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A summer flood was a temporary setback for the Chicago Dental Society Foundation Clinic, which welcomed patients into its fully restored operatories Sept. 28. Eager volunteers, tireless staff and committed patients ensured the damage done by a June 15 storm was mediated and the clinic was back to business as usual in three months’ time.
“Even while the space was under construction, patients were stopping by to inquire about the progress. It was very encouraging,” said Robin Gathman, trade show and special events manager at Planmeca USA Inc. who also serves as the CDS Foundation Clinic Board of Managers’ vice president of marketing.
Their job was not easy. Carpeting, drywall, equipment and supplies had been damaged by water that seeped into the Wheaton office complex during a weekend storm in June, making the three-operatory, free clinic unsuitable for patient care. While clinic staff members Dottie Mackie and Melissa Simon cleared the schedule of patients and volunteers, the clinic’s Board of Managers, foundation leaders, the clinic’s landlord and insurance officials got to work, too, so that the clinic might reopen quickly.
CDS Foundation Executive Director Kristen Weber said work began immediately to restore the damaged areas of the clinic, and make a few other desired improvements. Among them, Operatory Two, which had been left behind by the previous tenant for clinic use prior to the flood, was stripped and made to look more like Operatories One and Three with a common tile, paint color and other décor. The floor in the reception area was replaced. And a second Volunteer Tree – a wall decal on which volunteers are encouraged to write their names on the leaves – was added in the hall.
“We can not grow the clinic without our volunteers. It’s exciting to see, too, how our trees are growing with our volunteers’ support,” Ms. Gathman said.
Staff members used the down time this summer to make operational improvements. Ms. Simon established an inventory system so that volunteers can easily find their preferred materials for use in the operatory, and donors know what is most needed.
“It increases our volunteers’ comfort level when they can see what’s in stock that matches their preferences, and not just use whatever’s in the drawers,” Ms. Gathman said.
CDS member Glenn DeWeirdt, vice chair of the clinic’s Board of Managers, explained that these small efforts have big effects.
“Dottie and Melissa, each of our core volunteers on the Board of Managers, as well as the volunteers in the clinic – especially those who served at the old DuPage Health Department Clinic – their passion comes through and has really helped to guide us. It’s kept us motivated to resurrect this clinic for what feels like a second time,” he said. “There is more need out there than we can ever possibly meet.”
The clinic’s production reflects that. The clinic passed the $1 million mark this spring – a measure of how much free dental care volunteer dentists and hygienists have provided since the clinic opened in 2013. October production neared $47,000, just short of the clinic’s $50,000 monthly goal.
Ms. Gathman and Ms. Weber credited the eager return of the clinic’s volunteer staff for the October numbers. Northwest Suburban and North Side branches were the first to step up, with members filling most every volunteer slot on the calendar during their appointed weeks.
Now that things are back to normal, Ms. Gathman looks at the clinic with great satisfaction.
“We had some challenges during the restoration, but I am most proud of how we took matters into our own hands as a team of volunteers and got things done,” Ms. Gathman said. “We delegated when we needed to, and worked together as a cohesive group to make things come alive in a timely manner despite the obstacles that we faced. We stayed focused and got the work done the way we wanted it to be done – and better than it was before the flood.”
The next challenge for clinic leaders is to connect with more volunteer hygienists and assistants, so that the clinic can become a dental home for patients. Dentists and surgeons are always in need, especially during the holiday season. To volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 630.260.8530.
A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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