McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

November 23, 2013

Oklahoma Mission of Mercy in Enid needing volunteers

ENID, Okla. — With seven weeks to go before Oklahoma Mission of Mercy in Enid, about half the needed number of volunteers have stepped forward.

The annual two-day event where dentists, hygienists, dental assistants and medical assistants set up shop and give dental exams, extractions, fillings, root canals and teeth cleanings on a first-come, first-served basis, is slated for Feb. 7-8 at Chisholm Trail Expo Center.

The upcoming OkMOM is the fifth one. Earlier OkMOM events have been held at Tulsa, Oklahoma City, McAlester and Lawton. Each time one has been held, about 2,000 people with no dental insurance have been treated.

Kristen Kelly, special projects manager for Oklahoma Dental Association, said 960 volunteers have signed up online at the OkMom.org website.

These volunteers include 103 dentists, 73 dental hygienists, 96 dental hygienist students, 73 dental students, six hygiene assistants, 151 dental assistants, 43 dental assistant students, 17 nursing students, nine registered nurses and an assortment of other people including 313 general volunteers.

“We typically fill up first in the general volunteers,” Kelly said.

General volunteers do such tasks as escort patients, set up equipment the day before OkMOM and remove it afterwar, be translators, help fill out paperwork, man the patient exit area, cook and serve meals, help direct traffic in the parking lot and the like.

“Out of the total volunteers, 170 are from Enid,” Kelly said. “I’d really like to get the community a little more involved.”

Enid dentist Dr. Tim Fagan, current president of ODA, said so far no one has volunteered to help with parking.

“It’s not fun because you have be there at 4 o’clock in the morning,” Fagan said.

Still, it’s an ideal duty for civic organizations, Boy Scouts or similar groups, Fagan said.

Besides volunteers, food and beverage donations still are needed, Kelly said.

“We’ll feed the patients breakfast in the morning,” Kelly said. “We aim for 2,000 patients, so we plan on feeding that many. Volunteers, we plan on feeding that many as well.”

AdvancePierre Food has committed to providing some hamburger, but food service still needs people to step up, Kelly said.

“Even if they can provide bottled water, or cakes,” Kelly said. “Even if a convenience store could donate pallets of water or bags of chips. Every little bit, we’ll put it together.”

The OkMom website has a spot for online donations.

“If someone can’t volunteer, they can donate any amount,” Kelly said. “That would be so helpful.”

Fagan said about $126,000 has been raised so far. That money goes toward buying materials that will go in people’s mouths, like fillings, gauze and anesthetics.

Fagan and Janet Cordell, coordinator of Enid Community Clinic, have been speaking about OkMOM to groups and civic organizations in the area.

“Certainly we need people with dental skills, but right now we’re needing a great number of people who are just general volunteers, like a youth group or a service group,” Cordell said.

The only way for OkMOM to be able to tabulate how many volunteers there are, and what slots still need filled is for people to sign up online, Cordell said.

Ideally, 250-300 dentists, 250-300 hygienists, and 400 dental assistants would volunteer, Fagan said.

“Of course we will have the event no matter how many volunteers we get, but a fewer number of volunteers means less dental patients that we will ultimately be able to treat due to the shortage in manpower,” Fagan said.

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