What Do You Mean, Volunteer???

Below are some real life stories from our patients and their happy endings.

We are a different kind of community program, one that offers volunteer opportunities for our clients in order to receive basic dental care. We will qualify you financially (250% of poverty or $29,425 for a single person, $39,825 for a family of 2, $50,225 for a family of 3 and $60,625 for a family of 4) and you need to be a Muskegon or Oceana adult resident. After finding out you qualify, you will take a dental health class with a dental hygienist worth one hour of volunteer time. Our program provides basic dental needs of exams and xrays, fillings, extractions, cleanings, periodontal treatment for gum disease, front tooth replacement with a flipper, and other basic dentistry. Our dental coordinator Suzanne Tanis, will answer your phone call (231) 766-7129 and discuss your dental needs. The volunteer aspect of our program makes us special, and is a necessary part of our program, which also helps the community. The person volunteering learns to share his and her talents, the program where you volunteer gets the help, and the dentists volunteer their time, staff, supplies and professional services. Win-win-win!!!

We are in our third year of operation, with 19 volunteer dentists, and 18 community partners where our patients can volunteer their time: American Red Cross, Community encompass, Goodwill, Howling Timbers Animal Sanctuary, Pound Buddies, Muskegon Humane Society, USS LST 393 Veterans Museum, Valueland World Mission Store, W. Michigan Veterans’ Inc., Muskegon Rescue Mission, Habitat for Humanity Hope’s Outlet (2 locations), Muskegon Pregnancy Services, United Way of the Lakeshore, Kids Food Basket.

Here are some actual testimonials sent to us by patients in our program to tell you a bit about their experiences and impact!

Bert’s Story

Bert had gone about 10 years without dental care. “When I ran out of money, I had to stop having them work on my teeth. They just got neglected throughout the years.” The waiting took it’s toll. He lost several teeth and had to take medication for pain in his mouth. He said he removed several loose teeth the grade-school way, wiggling them until they dropped out. “I have a little bag of five teeth that I show my grandkids and say this is what happens if you don’t take care of your teeth,” he said. After learning about the pilot program that turned into Muskegon Volunteer for Dental Care, he gave more than 200 hours of service to Hope’s Outlet thrift store, and later got a job there doing building maintenance. With his new job came dental coverage. “I’m almost in tears. It just feels wonderful,” he said. “If you don’t have a smile, the first impression for a job interview is that you’re missing something.”

Charlie’s Story

Charlie was referred to our program and we learned that he is on disability (low income), he does not have dental insurance and he had not had dental care in a number of years. He has many health issues that keep him in pain daily and require him to have surgery to treat his symptoms often. He immediately knew he wanted to participate in our program and would find a way to volunteer. As he started “working” he decided he would have a regular schedule every day at his volunteer organization. During this time, Charlie attended dental health class and his initial exam at a local dental office. Unfortunately Charlie was diagnosed with over twenty teeth that were decayed.

This diagnosis did not discourage him. He knew this was a rare opportunity to change his dental health. He volunteered for 2-3 hours four or five days per week and kept that up for five months accumulating over 260 hours of volunteer time. He said the reason he was able to do this was because he could take breaks whenever he needed to or even just go home. At a regular job he would not be able to do that. He said volunteering gave him a purpose in the community instead of just being at home. It gave him more than the dental treatment he received.

As he continued through the program the program coordinator counseled him on his oral hygiene habits and diet on a regular basis. Over this time, he slowly made the decision to remove some of the sugar from his diet, he started brushing at least two times per day and eventually purchased and now uses a fluoride rinse at home. The program coordinator continues to encourage him and give him reminders of how important choices are when it comes to our oral health.

Mary’s Story

Mary went several years without seeing a dentist. She was referred to MVDC after having major surgery to remove an abscess from her lung. Her surgeon encouraged her to have her teeth cared for, as they may have been the source of the lung infection. After her dental care was complete Mary continues to stop in to our office to say “Hi” and “thank you, you were the only one who would help me”.

“It has been a wonderful experience to give back to the community. And I was afraid to smile and now I am not.” -Angie

“We get so wrapped up in our own lives we forget to help others. Helping people has been a great experience.” -Pat

“I have been to the ER 5 times for the same tooth! Now I can get the problem fixed!” –said by a woman attending one of the very first dental health education classes.

John’s Story

John went several years without seeing a dentist. He was referred to our program from the emergency room at the hospital. He said that he learned new things from the dental health class and is now brushing at least two times per day for two minutes each time. He also stated that he would continue doing volunteer work after his dental treatment is complete because it gives him purpose and makes him feel good contributing to his community. He thanks us on a regular basis for helping him when he had nowhere else to go.

I am in the program Volunteer For Dental Care. I am on oxygen and meds that dried out my teeth. Not being able to work anymore and leaving me with no dental insurance, I am blessed to have found Volunteer For Dental. I volunteer at a local assisted living home. I love it and want to continue to do it. I talk to the residents. They love to talk about their life. It makes them feel good to talk about family and school. Just to remember is a good feeling to them. Sometimes I take them out or we sit in a group and talk. Just to see them laugh and talk is a good feeling. When I come to the home and they are asleep they say, “Wake me up because sleep is all I have.” I have grown to love these people with a history. They teach me a lot. I never knew I would find so much peace and love it. I am so thankful for Volunteer For Dental. I would never have found them had I not found you. Thank you.

“I was given a pamphlet one day by a stranger. The pamphlet was about an organization that would help people who do not have dental insurance and do not have a lot of money. Being retired, it got my curiosity going and I made the call to Suzanne. A very friendly voice answered the phone and encouraged me to come to one of her meetings to hear about her program. When I found out that I could get my dental needs, which were many, taken care of by doing volunteer work with any one of a number of organizations, I was interested. Being able to help people in need,
and at the same time taking care of my needs, was exciting to me. As I did my work I realized that contributing to my community was a very satisfying experience, so much so that I found it hard to consider it work. I also gained some new friends with the people who worked there. The dentist I am seeing is considered to be one of the more respected dentists in the area and treats me the same as all his other patients. My advice to you is to get into the program and get your teeth taken care of, and at the same time your soul.”

“Not only did Volunteer for Dental Care help me save my tooth but it gives me the opportunity to do something that I love give back to the community. I have the pleasure of telling others about the program through volunteering which is something I already do. It also gives me the option for continued preventative care, regular cleanings and x-rays that I had to pay $55 for on the sliding fee scale twice a year so this is a win-win.” Casonda

Do you know someone who might benefit from our program? If so, please ask them to call Suzanne (231) 766-7129 at Muskegon Volunteer for Dental Care. We are located in the Access Health building and would love to answer your questions.

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