Nearly 100 Pittsburg community members camped outside the Robert W. Plaster Center on Thursday as they waited for free dental care provided by Kansas Mission of Mercy (KMOM).
The Kansas Dental Charitable Foundation (KDCF) hosted the eighteenth Kansas Mission of Mercy dental clinic Friday and Saturday, which began at 5:30 a.m. both days. The KMOM organization, with 70 volunteers and 45 dentists, provided free breakfast and lunch, and dental care for around 1600 community members.
“I think the best part is just seeing the look on the parent’s face,” said Jessica Meeske, a pediatric dentist from Hastings, Nebraska who volunteered at the event. “Knowing that their kids receive needed dental care when they have been living with potentially pain and infection; that was alleviated today.”
The dental work was offered on a first come, first serve basis; no appointments or reservations were made. Dental work offered included fillings, extractions, and overall dental hygiene.
“I’ve done Mission of Mercy’s in Nebraska before and they’re really fun and people need the care,” Meeske said. “I wanted to come and support the Kansas dentists in their efforts.”
The goal of KMOM is to make sure that any child that may not receive regular dental care, or has an unmet dental need, is able to take advantage of this unique and beneficial opportunity.
“I think they do such fantastic work for the community,” said Lois Shurter, a volunteer from Hastings, Nebraska. “And for the children, they don’t have much choice and they really need the help.”
This is the second time the KMOM dental clinic has been hosted in Pittsburg; it was also held at PSU in 2004. Volunteers at that event treated 2,159 patients, who received donated dental care totaling $981,687.
“I wanted to volunteer because this is something I want to do for my career,” said Tammy Le, a biology and pre-dentistry student from Newman University. “And it’s a good thing to help these people because they don’t necessarily have access to this care.”
Local coordinators made contacts within the community to gain monetary and other forms of support for the project, as well as recruiting the hundreds of community volunteers necessary to make the Kansas Mission of Mercy possible.
“The best part would be learning new things,” said Jodi Sosa, a pre-dental student from Newman University who volunteered at the event. “I’ve definitely learned so much this year compared to last year, and it was also really nice to meet all these new people.”
This project will cost nearly $160,000, but will leave behind approximately $1.2 million of donated dental care in return. Since its inception in 2003, the Kansas Mission of Mercy has been provided care to 28,971 patients with a value of $17,886,906.
“Nebraska tried to start some of these and I wish they were going as well as they are in Kansas,” Shurter said. “You meet and get to help so many wonderful people!”
KDCF targets its services to low-income individuals and families through local schools, churches, community programs, and service organizations. Around seventy dental chairs were available for incoming patients.
“It was a great day and everybody had a very cooperative spirit,” Meeske said. “We just appreciated everybody being patient. It’s kind of like cooking in somebody else’s kitchen, you’re kind of a fish out of water, but everything went great.”