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MOM effort considered another success

June 29, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Volunteer oral-health professionals treated more than 1,100 people at the Eastern Panhandle Mission of Mercy free dental clinic Friday and Saturday at Hedgesville (W.Va.) High School, organizers said Monday.

A final report detailing the number of patients served and value of services provided at the event, including health screenings for vision, hearing, blood pressure and diabetes, is still being completed, according to United Way of the Eastern Panhandle Executive Director Jan Callen.

Last year's Mission of Mercy (MOM), the first outreach project of its kind to be held in West Virginia, served 1,153 people with services that approached about $500,000; Callen expects the final figures to be about the same this year. The preliminary number of patients provided with cleanings, extractions and fillings this year was 1,135, again exceeding the 1,000-patient goal, Callen said.

After experiencing a few "bumps in the road" on Friday, the second day of the clinic went smoothly, MOM Chairwoman Betty Russell said.

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"It was like a cruise ship sailing along with a wind at our backs and smiles on our faces," Russell said in an e-mail. "It was great."

While a number of MOM volunteers are planning to travel to Parkersburg, W.Va., next month to help with the launch of an outreach oral health-care event there, Callen said all efforts to improve oral health-care access in the Eastern Panhandle will now be focused on the planned opening of a nonprofit dental clinic in January 2010.

An initiative of the Healthy Smiles Partnership and sponsored by the United Way, the MOM project was intended to help draw attention to the need for improving access to oral health care, Russell said.

"Things are falling into place (for the dental clinic) and we're not planning a MOM for next year, not saying we'll never have another MOM," Russell said in an interview Friday.

Once the free dental clinic is open, Russell said she expects oral health care will be more regularly available for those who can't afford it.

Supporters of the clinic want to raise $300,000 over the next three years to keep the clinic open and to establish an endowment for the long term, Russell said.

This year's MOM was dedicated to Katherine Sharp, a local dental assistant who was killed in a kidnapping-standoff incident earlier this month, and dentists J. Matthew "Matt" Mathias and James B. "Bernie" Hutzler, who also died since last year's event.

Sharp was signed up to volunteer this year, Russell said.

"Kathy was 'gung-ho' MOM," Russell said.

Mathias, 39, was battling cancer when he volunteered for the MOM last summer, Russell said. He died in November.

Hutzler, 78, who died in January, practiced dentistry in Martinsburg for more than 40 years, according to his obituary.

"We just felt like it was really important that we (honor) those three people," Russell said.

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