A gathering at the Cranbrook Salvation Army centre on Friday, Nov. 15 celebrated the grand opening of the Mouth Minders free dental clinic.
The clinic, which began seeing patients last month, is the first dental clinic owned by the Salvation Army in Canada.
Captain Kirk Green told the gathered crowd that the idea came from Interior Health community dental hygienist Nancy Savarie, who approached Green about opening a clinic in the yet-to-be-funded homeless shelter. Instead, Green decided to start the clinic right away in the existing facility.
“The Salvation Army said it had been tried before in numerous places and it never works,” said Cpt. Green. “But it sailed through the approval process without question, complaint or concern. We sent it, they stamped it, and Cranbrook has the first ever Salvation Army owned and operated dental clinic in the country.”
Dentist Astarte soon came on board to volunteer her time seeing patients. She is grateful for the role the Salvation Army plays in the clinic.
“They have taken on the role of housing and offering administration skills for the clinic so that dental personnel can just come in and do the dentistry,” she said.
Since the clinic opened last month, it has operated for a total of 16 hours over four sessions. In that time, 24 patients have been treated, with another 36 on the waiting list.
“This effort by the Salvation Army and local dentists really enriches the community we live in,” said Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett at the grand opening. “I am here to offer my continuing support for the Salvation Army for this project and their bigger project,” he added, referring to the proposal for a homeless shelter facility that awaits provincial funding.
The Mouth Minders dental clinic was funded $16,500 from Columbia Basin Trust for start-up cost. Pacific Blue Cross provided a $5,000 donation. Retiring Cranbrook dentist Dr. Tim Comishin donated all of his dental equipment. Patterson Dental assisted with turning a former Sunday School room at the Salvation Army into the clinic. A1 Countertops provided goods free of charge.
“This is a major step forward to help people in Cranbrook who really need it,” said Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski.
The B.C. Government Employees Union donated $1,200 to the clinic on Friday, presented by Nancy Savarie who first approached the Salvation Army about opening a free clinic.
Another two dentists are preparing to join Astarte at Mount Minders. Dr. Matthew Choi and Dr. Imre Rokus will also volunteer their time to operate the clinic on longer hours.
People who think they might benefit from the clinic’s services can call the Salvation Army at 250-426-3612.