Local organizations chip in to bring free dental services to Vashon

Denise Folk, left, and Dr. Cliff Eckman give a patient a filling in the Medical Teams International dental van during one of its visits to Vashon. - File Photo
Denise Folk, left, and Dr. Cliff Eckman give a patient a filling in the Medical Teams International dental van during one of its visits to Vashon.
— image credit: File Photo

Thanks to support from the local community, Medical Teams International's dental van, a dental office on wheels that provides free services to Vashon’s low-income population, will continue to visit the Island once a month through this spring.

Heather Robinson, a dental assistant who coordinates the van's visits, said she was thrilled to receive a $4,000 grant from Granny’s Attic for the van — enough to cover more than four visits. She credited the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness (IFCH) for getting them the grant and for collecting additional donations from Islanders. IFCH garnered a similar grant for the dental van last year as well, she said.

“They’re giving so much of their time and effort,” Robinson said. “Without them we would be in big trouble for funding.”

Nancy Vanderpool, head of IFCH, said the organization wanted to work with the dental van because of the quality service it provides for the underprivileged on Vashon. She said Medical Teams International, which sends similar dental vans all over the country, rated Vashon's as one of its most successful operations.

“That’s thanks to all the staff and the financial support we’ve been getting and giving,” Vanderpool said, specifically mentioning Dr. Cliff Eckman, a retired dentist who donates his time to work on the van.

One Islander, meanwhile, has recently stepped up independently to continue raising support for the van.

Last month, dance instructor March Twisdale put aside half the proceeds from her four-week dance courses to go towards funding the dental van.

“I don’t normally teach in January, which is why I was available,” she said. “I specifically set these up around the dental van.”

Twisdale said when she heard about the dental van’s services, she was moved by what she called a rare opportunity for Islanders to help people directly meet their medical needs.

“I’m floored when someone can’t go to the eye doctor or can't get work done on a tooth,” she said.

Since she began advertising her dance classes to benefit the dental van in November, Twisdale said she has gotten several calls a week from people asking how they can set up appointments at the van.

“It makes me realize everyone has the impression that everyone is getting their dental needs met, and I don't think that impressions is very accurate,” she said.

Twisdale said the classes raised about $1,300, enough to bring the dental van to Vashon at least once more. However, she hopes to add even more to that donation with a Valentine’s Day benefit dance on Sunday, Feb. 13, at Havurat Ee Shalom, where 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the dental van.

Twisdale hopes to see a large showing at the event, where she said attendees can dance to wide variety of music or simply sip wine and socialize.

“It’s aimed towards everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a wheelchair or if you’re going to dance all night,” she said.

Support the dental van

The Valentine’s Day dance for the dental van will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13, at Havurat Ee Shalom. Tickets are $20 if purchased in advance at Vashon bookshops or $25 at the door. Dance classes will take place before the event and are included in the ticket price. For more information contact March Twisdale at 473-1643.

To donate to the dental van, send a check to Medical Teams International, c/o Nancy Utt, 9680 153rd Ave. N.E., Redmond, WA 98052. Indicate on the check that the donation is for the Vashon dental van. For more information about the dental van, contact Heather Robinson at 310-5238.

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