The Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic delivers high-quality dental care to people who cannot otherwise afford these critically needed services. Motivated by the beliefs and core values of our contributors and founding churches, we restore lives, one tooth at a time.
A Timeline of Progress
Foundation grants, donations from churches, community groups, businesses and individuals, and volunteer time given to the Clinic over the past several years have made the progress outlined below possible. We are grateful for their generosity, which has allowed us to change the lives of so many of our mountain neighbors.
September: A coalition of local churches ran a three-night medical and dental clinic in Cashiers, with funding from the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina. Using only volunteer labor, 320 appointments were completed. The need from the community was overwhelming. For every 30 patients seen by dentists, 100 were left waiting. It was obvious to all that there was a critical need for ongoing dental support for the needy in our mountain community.
November: The church coalition committee met and decided to pursue the dental aspect, since that represented the greatest need.
March: Coalition members began meeting, adopted the name "Blue Ridge Mountains Health Project" (BRMHP) and began to do the legal and organizational work needed to become a legal entity. At this time, BRMHP began to plan mobile clinics.
Summer – Fall: Fourteen local churches organized special fundraising programs, and our founding volunteer dentist, Dr. Tom Smith, collected over $120,000 worth of donated dental equipment. Dr. Smith urged us to consider a permanent clinic.
August: Two three-day clinics were held at Blue Ridge School using the paid services of the Jackson County Dental Bus. The severity of the problems brought to the clinics was astounding. Although important, these clinics were too expensive and could not provide the ongoing services needed. BRMHP continued to explore the idea of a permanent clinic to more effectively address the enormous need.
September: The incorporated Blue Ridge Mountains Health Project was awarded 501-C3 status.
November: A mobile clinic was held at the Cashiers Community Center using the NC Baptist Men’s Bus and volunteer dentists from surrounding areas. Once again, many people suffering terrible pain were seen in this four-day clinic.
December: BRMHP leased a former dental office in Cashiers at below-market cost with the option to buy in the next five years.
January – April: The Clinic's permanent location in Cashiers was outfitted and opened. The Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic began operating an average of two days per week, with services provided free of charge by Dr. Smith and his assistant, Jeni Knoebel. The Jackson County Health Department volunteered to take appointments and determine eligibility.
April: BRMHP and Jackson County Health Department sponsored a two-day walk-in dental clinic staffed by volunteer dentists, led by Dr. Steve Slott of North Carolina Missions of Mercy. Over 300 people were seen from all over Western NC. Follow-up care was provided by the Clinic.
May – July: Although up to 30 patients per day were being treated at the Clinic, the waiting list continued to grow. Recruitment efforts for additional dentists began. Cooperation continues with local hospitals, area health departments, and the new Community Care Clinic, a free medical clinic which will soon be established in Highlands.
August – October: BRMHP obtains financing to purchase the dental office, dramatically reducing operating overhead and expenses. Karen Minton — with a degree in medical/dental administration and years of experience in oral and dental surgery — was hired as Executive Director to coordinate daily operations on a part-time basis. All other services will continue to be volunteer.
December: Statistics show that in its first eight months, staff at the permanent Clinic treated a total of 234 new patients and 160 returnees, and performed over 2,125 procedures. These figures do not include the hundreds of additional patients treated at the mobile clinics.
January: Dr. Michele McDonald joined the Clinic as a volunteer dentist, with an emphasis on pediatric dental care. This added another half-day of services available per week to our clients.
June: BRMHP paid off the building mortgage, thereby lowering overhead costs and assuring permanence of the site. The Tooth Fairy Magic Campaign was formed to raise money for an endowment fund to protect the Clinic's future.
August: A documentary on the Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic was filmed for television by Channel 14.
October: Dr. Mel Livernois joined the volunteer staff, with an emphasis on restorative work. As a result, the total hours of available dental service increased to 24 hours per week. The endowment fund was established.
December: Over 3,700 procedures were performed on over 750 patients during the year. The value of these services exceeded $450,000. New chairs that allow better access to patients for both left- and right-handed dentists were purchased. The endowment fund balance reached $183,000.
March: The Annual Report was released for publication and, for the first time, mailed to all donors. Dental hygienist Nancy Buchanan joined the staff, allowing the Clinic to provide more complete services.
April: BRMHP was awarded the highest level of accreditation from the North Carolina Association of Free Clinics.
July: Karen Minton commenced full-time schedule as Executive Director, and former patient Melodie Hall began training as a half-time dental assistant. X-ray heads were added to operatories.
