The Kelowna Gospel Mission has been serving the community for over 30 years. In that time, they have provided help in many different ways that go beyond providing shelter and a hot meal.
One example of their outside the box thinking, was the establishment of an on-site dental clinic which offers restorative dental service 5 days a week to people who cannot afford regular dental care. That includes low income families and seniors, those on assistance as well as the homeless and working poor.
"The need here in our community is overwhelming," says Shirley Goebel, Director of Dental Services.
"It's really quite amazing how many people in Kelowna are living under the poverty line."
In 2008, they established a partnership with the University of British Columbia Dental Residential Program. UBC accepts applications from fully graduated and licensed dentists who apply to work in clinics like the one provided by the Gospel Mission.
In 2010, that added up to $270,000 worth of free dental service, 1,500 patient visits and 2,332 volunteer hours from 30 Dentists, 20 Certified Dental Assistants and three Registered Dental Hygienists.
Goebel also stressed they couldn't operate without the support of Kelowna's dentists.
"Without their support, there's no way we could exist. The dentists in our community are down here volunteering in the clinic. They're a huge part of our program."
In spite of all that effort, the clinic is booked solid.
"Right now we are booked out to December 15, so we have had to close the referral process for a while now." says Goebel.
That means hundreds of people are facing a long wait to get help.
One way to increase the number of people the clinic can accommodate, is with better technology.
With that in mind, they hope to purchase a Schick CDR Sensor Digital X-ray which will increase the efficiency of the clinic and allow them to see more patients.
"Our X-ray results will be instantaneous. Every place that we can save a few minutes means another patient a day."
Goebel also points out the new machine will also save the clinic money, as they won't require all of the processing solutions required with the existing machine nor the related costs of safely disposing of those chemicals after they're used.
On Sunday, September 11, a special fundraiser will get underway.
With the support of the 30K Club, Sun-FM’s Susan Knight will try to raise $10,000, enough for the clinic to purchase the new equipment.
The "Surfing for Smiles" marathon is currently accepting donations to the dental clinic.
“Everyone knows how much it stinks to have a toothache and just how much pain can be involved, the kind of pain that just gets worse and worse,” says Knight
The fundraiser gets underway at 6 a.m. Sunday, when she steps on her board at Vernon’s Paddlewheel Park and wake-surfs all the way to Penticton, winding up in front of the Hooded Merganser about 12 hours and 99 kilometres later.
Launched in 2008 to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of Kelowna’s Gospel Mission, the 30K Club's mandate is to encourage Kelowna to support recovery, transitional and affordable housing solutions as well as their counselling, support, life skills training, education, and friendship programs.
To learn more and to make a donation to Knight's marathon, visit the 30K Club's website. You can also contact the Kelowna Gospel Mission at 250-763-3737.