Organizers of the annual “Iowa Mission of Mercy” (I-MOM) dental clinic are moving the location from the west to the east side of the state. Sioux City dentist, Dick Hettinger, says the 2012 I-MOM is set for October 5th and 6th at the River Center in Davenport.
“It’s primarily directed to people who are having a problem. It’s not designed so much for becoming your routine dental visit..but somebody who has a broken tooth, or missing teeth that need to be replaced, tooth aches, things like that,” Hettinger explains. And the dental work is provided by volunteer professionals like Dr. Hettinger for free.
“We don’t ask any questions about whether they can afford it someplace else, we don’t ask where they live,” He says. “If they’re willing to get in line and wait for us and take pot luck on who takes care of them — we’re willing to try and fix their biggest problem.” Hettinger says they usually open at seven in the morning and work until five in the evening each of the two days.
“We’ve been getting around a thousand people a day taken care of. Last year we had a pretty severe weather day on Saturday and we were fighting ice storms for the first half of the day to get people in there. We still ended up doing about one-point-two million dollars worth of work,” Hettinger says. Dr. Hettinger says they’ve never run out of patients, including the first event five years ago.
“That was before the big disaster in the economy, but there were plenty of people then who had been out of work for a long time,” Hettinger explains. “There’s always a group of people who are struggling financially, even in the best of times I don’t think we’d have a problem finding patients to take care of.” Hettinger says the dentists who donate their time to do the work get a big reward by helping improve the smiles of the people they work with.
He says that benefit extends to the many others who donate their time. Hettinger says,” People in the community, the community leaders, the mayors, the city councilmen and so on, they will show up and often times help and actually be some of our volunteers. And they’re smiling because it’s their citizens (who’re) being taken care of. Last year we had the mayor of Sioux City helping pack up at the end of it. And he’s trudging around stacking chairs and packing boxes for us. It was pretty neat.”
The events prior to last year’s in Sioux City where held in Waterloo, Newton, and Cedar Rapids.