August: The Children's Dental Health Project was established in partnership with the Rotary Club of Cashiers Valley.
September: Repainting, and replacement of tile and carpets, was completed, along with implementation of the eTapestry donor-management system.
October: A new office computer system was installed.
December: Over the past year, 560 patients were treated, with 4,141 procedures worth over $550,000 completed in 1,100 patient visits. The balance of the endowment fund increased to $509,000. New ultrasonic and autoclave sterilization equipment, and a new dual-motor suction pump were installed. The Fraternal Order of the Tooth Fairies was established to promote awareness of BRMHP and assist with fundraising and dental hygiene initiatives.
January: Dr. Christopher Dyer joined the staff as a volunteer dentist with his assistant, Kathy Sounia, which further increased the Clinic's productivity.
August: The Clinic welcomed Dr. David Silverstein as a volunteer dentist at the Clinic.
December: The Clinic saw 366 new patients and 692 returning patients for a total of 1,058 patient visits. There were 242 emergency visits and 4,150 total procedures performed. The market value of those procedures exceeded $549,000. Since inception, the Clinic has performed 13,778 procedures that equate to a value of $1,793,868.
Drs. Craig Ashton, Tommy Day and David Jones join the Clinic staff as volunteer dentists. Dr. McDonald receives the Volunteer of the Year award from the Cashiers Chamber of Commerce. GlaxoSmithKline Foundation awards the Ribbon of Hope grant to the Clinic.
The Clinic's new website was launched. In addition to providing site visitors with a comprehensive overview of the Clinic's mission and operations, online donations can now be accepted via Paypal.
December: The Clinic saw 347 new patients and 867 returning patients for a total of 1,214 patient visits. There were 219 emergency visits and 4,072 total procedures performed. The market value of those procedures exceeded $549,900. Since inception, the Clinic has performed 17,850 procedures that equate to a value of $2,343,867.
During the year, the Clinic scheduled over 1,160 patient appointments. Over 200 of these patients were in such pain and agony that they required immediate assistance. With the addition weekly volunteering by Dr. Allen VanOverbeke during the summer, we expanded the professional staff to nine dentists and are now open three and a half days per week. We are able to increase patient load and expand the range of services to include more restorative procedures, including TMJ splints and full and partial dentures.
Pat Cunningham, Mike Grilli and Carl Hyde join the Order of the Tooth Fairies. New Facebook page launched.
December: The Clinic saw 348 new patients and 811 returning patients for a total of 1,159 patient visits. There were 198 emergency visits and 3,746 total procedures performed. The market value of those procedures exceeded $569,000. Since inception, the Clinic has performed 21,596 procedures that equate to a value of $2,912,963.
January: Michael Rich joins the Board as Community Relations Chair. New computer with "Patterson EagleSoft" software installed in front office.
February: Jessie, our beloved therapy dog (owned by Deanna Klingel) retires and passes away two weeks later of leukemia. Yonah, and his owner Chris Pearson continue with Monday visits.
March: All Clinic assistants attend OSHA Training Seminars to ensure full compliance. Spring Newsletter is released and mailed to increasing donor list.
May: New miniature "Photo Book" developed and distributed, which tells the story of the Clinic.
June: Donor Appreciation party at Lynne Keating's home; Tooth Fairies perform Maypole Dance. Alisha Fricks and Jennifer McKee attend training in Gastonia, NC and become fully certified to take X-rays.
July: Rotary Club of Highlands holds 3rd Tooth Fairy Bingo event, raising roughly $1,200 for the Clinic. TF's Pat Cunningham, Carl Hyde, Michael Devine, Ron Keller attend, as well as several Clinic staff and Board members. Duke Endowment makes award to the Cashiers United Methodist Church for the benefit of the Clinic. Nancy Pankey and Larry Ray join the Board of Directors. Larry begins serving as Treasurer.
August: Lynne Keating agrees to assume Chairmanship of the Board following Ron Keller's retirement in January, 2012.
