Editor’s Note: This continues our Celebrate Community series on nonprofit organizations that improve North Okaloosa County residents’ quality of life.
CRESTVIEW —The Baker Lions Club and Baker Area Ministerial Association’s partnership to provide dental services to area residents in need got underway in 2013.
Mary Ann Henley, project director for the Free Mobile Dental Clinic scheduled May 8-12, said her husband, Royce, learned that the mobile clinic was available and took steps to see the free service benefit North Okaloosa residents.
After that, "We asked the Baker Area Ministerial Association if they would like to co-sponsor this project with us,” she said. “That way they could reach out to the various churches and make them feel a part of the community, as well as get (residents') physical needs met.”
This year's clinic will provide fillings and extractions to residents who qualify and can attend a screening 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 5 at the Baker Area Recreation Center, 5503 U.S. Highway 4, Baker. Appointments will be scheduled the week of May 8-12.
Further criteria for the free service are that the person:
•Is age 6 or older
•Has a family at or below the 200 percent poverty guideline
•Has no dental insurance coverage
The best part of the free dental program, for Mary Ann Henley, is "to just have someone who arrives with a problem, and then we're able to see them leave and go on their way home with no pain."
To that end, 10 dentists, 10 dental assistants and nurses (two each day) will volunteer their professional services.
The nurses do medical screening on the patients, check for medications that dentists must be aware of, and give blood pressure checks, according to Mary Ann Henley.
"They're trained and they're able to provide that dental patient the very best care that he or she needs," she said.
And members of the Baker Lions Club, about 17 of them, will work throughout the week to ensure the clinic's success.
The group holds different fundraisers throughout the year to support community projects like the dental clinic and vision screenings.
"The Baker Lions try to reach out to our community, and this was just a major service project for us," Henley said.
Members of the Baker Area Ministerial Association will also assist during the event. That includes the Rev. Jim Vail of the First Baptist Church of Baker.
Vail said pastors would have lunches for the participating clinic professionals, as well as spiritual support for people attending the clinic.
"A lot of those people are hurting and we're there to help them not only with their teeth but also spiritually we can point them to Jesus Christ, and many times help them with those problems they are having in their life,” Vail said.
When asked what he gets from the endeavor, he said, "Jesus said in the Bible it's more blessed to give than to receive. It's really gratifying to help people in need and be able to give back to the community."