MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Two thousand dentists, dental assistants, hygienists, and other medical professionals gave back to our community in a big way this weekend. The Mid-South Mission of Mercy provided free dental care to an estimated 2,500 people on Friday and Saturday.
"The need in this area is extreme," Executive Director of the Mid-South Mission of Mercy Mitch Godet said.
Hands were busy Saturday at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, as oral health professionals gave of their time and hearts.
"We have a lot of amazing people here. And a lot of amazing patients. It feels amazing to be able to give back to the community," volunteer dentist Dr. Joshua Holcomb.
This is year two for the dental clinic. The goal is to provide $1.5 million in dental care to 2,500 patients. Hundreds of people had to be turned away.
Kenneth Rhodes stood in line in the dark.
"Been here since 4:30 in the morning to get my teeth cleaned," he said. "Feels good to be here. Feels great to be here."
Nobody pays a dime for the care, which includes routine services like cleanings and even extractions and root canals. Retired Memphis Fire Director Richard Arwood is now a dental assistant who works at a mobile clinic based out of Bellevue and sees the need first-hand.
"We've been open for almost eight years, and we've seen over 14,000 Memphis citizens, doing some very basic dental care," he said.
Many patients didn't want to talk – preferring to stay private. Dr. Holcomb said the thank you is often not spoken.
"Things are not said as much as seen, or smiled, or just by their eyes," Holcomb said.
Donors help fund the event through more than $200,000 in contributions. Shelby County Commissioners also provide gr ant funding, but leaders said they plan to ask the Memphis City Council to pitch in as well, next year.
A date for 2018's clinic has already been set for January 26 and 27.
"We want Memphis to know how much we love them, and how much we're committed to helping them," Arwood said.