The big toothy grins were impossible to miss as Houston area second graders attending Project Saving Smiles, a dental program provided by The Houston Health Department and Houston Health Foundation. Support for the project also came from community volunteers and missionaries from the Texas Houston South Mission.
According to Robin Mansur, President and CEO of the Houston Health Foundation, these Houston Independent School District, (HISD) students were part of 10 missions, or weeks of service this year, stretching from October through April. The initiative also included approximately 5,900 students from Alief, Aldine, Fort Bend, Klein, Pasadena, and Spring ISDs. By the end of the year Project Saving Smile will have treated approximately 60,000 children since its inception in 2008.
The Houston Health Foundation noted that Project Saving Smiles’ purpose is to reduce the prevalence of tooth decay in underserved children and remove barriers to learning through providing dental screenings, dental sealants, fluoride varnish, and oral health education free of charge targeting Houston’s at risk 2nd graders who are enrolled in schools with 70% or more students on the Free and Reduced Lunch Program.
“Project Saving Smiles acts as a safety net, educating parents about what can be done for their children and where to go for service. It is a prevention-oriented program and we believe in the dental home model, so parents can connect with a dentist for the future,” Mansur stated.
“Missionaries from the Latter-day Saints have helped us from 2011. There are usually 8-10 who help with each service week. They are really like family and we so much appreciated their contribution. They are wonderful, wonderful people and we are very blessed to have their support. They all seem to be remarkably great with kids – very patient and playful, “added Mansur.
HISD Golfcrest Elementary School nurse Ellen Siegel, RN has seen the program flourish over the 8 years she has helped with Project Saving Smiles. “This program teaches kids not to be afraid of the dentist. At least 50% of our kids have never seen a dentist. The parents aren’t aware of opportunities available to their children, so each child is given a report and we follow up with the parents and give referrals which is so beneficial,” Siegel said.
As stated by the 2000 Surgeon General’s Report, children who suffer from oral health problems cannot learn well and miss days from school. Additionally, children who experience pain from tooth problems are likely to be distracted and unable to concentrate on their school work.
Dr. Teresita Ladrillo, Operations Chief of Project Saving Smiles for 10 years and Senior Dentist with the Houston Health Department, said, “Our battle is against cavities. They are preventable yet are not being prevented. When we first began the program, I couldn’t believe I am in the United States and seeing so many cavities. In the 30-minute oral health education we give a pre and post-test. Before the class the children score in the 60’s and after 30 minutes they score in the 90’s (percentiles).”
Sister Anne Welton, an LDS missionary from Reno, Nevada and Sister Carli Benton from Sacramento, California serving an LDS mission in the Houston area added,” We have been teaching kids about how to eat healthily, what sealants and cavities are, how to drink tap water because it has Fluoride, about flossing and brushing teeth and why it is important to keep our teeth clean- all the time.”
“We have been really happy with the LDS missionaries. They are professional. They learn fast and we always want them to come back,” Ladrillo said.
Baylei Webster a second-grade student from Golfcrest said, “It was great. It made my teeth tickle. I learned to keep my teeth clean.” Her classmate A’mya Watson chimed in, “I didn’t know what was going to happen. I liked the part where they put the pillow under my tongue.”
Rio Rancho, NM – In early May, the king of the Bemba tribe in Zambia and a small delegation with him visited the Albuquerque area. They were scheduled to meet with a humanitarian organization called Women of Worth in the city of Rio Rancho (located next to Albuquerque) to personally thank the volunteers for their service.
In May of 2018, Spring Branch Independent School District (SBISD) hosted the fourth annual Daily Dose graduation, which provides adult conversational English instruction to parents.
Linda Buchman, Community Relations Officer with SBISD, gave the opening remarks to an overflow crowd. “We are so, so, so proud of you,” she said to the over one hundred graduates gathered in the Spring Woods Middle school parent center. “Each of you who has taken the time to come to class and to learn and to improve, you all are inspirations to each and every one of us. Our goals for your children are the same as you have set for yourselves, to continue to learn, to grow and to try new things. I hope that you will take these new skills that you have developed and continue to grow in your learning.”
For his Eagle Project, Houston, Texas Scout Asher Joseph considered the standard criteria – his project should benefit the community, involve other Scouts and enable him to demonstrate leadership.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church and Catholic Charities have partnered on humanitarian work across the globe for many years. The working partnership between the Mormon Church and the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in Texas which services over 1,300,000 Catholics, has been very successful.
As part of the annual meeting of Catholic Charities in Houston, the Mormon Church was recognized for its support to their relief efforts. Mormons have provided countless hours of service and massive contributions of supplies for joint projects the organizations have been working together on.
The meeting was presided over by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo the Archbishop of the local Archdiocese and current President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The LDS Church was the only non-Catholic organization to be recognized. Cynthia Colbert the CEO of Catholic Charities in the area said, “Our second 2017 Charity In Action Award goes to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Their unwavering support has allowed us to help many as they always answer our urgent calls for volunteer needs.
LDS Church has hosted school supply drives to ensure that the children that we help are prepared for the school year and have coordinated outing events for the children of our St. Michael’s program. In addition, they have helped seniors move into new homes and assist with sorting donations at several of our locations, like Mamie George Community Center and The Guadalupe Center.“
Jan Chappell, the Houston Area Director of Public Affairs, accepted the award on behalf of the Mormon Church and expressed gratitude for being able to serve together with Catholic Charities. Chappell said, “What a privilege it is to work with a dedicated group of people who are also committed followers of Jesus Christ.”
Also, in attendance was Brian Corbin the Executive Vice President of Catholic Charities USA in Washington DC. Concerning the value of faith-based organizations working together for the common good, he noted that Mormons like other faiths are “…are people of the book and people of the spirit and we all share in that common conversation.”
Corbin also mentioned that the headquarters building of Catholic Charities USA in Washington DC was funded by a very generous donation from a Mormon Church member who wanted to help them be more effective in their work.
Albuquerque, N.M. – When Kris Steel first moved to Albuquerque in 1999, she wanted to get to know her neighbors better. Although she reached out to them in a variety of ways, in 2004 she decided to host a nativity display in her home for residents of her immediate area in the Northeast Heights. So she invited these neighbors to display their nativities along with her own.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Steel and her husband worked hard to prepare for the neighborhood nativity event. Parents of five children, they cleared out their living room and put all the furniture on the back patio. Then they brought in rectangular tables where local residents could set up their displays. [Read more…]
Seventh graders Maria Pena, Lanea Autry and Regan Barrett from Leaman Junior High in the Lamar Independent School District giggled nervously as they waited their turn to be tested for eyeglasses in the Houston Health Foundation’s See to Succeed program. The girls agreed it was hard to see the board, hard to take notes and to do work in the classroom. “I failed the eye test at the nurse’s office, so I got to come,” Autry said. Any student identified by a school nurse or teacher is eligible.
Pat Segu,O.D. Clinical Associate Professor with the University of Houston College of Optometry and Clinical Director of See to Succeed shared that they are in the seventh year of this safety net program providing free eye exams and glasses to students. “We can bridge that gap for kids that never get to see an eye doctor. We can now see over 400 children per day, for 6 weeks totaling over 10,000 children per year. It takes all of us working together to make a difference for the kids in our community,” Segu said. Children from school districts all over the area participate.