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Free dental clinic today, Saturday

Livingstone College will play a significant role in a free dental clinic being offered today and Saturday inside Goodman Gymnasium at Catawba College.
That’s because students from the college’s Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts Program will provide food for volunteers during the two-day event, and Livingstone graduate Dr. Bryant Norman will be among the dentists performing pro bono work.
The free dental service will be available to the public based on income guidelines and is sponsored by the North Carolina Missions of Mercy, a portable, free dental program that’s an outreach of the North Carolina Dental Society.
The free dental clinic is held at different venues throughout the state, but this will be the first time it has been held in Salisbury.
Dr. Jim Dunkin, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church, is the clinic coordinator, Dr. David Mayberry, who has practiced dentistry for 33 years, is the dental coordinator and Dr. Bill Blaylock, director of the North Carolina Missions of Mercy Project, is in charge of the entire event.
“This started out with Dr. Dunkin,” Mayberry said. “His daughter’s in dental school and she volunteers, and about three years ago we started talking to the state committee who does these and now we’re hosting a clinic in Salisbury.”
Clinic hours are from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Mayberry said the goal is to treat 800 people during the two days, though organizers hope to treat 800 to 1,000. The clinic is primarily for low-income North Carolina residents; however, people from other states won’t be turned away as long as they meet the guidelines – at or below the 200 percent poverty rate.
“There are people that will be here from all over the state,” Mayberry said, “and we have people who are coming from other states.”
Sometimes when people hear about free dental work they assume routine teeth cleanings will be offered and nothing more. But that’s hardly the case with the service being provided by North Carolina Missions of Mercy.
“There will be dental hygienists who will be doing cleanings,” Mayberry said. “And there will also be dentists who are doing fillings, and there are dentists who will be doing extractions. We’ll also be making a certain number of partial dentures to replace missing front teeth, but there will be a limited number of those. The people who will undergo that more extensive work will come on Friday to get their impressions made and then come back on Saturday.”
Mayberry emphasized that the two-day event is a collaborative effort involving so many people and organizations.
“Counting the dentists who volunteered, the community volunteers and some undergraduate dental students, we have more than 800 volunteers that I know of,” he said. “We still have room for more dentists to volunteer, and we’ll probably have some to just show up that didn’t sign up.”
Dunkin said all eight of Salisbury’s downtown churches are participating in the event – the first time they’ve collaborated on a project since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Members and leaders of the churches will volunteer at the clinic, and they also helped recruit volunteers from other churches, he said.
Catawba College is hosting the event, Livingstone College is providing the food for volunteers, and several local individuals have donated money.
“Whatever we’ve needed, the people at Catawba have provided,” Mayberry said. “They’ve been very welcoming and accommodating. We’ve basically taken over their gym…”
Mayberry said Livingstone, which got on board with the project several months ago, provided lunch Thursday as organizers set up the clinic.
“I got here after that so I didn’t get to eat, but the food smelled great and everybody was bragging about it,” he said.
Vivian Ray, director of Livingstone’s Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts Program, said she jumped at the chance to be part of the two-day clinic – not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because of the positive exposure it will bring to Livingstone’s program.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to demonstrate our ability to handle the culinary needs for a large number of people over a two-day period,” Ray said. “It will be challenging, and it will be hard work, but I’m confident in our students’ abilities and look forward to it.”
So does Norman, who has practiced dentistry since 1976 and has volunteered in a Missions of Mercy event in Charlotte for the past two years.
“I’ve done it before, and it’s a really good event,” Norman said. “I do it because to whom much is given much is required. If you’re in a position to give back, you should do it.”
Norman is a member of The Old North State Dental Society, an African-American professional dental association and the second-oldest dental association in the state. His organization donated $20,000 for the Salisbury clinic. Other big donors to the two-day event are Tom and Dottie Abramowski, owners of Rockwell Farms, who donated $25,000 to jumpstart the clinic, and The Robertson Foundation, which also donated $25,000.

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