The United Way of Washington County is continuing its appeal for last-minute contributions to this year’s $1.725-million fundraising campaign for 17 local service agencies that comes to a close at midnight Saturday.
For the sake of the 20,000 to 25,000 Washington County residents impacted each month by the United Way’s partner agencies, Diane Dempsey, who serves as executive director of the nonprofit Keystone Dental Care clinic and as this year’s agency liaison to the United Way’s Board of Directors, is one of the many people who hope to see the United Way ring in the new year by going over its goal.
At Keystone Dental Care alone, Dempsey said, the $42,000 in funding the clinic receives annually from United Way allowed it to provide treatment to 1,764 patients last year, or an average of 147 people per month.
“That’s more or less 2,000 people who would not have received care without the United Way,” she said.
And while the United Way funding amounted to just less than 10 percent of the clinic’s annual operating cost, Dempsey credited the United Way’s support and the stamp of endorsement that comes with it for helping Keystone Dental Care win the government grant funding and local foundation support that has allowed to grow to proportions that were never imagined when the clinic began work 13 years ago.
Of the total of 11,194 dental procedures the clinic provided for a total of 4,217 patients in the eight-county region during fiscal year 2009-10, 59 percent were from Washington County and 100 percent were either below the federal poverty line, above the poverty level and paying for treatment on a income-adjusted scale, disabled and totally without dental care coverage or in emergency circumstances that put them in immediate need of treatment.
“What the United Way gives us enables us to treat a lot of folks,” Dempsey said. “It increases our patient flow by about 147 patients every month or 1,764 (patients) annually. It provides treatment for people who are homeless or in emergencies or special circumstances that leave them without care, and people who do not have insurance. About 95 percent of our patients are disabled and do not receive any dental care (insurance) from the (state) government or from Medicare.”
Even more than that, Dempsey said the United Way’s endorsement is what put Keystone Dental Care on the path to growth.
“Without the United Way’s seal of approval and its financial support, we probably would still be struggling,” she said. “With the United Way, we became credible with other funding organizations and foundations, and the dentists and volunteer staff who support us.
Most recently, the clinic received grants of up to $100,000 each from the local Mooneyhan Family Foundation and the Niswonger Foundation, which along with special pricing from Royal Dental company, allowed it to purchase and install three new dental chairs and delivery stations. All total, 13 area dentists and dozens of support staff donated 1,929 volunteer hours of labor and more in donated supplies for the clinic last year. And last week, the national Tulsa Dental insurance company presented the clinic with a check for $50,000.
“We’ve been here 13 years and with the United Way since 2002. So a big thank you to the United Way and what they do for the community,” Dempsey said.
Of Keystone Dental Care’s current list of 500 active patients, there are also people in emergency circumstances like those who are battling cancer who can not begin treatment until any infection found in the their teeth is cleared, regardless of the patient’s inability to pay for dental treatment.
In testimony to what the clinic’s services mean to those patients, Dempsey shared the following words of thanks form the local McCloud Cancer and Blood Center: “Many times the Radiation Therapy Department at the (Johnson City) Medical Center has called for assistance for patients who were unable to afford dental care. No request for dental care has ever been denied. Each person has received an appointment quickly and dental care was provided so cancer treatment could begin. I can never say enough thanks to the people who make Keystone Dental Care a great success.”
And even as Dempsey counts the United Way chief among the many contributors who contribute to Keystone Dental Care’s success, the United Way campaign team is working to continue building on the clinic’s success in the future.
At the campaign team’s final report meeting on Dec. 15, with two weeks remaining to the end of the drive, Campaign Chairman Becky Hilbert reported total contributions of $1.609 million with less than $116,000 to go for the United Way to reach its fundraising goal for the first time since the great recession of 2008.
“I will continue until midnight at the first of the year. I will continue until I’m saying ‘happy New Year,’ ” Hilbert pledged at the meeting. And this week, with only days remaining to its conclusion, the campaign is continuing its push.
United Way President and CEO Lester Lattany has made an appeal for those who will be making end-of-the-year gifts to charitable organizations before income tax season begins in January to consider the United Way and the work of the partner agencies it supports. Johnson City’s two IGA stores announced Friday they will be collecting donations for the United Way at the store’s checkout registers through New Year’s Eve. And on Tuesday, local Roadrunner stores announced plans to present a major gift to the United Way today.
Finally, Lattany encouraged any others who wish to add an 11th-hour contribution to the 2011 campaign to call the United Way office at 282-5682 for assistance or for more information about the campaign and the nonprofit services and programs it supports. Or, gifts to the United Way campaign may be made by mail to United Way of Washington County, P.O. Box 4039, Johnson City, TN, 37602-4039.