer, we stocked that U-Haul truck to the brim with equipment. Pelton and Crane lights, doctor’s chairs, assistant’s chairs, waiting room furniture, rolling carts, track racks, curing lights and more! With each trip to the U-Haul my heart grew with excitement. I kept imagining all the people who would use this equipment and have a healthier life because of it.
After a while, it became clear that the first U-Haul truck wasn’t big enough! So it was a race back to the store to rent a covered trailer to go along with it. Pastor Tim said that this was the largest donation they had ever received. In total, over $42,000 worth of equipment was donated to Smiles of Hope that day.
They needed me. And while I am not able to volunteer at every clinic, I am still there. In each piece of equipment that is used to help a person who couldn’t normally get help, I am there. With the number of chairs that I could donate, the size of clinic has grown and more people can be reached at each event.
So I would encourage my dear readers to take a moment and see where you may be needed. Believe me, I understand what your daily to-do list looks like and I know you may be stretched thinner than you ever thought you could be. But if you find a way, even a small way, to give back I promise you will find fulfillment beyond what you could ever imagine. Because it’s nice to be needed.