AARP New Mexico staff and volunteers joined 1600 other volunteers at a unique event that helped people, primarily those without health insurance, receive much needed dental care.
The New Mexico Mission of Mercy or MOM event took place over two days, Oct. 15th and 16th, at the New Mexico State Fair Grounds in Albuquerque.
“AARP traditionally does a Day of Service in September where staff and volunteers across the country find a variety of ways to give back across the country,” said Shanna Lapsley, AARP New Mexico State Associate Director Multi-Cultural Outreach.
“Here in New Mexico, we decided that we would postpone our day of service to coincide with the MOM event because it was just such a compelling idea – to try and serve that many people so quickly and provide a much needed service that can almost immediately improve people’s lives,” Lapsley said.
A total of 2,201 people, including 82 children, were served over the two days with many braving the cold and an overnight stay in sleeping bags and folding chairs to obtain their place in line. The dental community donated about $1.3 million in service, completing about 8,724 procedures.
“It seems like such a little thing to just give a few hours of your time,” said Lapsley, who helped show people the proper way to brush their teeth and handed out toothbrushes and toothpaste to people once they had gotten their work done. “But you could just tell by watching people go through this process that it really meant a lot to them to get their teeth taken care of.”
In addition to offering time and resources, AARP New Mexico also arranged for the AARP Walgreens Wellness bus to be outside of the Manuel Lujan Exhibit Hall so that participants could also take the opportunity to have some free health screenings to. People could have their glucose, cholesterol, body mass index, and bone density checked to give them an idea on where they stood on other health indicators.
The event was a finely oiled machine with patients first having their vitals checked and basic medical information taken before then meeting with a dentist in the “dental triage area” who would then determine exactly what work you might need done. Volunteers would escort the patients to the various areas to have work done which would range from a traditional cleaning to root canals, oral surgery or even have a partial made.
For more information on other possible volunteer opportunities in your area, visit Create the Good, AARP’s initiative to encourage people to give back to their communities by volunteering.