The 90-mile drive from the Columbus airport to Lima, Ohio, was a sensory celebration. My eyes and ears feasted on the sights and sounds around every bend in the road - rolling fields resting from newly-harvested crops, blue skies dotted with geese flying south, red barns with tall silos, and hawks gliding silently through the temperate air.
Like so many other parts of the country, the area's economic base is supported by agriculture and small manufacturing facilities surrounded by cornfields. Northwest Ohio is a microcosm of what is happening all over. The community is struggling to keep its dignity and rural lifestyle as intact as possible despite a stagnating economy. Those of us in cities don't have farms right next door, but we do have abandoned buildings and folks working three jobs to make ends meet. But what happened in Ohio that weekend painted a Norman Rockwell picture that our country will survive the current challenges and come out stronger than ever.
While gloom and doom may be fashionable, let me share what I observed. Members of the Northwest Dental Hygienists' Association worked on the meeting details for months. Despite limited financial resources, the association's young president was determined to put on a good program that would attract area dental professionals. The UAW-Ford-Rhodes Training Center, adjacent to the Ford Motor Company engine assembly plant in Lima, is a resource available to those living in the area. This center is a joint venture between the auto company, the union, the state of Ohio, and the local college. Area residents can hold meetings in a wonderful theater-style auditorium for free, which is a great benefit to groups that have limited funds.
Seventy-five dedicated dental hygienists spent a beautiful, sunny Friday learning new information and sharing laughs. Many shelled out their own hard earned dollars to pay for the program. Each of the participants invested the entire day earning valuable CE credits. Eleven different companies sent samples for all attendees. Everyone's goodie bag had a purple Zirc Crystal mirror head, a sample of Colgate Sensitive Pro Relief, a package of Young Contra Elite Prophy Angles, Sunstar's Summit Plus Compact Sensitive brush, XyliMelts, Crosstex Ultra No Fog masks, and a Mirror Gear mirror cover.
Sixteen participants went home with a door prize, which included a Sonicare FlexCare+ brush, a package of 3M ESPE Vanish XT surface protectant, and the Blue Boa suction device, a product developed by a clinical hygienist. Attendees tested the pH of dozens of brands of soda pop, sports drinks, flavored waters, energy drinks, and bottled waters. They passed around equipment, brushed their teeth, and tried various xylitol products. Participants neutralized biofilm acids in their mouths by eating pieces of cheese and premium chocolates. After the program, dental hygienists, armed with new information and a renewed professional spirit, were able to provide more comprehensive care for their patients.
Raising money is not a unique activity at a dental hygiene meeting. Two American-based companies donated prizes designed to create a healthy working environment. Wisconsin-based Orascoptic Research donated a certificate good for an Apollo portable headlight or a pair of HiRes loupes on a titanium frame. Crown Seating, located in the Denver area, sent an English saddle stool made with memory foam and covered with Silvertex antimicrobial fabric.
Audience members spent the day taking turns sitting in the chair, trying on loupes, and playing with headlights. Tickets were one for $10 and three for $25. The winners each bought $50 worth of tickets, a tax-deductible donation that turned out to be a great return on investment. The raffles raised $835. Along with participating in the raffles, it was clear that many audience members were interested in investing in their careers by purchasing their own equipment.
What to do with the extra cash?
This was the first time in years that the association had any extra money. At their board meeting the night before the course, the group decided to use the raffle proceeds to resume a number of activities that had gone by the wayside. They decided to donate to a dental hygiene student scholarship fund at Rhodes State College, the ADHA Institute of Oral Health, and several scholarship programs administered by the Ohio Dental Hygiene Association.
At the end of the day, there were leftover box lunches and morning munchies. Rather than divvy up the sandwiches and other goodies, the food was donated to a local homeless shelter. Earlier in the year Colgate provided the homeless project I support with a large donation of toothpaste. My goal is to share this bounty with groups interested in helping battered women and those who are homeless, so I take a canvas duffle bag full of toothpaste to each meeting. Association members decided to donate half of the toothpaste to the homeless shelter and the other half to the troops in Iraq.
On the way back to the airport I stopped by a roadside stand and filled the now empty canvas bag with nine little pumpkins, 13 ears of sweet corn, a half bushel of Jonathan apples, three pounds of field-dried onions, and three packages of homemade Amish noodles. I was taking hard-to-find fresh produce back to Texas, and the Ohio economy benefited from my purchase and travel expenses.
It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child. That is exactly what happened in Ohio. It took a whole community of dedicated dental professionals and companies from all over this country to make the day a success. The benefits will continue to enrich this northwest Ohio community and our profession for many years. This country is in the midst of the most economically challenging time we've faced in decades, but the last 48 hours confirmed that we are a nation of survivors, focused on excellence, willing to work together and share our good fortune with others. The result is a bountiful harvest for all - the true spirit of Thanksgiving. Happy holidays.
Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH, provides popular programs, including topics on biofilms, power driven scaling, ergonomics, hypersensitivity, and remineralization. Recipient of the 2004 Mentor of the Year Award and the 2009 ADHA Irene Newman Award, Anne has practiced clinical dental hygiene in Houston since 1971.