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“Smiles for Veterans” Program Launched
We often hear about acts of kindness in our lifetime, but at the Department Convention Springfield, IL. June 12, 2015, little did I know a discussion between VFW Auxiliaries (Montgomery 7452) and Bolingbrook (5917) would change the lives of so many. In a conversation with Doris Hays, (Department Hospital Chairman) for the State of Illinois, Dawn Robinson (Montgomery IL 7452) and Pam Graham (Bolingbrook IL 5917), an exchange of service programs were shared. Ms. Hays and Ms. Graham shared the “Homeless Veterans Mat” program and Dawn Robinson would share their “Smiles for Veterans Program”.
Members meeting at the right place at the right time, would bring about a heartfelt story about a Marine Veteran, Michael Stankewicz, of Mississippi, who only days earlier had fracture his front teeth, with no dental insurance, between jobs and other obstacles in his life; Marine Veteran Michael Stankewicz would be the first recipient that would receive dental care from the “Smiles for Veterans” program.
“Smiles for Veterans” started as an idea when Montgomery Auxiliary President Patricia DeVore’s brother, a retired disabled Vietnam Veteran, suffered from total tooth loss due to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. A visit between brother and sister became a dental crisis for Ms. DeVore when she saw what Sgt. James Douglas Jones had done due to no dental insurance. Sgt. Jones had several broken teeth and was removing them himself with a pair of pliers, the only dental care he could afford. Ms. DeVore contacted a dentist Illinois and financed her brothers care to have his teeth removed. You see the pliers were unable to remove all of the roots and Sgt. Jones was in much pain. After finishing the upper extractions, the dentist came out to speak with Ms. Devore, with tears in his eyes said “That’s one tough soldier.” Asked if he wanted to make an appointment to finish the bottom teeth, Sgt. Jones said “No let’s just get it done while we’re here.” In a conversation between Ms. DeVore and her brother Sgt. Jones she asked “I bet you miss eating the foods you love” and he responded back “ I don’t miss the food so much as I miss my SMILE” Thus the “Smiles for Veterans” program was born. Ms. DeVore knew that her brother James couldn’t be the only Veteran that was suffering from tooth loss, so in February 2015 a motion for the program was unanimously approved. A full set of dentures was negotiated, by Ms. DeVore, for Sgt. Jones but found out he was unable to wear them due to complications of his condition. Although saddened they would not be able to help, Sgt. Jones thanked the Auxiliary for their efforts on his behalf.
Ms. DeVore found a dentist near Michael in Mississippi, Dr. Joseph Daho. She then negotiated a free exam, free x-rays and reduced fees on behalf of Marine Veteran, Michael Stankewicz. Montgomery Auxiliary 7452 unanimously approved to cover his dentistry, Stankewicz said “God does answer prayers”. Bolingbrook Auxiliary 5917 also approved a donation and a personal donation was sent on behalf of Stankewicz to keep this program going. There are plans to get as many Posts and Auxiliaries involved as possible.
Dr. Daho and his office manager Stacy had never been given this type of request before. Due to the professionalism of Ms. DeVore their office clearly understood what services were needed. Dr. Daho and his staff were willing to help and show their appreciation for what Veterans do for this country. Dr. Daho stated “I have the utmost respect for people who serve in the military. When they come back from serving overseas it is amazing what they have seen. Our everyday routine we take for granted, without them we would be an unfortunate country. ” The blessings Dr. Daho has received in his life are now shared with others through his own acts of patriotism in helping this program succeed.
“Smiles for Veterans” is on a case by case basis. There is a pre-screening process to “Help One Veteran at a Time”. Information requested assures that Veterans are getting dental care. Dentists may have pre-screening of their own. Funding for this project has been raised through Auxiliary fundraising efforts and very few personal donations.
The VA information reads thusly: Dental benefits are provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) according to law. In some instances, VA is authorized to provide extensive dental care, while in other cases treatment may be limited. Please see Fact Sheet IB 10-422, for more information call 1-877-222-VETS (8387) or http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/
“Smile for Veterans” is tapping in to an unmet need for our Veterans. One Auxiliary started this program, two Auxiliaries are now working together. Imagine what we can accomplish when all of our members work together. If you are a dentist, know a dentist, work for dentist please ask them to get involved! Informational flyers and letters will be supplied upon request. We all know a Veteran who does not have dental insurance and cannot afford dental care even if they have not mentioned the need.
Monetary donations are not only welcome, but needed.
Please send to:
Auxiliary To VFW Post 7452
Attn: "Smiles For Veterans"
121 N. River St.
Montgomery, IL 60538
Or Use PayPal below:
Montgomery Memorial Post 7452 Of The Veterans Of Foreign Wars Montgomery, Il
You Can Follow the "Smiles For Veterans" Program Via Our Facebook Page By Clicking The Below Link:
THE FIRST VETERANS TO BENEFIT FROM THIS NEW PROGRAM