September: Tooth Fairies Michael Devine (Baby Huey), Ron Freeman (Firefly), and Gary Leedham (Hoot) are officially inducted at the home of Tom and Lynne Keating. "Tooth Fairy Songbook" is distributed to the troupe with a performance by Jennifer McKee and Bonnie Talley. Jodie Cook joins the Board of Directors. Wade Hampton Donors Fund (a new Cashiers foundation) becomes a new supporter. Cullasaja Women's Outreach contributes generously for the 5th year in a row. Robby Cahill, Dr. Michelle McDonald, and Dr. Chris Dyer receive Child Health Recognition Award from GlaxoSmithKline of NC Foundation. Scholarships are established in their honor. Robby and Michelle travel to Charlotte to receive the award, along with Lynne Keating, President-Elect. Missions of Mercy Clinic (MOM) conducted in Sylva, co-sponsored by BRFDC and Jackson County Health Department. Karen Minton and Alisha Fricks attend as volunteer participants. Board members Ron Keller, Larry Ray, Michael Rich, and Lynne Keating also attend. Community Bible Church offers to aid in the creation of a professional quality DVD about the Clinic. Meetings commence with filmmaker Chris Hutson and continue for the remainder of the year as the project is brought to fruition.
October: Sisters of Mercy of NC Foundation makes a generous award. This is the third time they have elected to fund the Clinic. Fall Newsletter published, making fifth full-color, bi-annual publication.
November: Dr. Michelle screens area schoolchildren for fourth year in a row as part of Children's Dental Health Project.
December: Volunteer appreciation Christmas Dinner is held in the home of Tom and Lynne Keating. Dr. Tom Smith and Lynne Keating are jointly named Volunteers of the Year. The Clinic saw 318 new patients and 825 returning patients for a total of 1,143 patient visits. There were 3,478 total procedures performed. The market value of those procedures exceeded $514,000. Since inception, the Clinic has performed over 25,000 procedures that equate to a value of $3,421,650.
January: Lynne Keating becomes new President. Rick Willeford and Nathan Dollar welcomed as new Board members. Asheville television station 13 features Susan Posey and the clinic in a Person of Interest show.
March: Rev. Bruce Walker, Rector at Church of the Incarnation in Highlands and a practicing dentist before joining the clergy, joins the Board.
June: The Board approved the purchase of Laurel Terrace Unit 13. The purchase nearly doubles the current size of the clinic to satisfy the continued growth in patient needs and an expanding roster of volunteer dentists. Patterson Dental selected to design the new space. Cunningham Waters awarded the construction contract.
July: The Clinic receives its second accreditation from the North Carolina Association of Free Clinics. Permits for demolition of Unit 12 and renovation of Unit 13 are executed and demolition begins.
August: The Clinic serves as host for the North Carolina Mission of Mercy (MOM) clinic in Cullowhee on the Western Carolina University campus. Demolition of Unit 13 is completed at a substantial discount from the original bid due to volunteers from the Cullowhee Methodist Church led by Nathan Dollar.
November: A significant grant is received from the Appalachian Regional Conference to fund equipment purchases for the new facility. David Jones (White Lightening) and Dick Santee (Papa Bear) participate in the Highlands and Cashiers parades as Tooth Fairies number 12 and 13.
December: The Clinic saw 306 new patients and 808 returning patients for a total of 1,114 patient visits. There were 250 emergency visits and 3,467 total procedures performed. The market value of those procedures exceeded $493,000. Since inception, the Clinic has performed 28,547 procedures that equate to a value of $3,927,233.
February – June: Staff and dentists begin work in the new area while renovation of the old space begins. The Donor Appreciation party is held on June 10th at the home of Elizabeth Stewart and Bonnie Foxworth.
July: Dr. David Jackson becomes the newest volunteer dentist. Jeff Brenckenridge (Cookie) becomes Tooth Fairy number 13.
September: Lynne Keating steps down as President and Larry Ray and Ron Freeman assume leadership responsibilities. Duncan Wheale is welcomed as a new Board member. The Board approves the hiring of Dental Management Advisers, Inc. for consulting services. A strategic planning session involving all board members, clinic staff and volunteer dentists is scheduled for September 27th.
October: Ron Keller is elected to serve as President through calendar year 2014. A significant grant is received from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development division.
November: The Clinic worked closely with the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital Foundation to apply for a grant from the Duke Endowment. The grant was awarded this month and partially covers salaries for the next two years.
December: Duncan Wheale (Blue Suede) and Dick Meyers (Hot Stuff) participate in the Highlands and Cashiers parades as Tooth Fairies number 14 and 15. The Clinic saw 372 new patients and 927 returning patients for a total of 1,299 patient visits. The total patient visits are the largest since the Clinic's inception. There were 404 emergency visits, also a new record. A total of 4,406 total procedures were performed. The market value of those procedures exceeded $558,000. Since inception, the Clinic has performed 32,571 procedures that equate to a value in excess of $4,800,000.