Today’s post was written by Maryland Grier, senior communications officer at the Connecticut Health Foundation (CT Health).
I really couldn’t believe my eyes. It was 5 a.m. and hundreds of people were standing in line – in the pouring rain – for hours so that they could receive free dental care at the 2013 Connecticut Mission of Mercy (CTMOM). Over the course of the next two days that number would grow to thousands.
It’s one thing to read the grantee report that says more than 2,000 people received a total of 10,785 free dental procedures in two days. CT Health has made a grant to CTMOM for the past six years to support the event and each year I read the numbers in the report and think, “wow.”
But it’s another thing to see those 2,000 people in person. I volunteered for CTMOM last year, but I’m still awestruck when I think of the sheer number of people, right in front of me, who needed dental care.
Nothing reminds you more of the great need until you meet someone like William, a middle-aged greying white male with a big beard and no top front teeth. Or Mike, the young African American male who was so happy he wouldn’t have to self-medicate anymore. As I escorted William to get fitted for prosthetics, he spent most of the time expressing his gratitude for the CTMOM.
It Really Was a Life-Changing Experience
You and I, we serve on boards, committees, councils, etc. making policy, programmatic and budgetary decisions that have an impact on the lives of the same people we see at CTMOM.
But wouldn’t it be great to get out of the office and serve others directly for a change? You just may get to see and hear first-hand how the work you do by day is actually making a difference.
CTMOM is a large-scale event. Last year I was one of the 1,415 volunteers who drove in from all around the state to be of service.
I was one of 465 community volunteers who was fortunate to be able to escort residents through the well-organized maze of stations. I met some amazing and grateful people that day.
Many wanted to talk about the pain they suffered with for a year and how they had self-medicated. Some wanted to talk about the specific procedure they needed. Many just shared how thankful they were, while some were uncomfortable about having to come to a mobile dental clinic, and just remained quiet.
I worked alongside nurses, professors, researchers, medical students, social workers, entrepreneurs, educators, psychologists who had volunteered their skills for CTMOM. Many of these volunteers had been volunteering for years.
I met a young Pakistani dental school student. I met a singer who had written a song for a family in Newtown who lost a child at the Sandy Hook School Shooting. I hit it off with a Yale University professor and we had some much-needed girl talk. I ended up giving the dental school student a ride home after the event.
I even ran into quite a few CT Health grantees – one who was so gracious in offering me lodging at her home to avoid having to drive back to Hartford in the torrential downpour of rain.
Even with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which has afforded many residents access to dental care services and treatment, there is still much to be done in Connecticut to ensure that everyone has sufficient access to coverage and quality dental care when they need it.
Stand up and be counted as a CTMOM volunteer in Hartford
CT Health is again a funder of this year’s annual CTMOM.
But my enthusiasm for volunteering last year caught on, and several of us are stepping up our game to volunteer. We would be delighted if you – our grantees, Fellows, board and other stakeholders would join us this year in Hartford.
Excitingly, CTMOM is setting up a special service clinic for pregnant women – many of whom are not aware that it is important to still seek care during pregnancy. See CT Health’s brief about Promoting Oral Health in Pregnancy.
I challenge you to sign up for MOM this year, or another volunteer opportunity for that matter, especially if you have never done so… or if it’s been a few years.
Who’s with me? Register to volunteer here.
Photos used with permission from CTMOM’s Facebook page.