It is such a privilege to live in a community filled with kind-hearted and generous individuals and corporate leaders willing to share their blessings with the Wilkes Dental Consortium Inc., more commonly known as the Wilkes Public Health Dental Clinic. Since the clinic’s infancy in 2000, it has continued to expand, change and most importantly serve hundreds of unserved and underserved children and adults of Wilkes County and the health professional service area.

The dedicated board members and staff members have created lifelong dental patients who value good dental health and who are aware that good dental health can positively affect overall health.

If you or a loved one or a co-worker has ever had a tooth ache, then you know how urgent it was to have access to a great dentist able to relieve the pain and resolve the issue. (Did you know that a dental abscess can be life-threatening?) There are many people in our community who might not have access to great dental care if the Wilkes Public Health Dental Clinic didn’t exist to make it affordable or provide it at no cost for them.

The adults and children we serve are as follows: 74% Medicaid and NC Health Choice, 20% self-pay and 6% private insurance. We have a sliding fee scale for patients who are self-pay, with 99% of them qualifying for the lowest rate. The clinic receives no funding from the Wilkes County Health Department or from federal, state and local governments, except for Medicaid and NC Health Choice benefits. Good oral health is critical to a person’s overall physical health regardless of financial situation. We believe that everyone should have a reason to smile (even if it is behind a mask), and no one should have to go to bed with a toothache regardless of ability to pay for treatment.

Due to COVID-19, the dental clinic couldn’t have its annual fundraising event scheduled Sept. 8. It typically nets over $20,000 to go toward the clinic’s operating expenses. If the clinic hadn’t been able to operate on a limited “emergency only” basis during the three months of phase one of the state’s response to the pandemic, the clinic’s doors may have been shut forever. Expenses increased due to purchase of additional personal protective equipment, and income decreased due to the very limited services the clinic was able to provide during phase one. We applied for every possible means of assistance, including the Payroll Protection Plan and grants, but we needed more help. We reached out to our amazing community and asked for help. We want to publicly recognize the benevolent donors who generously gave to help us fulfill our mission and as “smile-makers.”

Those who made donations were:

• Smile Makers Extraordinaire: Health Foundation, Leonard G. Herring Family Foundation; Dr. Thomas and Penny Musson and members of the North Wilkesboro Presbyterian Church;

• Cavity Free Smile Makers: Dr. and Mrs. Keith Bentley, Jim and Sandy Faw, Ed and Barbara Gregory, Dr. E. Frank Hancock, Dr. Joe and Sarah Fesperman, Larry and Diane Stone, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Swofford and Susan Whittington;

• Gold Crown Smile Makers: Jerry Clark (Clark and Son’s Electric), Dr. and Mrs. Stephen Jackson, Dr. Mark Mautner, Brady Miller (Stroud-Miller Insurance Service, Inc.), Doctors John and Michelle Pontzer, James and Luci Smoak and Bob and Betty Thompson;

• Silver Filling Smile Makers: Rev. Dwayne Andrews (Lewis Fork Baptist Church), Dr. Michael Browder, Vaughn and Frances Hayes, Arnold and Becky Lakey, Pauletta Parker, Daniel and Kimberly Sluder, Ed and Geraldine Staley, Dr. Stephen Wessels and Dr. Ewain and Laura Wilson;

• White Sealant Smile Makers: James and Rose Andrews, David and Carol Bauguess, Ray and Kathy Benfield, Deana and David Billings, Stephen and Jeanette Bumgarner, Ida Maude Collins, Eric Cramer (CEO of Wilkes Communications), Robert Habershaw, Michelle Hamby, Richard and Beth Huie, Debbie Mancusi, Steve and Lynne Moree, Dr. David Morrison, Harry and Sue Padgett; Stony Hill Baptist Church Women on Missions, Gladys Walker, Betsy Welborn and Tonja Woodie;

• Clean Teeth Smile Makers: Terry Byrd, Jack and Jeanette McNeil, Joe and Martha Thompson and John and Freida Matthews.

Thank you to our heroes. Because these folks chose to give from their hearts, the clinic will continue to provide affordable, high quality, comprehensive dental services at our “fixed site” facility.

We will also continue to operate the Mobile Dental Clinic, which serves all 23 Wilkes County public schools, nursing facilities, day care centers, a youth alternative camp, a rural health center and other locations upon request. Our enthusiastic dental team members are personable, energetic, compassionate and motivated to serve others with hearts of gold. They have a true passion for public health.

If questions arise about the Wilkes Public Health Dental Clinic, call 336-903-9399 or go to https://www.wilkespublicdentalclinic.com. The Wilkes Dental Consortium Inc. is a non-profit organization.

DEANA A. BILLINGS, Wilkes Public Health

Dental Clinic executive director

North Wilkesboro, N.C.

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