DOVER, NJ – Volunteers from all over New Jersey came together in Dover last weekend to provide free dental care and more to nearly 200 veterans at the second annual Smiles for our Heroes, an event to honor veterans for their military service.
A partnership between Delta Dental of New Jersey, Delta Dental of New Jersey Foundation, Zufall Health, and the New Jersey Dental Association, the two-day event included a full range of free dental services from cleanings to extractions and dentures for low-income veterans and their families. Free health screenings, refreshments, entertainment, and giveaways were also made available to veterans and their families.
“Giving back to the community is a significant part of Delta Dental’s mission and to be able to serve veterans in this way is such a great feeling,” Dr. Ronald Deblinger, chairman of the board of Delta Dental of New Jersey, told a crowd in the hospitality tent at Zufall’s Dover Dental Center. “We offer a thank you to our vets and gratitude to all the volunteers who have made this event possible.”
Leaders of the four organizations cited the necessity for offering free dental care. Veterans generally are not eligible for government-provided care unless they have a service-related disability. For many, dental care is often unaffordable.
“Today is a big day for us, but we’ll be here every day after this,” Eva Turbiner, Zufall’s president and chief executive officer, assured the veterans. “We’re your dental home and our dental staff at all our sites will be here permanently to make sure you receive what you need.”
Helping to celebrate Smiles for our Heroes was the Denville String Band presenting a lively program of patriotic music. Special guests New Jersey State Senator Anthony Bucco and Assemblyman Anthony Bucco presented the organizations with a resolution of commendation from the joint legislature. Also on hand were Dover Mayor James Dodd and Morris County Sheriff James Gannon, who called for a moment of silence to honor all those who served.
More than 60 dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants traveled from as far as Burlington County to give up all or part of their weekend, and another 65 non-clinical volunteers helped run the event’s activities. Many were veterans themselves, or were related to vets, and were happy to have the opportunity to give back.
“The patients have been so grateful, but it’s a real feel-good experience for us to do this for them,” said Dr. Gary Lillie, who echoed the sentiments of many of the volunteers. “I volunteered last year, and I’ll be back again.”
Veterans represented every branch of the military with their service spanning from World War II to recent discharge. Throughout the weekend they were also treated to free lunch, a caricature by artist Ed Giordano, gifts and prizes, some comfort from therapy dogs, and were able to pay tribute to fellow veterans by posting photos and messages on a Remembrance Wall.
“We are especially grateful for the extraordinary efforts of event organizers Ellen Schworn, a trustee of the Delta Dental of New Jersey Foundation; Dr. Gene Napoliello, chairman of the Delta Dental of New Jersey Foundation; and Dr. Sam Wakim, Zufall’s chief dental officer,” Dr. Deblinger told the gathering. “We couldn’t have done this without them.”
Additional funding for the weekend was provided by primary sponsors Arconic Foundation, Benco Dental, LabCorp, and Valley National Bank, as well as a host of other financial and in-kind corporate and private donors.
About Delta Dental
Delta Dental of New Jersey, Inc. is New Jersey’s leading dental benefits company, providing or administering coverage to more than 1.7 million people through contracts with groups in New Jersey and Connecticut. In Connecticut, Delta Dental of Connecticut, Inc. is a licensed insurer that writes dental coverage on an insured basis, and Delta Dental of New Jersey administers self-funded dental benefit programs. For more information, visit www.deltadentalnj.com.
About Zufall Health
Zufall Health is a not-for-profit, state-licensed community health center that has been providing high-quality, affordable medical and dental treatment to the working poor, uninsured, and underserved for over 28 years. More than 37,000 patients are served at its headquarters site in Dover as well as medical and/or dental offices in Morristown, Hackettstown, Flemington, Somerville, West Orange, Newton, and on its Highlands Health Van and Zufall Delta Dental Mobile. For more information, visit zufallhealth.org.