CLICK HERE FOR ARTICLE
A husband-and-wife duo are donating their skills to improve dental care access for Onslow County residents.
Drs. Jim and Virginia Wilson built a Jacksonville dentistry from the ground up in 1986, caring for area patients for three decades. In April 2017, the couple decided to use their expertise as a way to help the community through a clinic that offers pro-bono dental services. They took over a building on Dewitt Street and, after putting over 700 hours of preparation time into it, the Caring Community Clinic opened its doors in September. The clinic is operated by Onslow Community Outreach.
Dr. Virginia Wilson says this was their way to pay-it-forward to the community.
“I felt like we had worked in Jacksonville for 30 years, and we had had a very nice career. Jacksonville was very good to us so we wanted to give back to the community. Also, I feel like it’s important to use your God-given talents and just so happens I’m very good at dentistry.
“I’m also very good at restoring old buildings,” Wilson joked about the restoration required to get the structure ready.
The Wilsons perform a range of services at the clinic, including exams, x-rays, and tooth extractions for patients who would otherwise not get dentalcare.
“We treat acute pain patients who are 300 percent below the poverty level. They’re mostly working uninsured, who cannot afford dentistry,” she said.
Wilson felt compelled to do this work for much of the same reasons she became a dentist, to help people.
“I think it’s important to have a clinic like this in your community because of a couple of different reasons … if you’ve ever had a toothache, it is severe pain and it’s just to relieve some human suffering. There’s so much bad in our world, the one thing we ought to have in America is healthy. We have plenty of money that we should be able to take care of our own,” Wilson said.
She added that many of the people who come through her doors express thankfulness and “they call you things like angels.”
In the short time since the clinic started serving patients, they have had roughly 200 visits. For that work, Paige Kuffel, volunteer coordinator for Onslow Community Outreach, nominated the Wilsons for the United Way of Onslow’s Golden Rule Lightkeepers Award – an annual program highlighting individuals who impact the community.
Kuffel stated in her submission that the dentists’ “collective contribution of 240 pro-bono hours of direct patient care valued at nearly $20,000” and in many of the cases, this was the first-time patients had seen a dentist in 10 years.
“Currently, Jim and Virginia perform dental extractions twice a week at the clinic, each procedure is valued at approximately $350. In addition to donating their time to patients, the family has contributed thousands of dollars in valuable equipment and supplies to help with the start-up of the clinic. … Research shows that, good oral health enhances our ability to speak, smile, eat, and show our emotions through facial expressions. And preventive oral health habits -- such as regular dental care and good oral hygiene -- developed early in life can lead to better overall oral health throughout a person’s life,” Kuffel included in the nomination.
The Caring Community Clinic is in need of volunteers and donations on a rolling basis. Dr. Virginia Wilson shared that volunteers receive training, even if they do not have a medical or dental background. To learn more, visit https://www.onslowco.org/caring-community-clinic-dental-services.
A ceremony will be held on Feb. 23 to honor all of the lightkeepers. For information on attending, go to https://www.uwonslow.org/2017-golden-rule-lightkeepers-volunteer-awards-ceremony.