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Wanted: Volunteers
Photo: Bazil Raubach
Deamonte Driver, a twelve-year-old Maryland boy, died needlessly on February 25. The infection from an untreated abscessed tooth had spread to his brain. A visit to any dentist’s office would have easily solved the problem, but his single mom had no insurance and no money to pay a dentist.

I have a daughter just one year older than Deamonte, and I can’t begin to imagine this mother's feelings of sorrow and helplessness.

This story especially touched my husband. He manages a mobile dental clinic for an international non-profit Christian organization. The clinic is housed in a custom-built 38-foot motor home, complete with two dental operatories. He travels up to 150 miles from home, treating those who have nowhere else to turn. The beautiful thing about this mission on wheels is that everyone he works with is a volunteer. Local dentists, assistants and hygienists give up occasional days off to treat people free of charge. Their clinics may be held outside a local church, migrant camp, school or jail. Patients qualify if they lack insurance and are under a certain income level. All are treated with respect and given professional care. Last year the volunteers put in over 1,500 hours, treating more than 1,300 patients and providing half-a-million dollars worth of free care.

What if these volunteers hadn’t been willing to serve? Who would those people have turned to in their pain? Hundreds of them suffered from abscessed teeth like Deamonte.

Answer to Many Community Problems

I’m wondering if volunteerism isn’t the answer to many of our community problems. Often when we hear the word “volunteer” we think of someone who has a lot of time: a senior citizen, a stay-at-home mom or someone with a part-time job. But there’s also a great need for full-time professionals to volunteer. They have education and gifts that others can’t match. My husband’s clinic couldn’t operate without them.

I believe that every city across this nation, no matter how small or large, is full of opportunities for people to volunteer their unique skills. What are your gifts? Once you’ve answered that, you can go in search of a place to use those gifts. I know it’s hard when you have your own job and family to take care of, but other people need you too. We need to take care of each other. Jesus asked us to when He said, “Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2).

I’ll never forget the evening I was at a local store with my husband and a woman came rushing up to us. Months earlier she’d come to the clinic seeking help for her badly decayed front teeth. One of the dentists had restored them to look like new. She stopped us and said excitedly, “I just wanted you to see my smile!” A volunteer had changed her life.

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By Nancy Canwell. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture take from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

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