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Creston reopens

Portland dental volunteer efforts help to save children’s clinic

Portland, Ore—The smiles are back at the renovated and reorganized Creston Children’s Dental Clinic, a Portland safety net for nearly 50 years that reopened Sept. 13 with the help of volunteer dentists and donors.

Image: A new dental chair donated by A-dec
Donation: A new dental chair donated by A-dec sparkles against the Creston Children’s Dental Clinic’s freshly painted walls.

In February, the clinic lost its longtime sponsor, the Assistance League of Portland, and $250,000 in annual funding, and had to close its doors.

Clinic supporters jumped into action, forming the Friends of Creston Children’s Dental Clinic. The organization began the process to become a 501(c)(3) entity, obtained grants from Multnomah County and the dental society, as well as other donations and started recruiting volunteer dentists and dental hygienists to staff the clinic to reduce its operating costs by 50 percent, said Dr. Kurt Ferré, immediate past president of the Multnomah Dental Society.

The clinic still gets a generous in-kind donation from the school system because it is housed in Creston Elementary School, Dr. Ferré said. The clinic pays $1 a year for rent, which includes heat, lights, Internet, phone and janitorial services. Paring down the paid staff and enlisting the support of volunteer dental professionals was the key to reducing the operating budget, he added.

“It’s so important for dentists to develop a philosophy of giving back,” said Dr. Ferré, who is now retired from dental practice. “I practiced 23 years before I volunteered, but when I did, I was hooked. I feel very privileged. Dentistry has been so good to me. It’s allowed me to retire early and concentrate on volunteering.”

The grand reopening showcased the clinic’s facelift—including new paint, some updated ambience from a pro bono interior designer and two new dental chairs donated by A-dec, which is based in nearby Newberg, Ore.

Since Sept. 14, the clinic has provided more than 375 patient appointments and care valued at $100,000, said the clinic’s new administrative director Erica Soto. Ms. Soto’s primary responsibility at the clinic is to recruit, retain and coordinate volunteers as well as to oversee its day-to-day operations.

“Volunteers—including 31 dentists, 12 hygienists, three dental assistants and seven office support volunteers—have donated 426 volunteer hours,” she said. “And our patients and their families are grateful for the services we can provide to them.”

“You should know that you have changed my daughter's life,” said the mother of a 17-year-old patient. “Before she was so scared to come to the dentist and refused to go. In that time, her teeth just got worse. She is no longer scared of the dentist and we are so happy that she is almost done with treatment. Thanks for making my daughter smile again.”

The four-chair clinic treats about 1,500 students from the Portland school system each year that don’t have dental insurance and are qualified for the free and reduced lunch program. FCCDC estimates that since the clinic opened in 1962, more than 50,000 children have received dental care services there.

While making the transition to a 501(c)(3) organization, United Way of Columbia-Willamette has served as the clinic’s fiscal sponsor until its charitable status is official, said Lora Mattsen, executive director, Multnomah Dental Society. “They are underwriting the administrative costs and providing 100 percent of donations that are made to the clinic.”

Image: Creston Children’s Dental Clinic reopening ceremony Sept. 13 in Portland, Ore.
Grand reopening: Headlining the Creston Children’s Dental Clinic reopening ceremony Sept. 13 in Portland, Ore., are, from left, Friends of Creston Children’s Dental Clinic Board member Sue Sanzi-Schadel; Creston School Principal Andy McKean; A-dec President Scott Parrish (cutting ribbon); FCCDC Board Officer and Multnomah Dental Society Executive Director Lora Mattsen; and FCCDC Vice President Dr. Dale Canfield.