Archived Story

A reason to smile

Published 9:26am Tuesday, January 28, 2014 Updated 11:27am Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The way Orvin Leis sees it, he is just doing his part to give back to the community.

“You volunteer for city stuff and you volunteer for stuff at church and at school,” he said. “It’s just part of life isn’t it?”

Leis will be donating a full day next week to the Give Kids a Smile program. Elbow Lake Dental Center, where Leis is one of two full-time doctors, will be open Friday, Feb. 7 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., offering free dental work to children whose families cannot otherwise afford it.

Give Kids a Smile is a national program started in 2003 and coordinated on the state level by the Minnesota Dental Association. The program delivered free care to 6,136 Minnesota children last year at 203 locations across the state, according to the program’s website.

Elbow Lake Dental Center participated in the program last year, but not many kids came in. Leis said this may have been because the office was open on a first-come, first-served basis and families may not have known about the program.

This year, the office will be taking appointments, about half of which are already taken, according to Leis. The last available appointment will be sometime around 3:30 p.m. so the office can be closed by 4 p.m.

To combat a potential lack of knowledge about the program, Leis said the office has sent out notifications to area newspapers. Geneva Gehrke, a hygienist in the office, has also been spreading the word on a personal level.

“If we get a patient in from school, I tell them about it,” she said. “If I have a patient with his, I’ve been telling them too.”

Gehrke has also spoken with representatives from social work programs to help them spread the word to anyone who qualifies for the program.

During the day, the office will be offering free exams, x-rays and will even fill cavities or do other work that needs to be done, so families may not have to make a return trip to the dentist Leis said the only concern is that some patients may have to wait a little to get their treatment.

According to the Give Kids a Smile website, Elbow Lake Dental Center is the only office in Grant County participating in the program. There is also only one office in Otter Tail County listed as a participant, so there could be families converging on Elbow Lake Dental Center from all over the area.

Leis has no expectations for how many families will come in, but he does hope to see a full office.

“If you qualify, take advantage of it because it’s a good deal,” he said.

Elbow Lake Dental Center is usually closed on Fridays, an indication of how important Leis and his fellow workers think the program is for area families. They plan on participating in the program in future years as well.

“It’s just a matter of doing it and seeing what works and what doesn’t and just keep doing it until you find that happy mix,” Leis said.

To make an appointment for Give Kids a Smile day at Elbow Lake Dental Center, call 218-685-4710.

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