Hundreds Line Up for Free Dental Clinic in Roanoke

    Reporter: David Tate

    Roanoke, VA - The annual Roanoke Mission of Mercy Project is underway at the Roanoke Civic Center.

    In the end, the two-day event will serve 1,000 low-income residents with much needed dental care.

    There were a few changes this year.

    The biggest change was giving out tickets to the event last week, which kept people from being turned away by the hundreds like last year.

    With a new system in place, things at the 2011 Missions of Mercy Project in Roanoke were running smoothly.

    "It's been great. Helping a lot of people and working hard," said Eric Smith.

    Smith is one of dozens of dentists from four different states volunteering time.

    This is his crews' third year.

    "As soon as we're finished with one we get the chair cleaned and we have another one coming in," he said.

    Also helping out are 60 students from VCU.

    Cassidy Turner is the one in charge of the students for Missions of Mercy.

    This is her fourth trip to Roanoke, and says each time gets better than the last.

    "People don't always have the opportunity or the finances to afford dental care. So this is our way of bringing care to the undeserved population," said Turner. "It's an all volunteer effort."

    It's an effort that especially helps people like Kevin Nichols.

    He hit a rough patch in life and needed some dentures to help him land a job.

    "This is giving me a lot more confidence and coming to start interviewing for jobs and stuff to make me feel a lot better doing that," said Nichols.

    And he isn't alone.

    900 tickets were given out in all.

    A hundred more people were invited through special programs focused on those in the most need.

    "They don't have insurance. They don't have the money to come out and pay the high cost of dentist bills these days," Nichols said. "This gives you an opportunity to have your teeth pulled, have teeth cleaned, have x-rays and even get dentures. It's great for everybody in the community."

    It doesn't cost taxpayers anything.

    The clinic continues Saturday, but remember, if you don't have a ticket, you cannot get the service.

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