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Smiles Brings Smiles Back To Community

Posted on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 at 1:16 pm

LACIE SILVA – Editor

 Smiles is a non-profit community driven collective effort to bring dental services to low income adults, having helped over 1,000 people so far.

Co-founded by Executive Director Bobbi Hubbard and Rebecca Long they gained nonprofit status in 2013 and officially opened their doors in 2016. The board of founding members also includes: Dr. Karim (Kaz) Hasnani (Board President, Dental Director, Owner of Seq. Valley Dental Care), Sherry Nelson (Board Treasurer, Owner of Nelson Accounting), Norma Harvey (retired), and Lynnsey Wittry (hygienist for Sequatchie Valley Dental).

They wanted to start a non-profit and word of mouth told them there was a high need for dental care in the area. Smiles partnered with Saint Luke and with the city of South Pittsburg to open a dental office in the newly renovated, old National Guard Armory building. Hubbard and Long came up with the name because they help people with their smiles and confidence. The pair also wanted the name to be short and memorable.

Although Hubbard does not have a dental background she has significant volunteer experience and when she saw the need she and her friend wanted to fill the need. Hubbard is originally from Texas and she moved to the area in 1993 to be closer to her husband’s family. She made it her home and invested herself and her time in the community. She said she, “sort of fell into it (the volunteer work),” and the collective effort as well as the work they do makes it, “the Lord’s clinic.”

Hubbard expressed they have received a lot of support and help from many people to get the clinic on its feet. Despite setbacks from COVID forcing them to close their doors, they have come back stronger and more determined to service the community. They began their work offering pain management and assistance and have since graduated to offering full dental services with certified dentists. Since they are a non-profit organization, they support their paid dentists and offices with donations and charity fundraisers, like their annual golf ball drop and Shop til WE drop functions.

Additionally their office is equipped to conduct regular cleanings, fillings, extractions, some minor surgical procedures, and denture services. According to Hubbard, patients average about three to six appointments to get to full dental health. Afterward they come in for regular semi-annual appointments for hygiene services unless they have a full set of dentures. All totaled, Hubbard stated that this averages to over $1.5 million dollars’ worth of dental care provided free of charge (except dentures and partials that are $75 top and $75 bottom).

Looking into the future they are in the works of developing a mobile clinic that will establish a route for regular and consistent care for people who cannot afford a regular dental clinic and may not have the ability to or transportation to get there.

The board applied for the Community Transformation Grant and received $1 million for a mobile clinic in the form of a bus. The grant is primarily used to rehabilitate rural hospitals, however, specific sections of the grant were set aside for charitable clinics, such as a non-profit dental clinic helping the poor and elderly. They have not determined all the specifics of their reach, however, they want to be as widespread as possible to help as many people as possible.

Their volunteers range with experience and everyone that has contact with clients or records are required to submit to a background check and proper training depending on the work to be performed. Training varies and evolves with mandated updates as well. They ensure their clients are treated with the utmost respect, comfort and understanding. The Smiles team are all dedicated to the health and wellness of each and every client.

They are looking to hire a new dentist to work in the clinic full time so as to cut their waitlist and help more of the community. As their current wait time ranges from four to five months, they ensure their patients are not in any immediate pain or serious condition that could worsen. Hubbard expressed they want to help everyone they can as quickly as they can.

However, they understand the needs of the community go beyond dental care. Their community health workers, much like a social worker as Hubbard describes, are well versed in researching resources for other needs. To keep their team and community supported and well informed, Smiles hosted a luncheon to discuss resources and share information with 35 people from 26 different agencies on Wednesday, August 16. Hubbard stated they plan on making it a quarterly event. With the Marion County Interagency they hope to connect more people within the community to the resources they need.

Their primary goal is to work on having a permanent space for clients to come to and building the mobile clinic. They are also working on expanding their team and hope to increase their funding through fundraisers. Hubbard stated that they are trying to be involved in the community and invest in being close with the community. In previous years they’ve been involved in the Trunk or Treat for Halloween handing out toothbrushes and will do so again this year, as well as the Christmas Parade where they hope to have a float for the clinic.

Hubbard expressed her passion by saying, “We love being a part of the community and we do a lot of different things to participate but our number one priority is our patients.” She also stated in her closing thoughts that Smiles is grateful to all their patients and the community as a whole. “It really takes a village” she said in also thanking the board and everyone who has volunteered to bring Smiles to this point. Hubbard concluded by saying, “Smiles belongs to the community as a whole.”

The Marion Tribune – September 14, 2023