BY Noel Kelsch, RDHAP
Bitter desert cold rose off the black asphalt, hitting my face, quickly sending me to shivers, and chapping my unprotected face. I found it hard to think about someone living in these conditions with no roof over their head. I thought about the contrast of the severe summer heat of Las Vegas. As I walked away from the twinkling lights and glitter of the Las Vegas Strip, I witnessed yet more contrast as I saw a city filled with makeshift tents set up on sidewalks and in alleys, homes for others whose dreams may not have come true.
Carefully constructed shelves of cardboard-lined gutters and fencing storing everything from precious food to worn-out clothing. A radio perched on a milk carton played, "You know, I haven't always been this way. I've had my moments," reminding me that these homes house someone's son or daughter who has a story to tell.
I soon discovered that in the midst of these stories, there were angels. Angels who helped to create a place were the past did not matter and the future is unlimited. I spend the day learning about possibilities. I spent the day at Catholic Charities in Las Vegas.
Other articles about RDH Under One Roof
- Behind the scenes: Making our last-minute plans
- UOR: The most wonderful time of the year
- Don't feel stuck! Many career alternatives are available due to what you already know as a dental hygienist
This organization has put under one roof all the resources a person needs to change their life. - a shower, shelter, apartments to graduate up to, schooling, clothing, medical help. This organization also serves 1,000 meals a day. They have joined together with many religions and cultures to volunteer to make a difference for these clients. In the summer, when the asphalt melts to the touch, this center becomes this difference between life and death for many. It is a watering and cooling station during scorching days that can reach well beyond 110 degrees, even in the shade.
Dental Impact: Making a difference
Imagine having to choose between buying a toothbrush or milk for your child. For the 6th year in a row at RDH Under One Roof, Dental Impact is going to help make a difference. 500 people will not have to make that choice. Each year, Dental Impact chooses a public health project that can be duplicated when the attendees return home.
"We teach the concepts of working with a population and then go out into the community to meet their needs. This year we are focusing on the needs of people that are living in conditions that are housing challenged," stated Diana Corbin of the Dental Impact Committee.
Teaming up with Catholic Charities and Future Smiles, we will be conducting a health fair that will include oral cancer screening, fluoride varnish, oral care demonstrations, nutritional counseling, and a host of other subjects. Because of generous donations, we will able to send give the clients the needed supplies and tools for oral care. A special thanks to the following sponsors: Sunstar Americas, Aribex, SciCan, and Young Dental. In addition, we thank the members of the Dental Impact team: Corbin, Jodie Heimbach, Nancy Brohawn, Noel Kelsch, Letty Reyes, Brenda Kibbler, Debbie Zafiropoulos Sabatini, Rhoda Kublickis, Sandra Berger, Rafael Rondon, Lisa Stillman, Kelly Taylor, and Future Smiles Team!
Thank you to the Sunstar Americas Award of Distinction winners for participating year after year and continuing the Sunstar tradition of giving! You truly are distinctive!
The first part of the project will take place at Caesars Palace. Catholic Charities Director of Social Services Meaghan Haley, MSW, LSW, will be sharing information about the epidemic of homelessness and successful methods for ending the epidemic. Next, a client who has experienced homelessness and has recovered will share a story of triumph. I will share my journey as a hygienist in reaching out the clients experiencing homelessness and give you tools to set up a program no matter how large or small in your community. The morning will be capped off with roundtables of learning about the supplies for the project and practical application. We will grab our lunches, change into our team shirts, and then take off to Catholic Charities to conduct a public health project.
As I was talking to a neatly dressed young staff member, he shared his story of recovery and what brought him to this moment. I soon realized that the song has two meanings - "Looking at me now, you might not know it, but I have had my moments." This young man was an example of possibilities. What a difference a day can make!
Not able to make it to Under One Roof this year? If you come to Las Vegas and would like to volunteer for a day with Catholic Charities, please contact Gwen Paxon at [email protected]. RDH
NOEL BRANDON KELSCH, RDHAP, is a syndicated columnist, writer, speaker, and cartoonist. She serves on the editorial review committee for the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention newsletter and has received many national awards. Kelsch owns her dental hygiene practice that focuses on access to care for all and helps facilitate the Simi Valley Free Dental Clinic. She has devoted much of her 35 years in dentistry to educating people about the devastating effects of methamphetamines and drug use. She is a past president of the California Dental Hygienists' Association.