Patients lined up outside the doors hours before opening, in order to receive services at the Free Dental Clinic September 13 and 15 at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Omak, WA.
The Free Dental Clinic was initiated by Dr. Adrian Tomarere, dentist and a member of the Omak Adventist church. "Since so many adults do not have dental insurance, many in our rural community need the help," says Dr. Tomarere. In both 2018 and 2019, he enlisted the help of the non-profit ministry Caring Hands Worldwide, which provided the equipment and supplies that temporarily transformed the Omak Adventist Christian School gymnasium into a dental clinic capable of providing X-rays, cleanings, fillings and extractions.
During the two-day event, a total of 9 dentists and 3 hygienists donated their services, some of whom drove several hours to volunteer. Local church members of all ages became clinic staff, doing jobs such as nurse pre-screening, dental assisting, sterilization, and patient coordination. Other volunteers offered free haircuts and health assessments. Patients were pleasantly surprised to be escorted to the various clinic stations by young volunteers—Pathfinders from the Omak Appaloosa Club.
After their procedure, each patient received a gift bag of spiritual books and health information. "Their mouths might have been full of gauze from their extractions," commented Dave Saulsbury, who staffed the final station, "but they would come out beaming!" One patient left this note: "Thank you so much for being here; [it is] much needed around here. I've been waiting one year for dental help." The 2019 clinic was able to give free dental procedures to 135 community members.
Previous to the 2018 Free Dental Clinic, David Rumbolz had been living with dental pain for years. During his visit, he had 17 teeth extracted, which was life-changing. Not only was his constant dental pain eliminated, but his physical health drastically improved once his decayed teeth were gone. Other changes are continuing to unfold. "I had been looking for the right church forever," Rumbolz remembers. "After my extractions, I said I was interested in Bible studies--and I am still studying. I am learning more than I've ever learned before!" Rumbolz started attending the Omak Adventist Church. "I feel part of a family; I've never had that in any church, until now," he says.
This year, Rumbolz was thrilled to give back. After receiving an early dental procedure, he donned a blue gown—and stayed to volunteer as a dental assistant. It was an amazing and affirming experience to be able to do something he never thought he'd be able to do—and to help others as he had been helped.
"I was so lucky that God brought me the help I needed," says Rumbolz gratefully. "I think the dental clinic is a really fabulous thing, and is hitting where people really need help. It literally turned my life around."
The connections created through service continue to bless. It was truly a privilege for each volunteer to be part of extending hands of healing and hope in the Okanogan Valley.
Photos by Davd Saulsbury and Veronica Skelton