New Mexico Mission of Mercy volunteers are seen working on patients at a free dental clinic in March 2012 in Las Cruces. Mission of Mercy, a free dental
New Mexico Mission of Mercy volunteers are seen working on patients at a free dental clinic in March 2012 in Las Cruces. Mission of Mercy, a free dental clinic, needs volunteers for its September clinic in Farmington. The last day to register to volunteer is Friday. (Courtesy of Michael Moxey, New Mexico Dental Association)
TO VOLUNTEER

What: New Mexico Mission of Mercy free dental clinic

When: Sept. 13 and 14

Where: McGee Park, 41 Road 5568, Farmington

More info: Go to www.nmdentalfoundation.org by Aug. 16. Call 1-888-723-8820 for more information. Volunteers who sign up online by Aug. 16 can choose which shift they'd like to work. They will also receive a free T-shirt. All volunteers will be provided with breakfast, lunch and snacks during the day.

FARMINGTON — With less than a week left to register to volunteer for San Juan County's New Mexico Mission of Mercy, hundreds of volunteers are still needed.

Organizers are hoping people will step up to help fellow residents in need. Friday is the last day to register, and registration must be done online.

More than 700 volunteers are still needed.

Mission of Mercy is a massive dental clinic that will provide free care to more than 1,500 local residents who are either uninsured or otherwise cannot afford to pay for care. The clinic will be Sept. 13 and 14 at McGee Park. Volunteers are needed for two days of the clinic, as well as for the day before and after for setup and tear down. No prior experience is necessary.

Two other Mission of Mercy clinics have been held in New Mexico, one in Albuquerque in 2010 and the other last year in Las Cruces. This will be the first time the clinic will be held in San Juan County.

Free services, such as cleanings, fillings, root canals, tooth extraction and temporary tooth replacement will be provided by volunteer dentists, hygienists and assistants. There will also be education on proper oral and dental care.

"After (Friday), the only way to volunteer will be to show up at the event, but we really hope people sign up beforehand," said Mission of Mercy co-chair John McNeill. "We mostly need volunteers in hospitality and food service, but we also need escorts and translators."

McNeill has been making the rounds to various churches and community organizations to recruit volunteers.

"It's been gratifying because the response has been great. We will make it work with whatever we have," he said.

McNeill said those who give their time at a Mission of Mercy clinic find it a rewarding experience because in addition to helping others in need, they also have fun getting to know the other volunteers and dental personnel.

"It's fun to be in such a collegial environment and interact with dental professionals that you wouldn't normally get to interact with," he said.

Mission of Mercy organizers are also gearing up to recruit patients to come to the clinic, which will operate on a first-come, first-served basis.

People can start lining up at 4 p.m. Sept. 12. The clinic opens at 5 a.m. Sept. 13.

"They don't need to sign up beforehand," McNeill said. "They just need to be willing to stand in line."

Dental hygienist and San Juan College instructor Sherri Paxon volunteered at both the Las Cruces and Albuquerque Mission of Mercy clinics, and is organizing the patient education section for San Juan County's clinic.

"People are so grateful," Paxon said of those receiving the free services. "They keep saying how thankful they are, and they keep giving hugs. You absolutely feel like you're making a difference."

Leigh Black Irvin covers health for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4610 and lirvin@daily-times.com Follow her @irvindailytimes on Twitter.