Hundreds of volunteers still needed for San Juan County free dental clinic in September

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Approximately 1,000 patients are expected to be treated during the Mission of Mercy free dental clinic in late September at McGee Park.

FARMINGTON — Organizers of a free dental clinic planned for next month in San Juan County are seeking the help of hundreds of volunteers to stage the huge annual event.

The New Mexico Mission of Mercy dental clinic presented by the New Mexico Dental Association and the New Mexico Dental Association Foundation will take place Friday, Sept. 23 and Saturday, Sept. 24 at McGee Park, 41 County Road 5568 between Farmington and Bloomfield. Free dental work is expected to be offered to approximately 1,000 residents over the two-day clinic, but organizers say they need the help of a large group of volunteers to make that happen.

Devin Neeley, spokesman for San Juan County, which is providing cash and in-kind donations to the event, said that while more than 200 volunteers had signed up to help with the event as of Aug. 26, nearly four times that number is needed.

"We are not very far down the road," he said, explaining that organizers need 800 volunteers to work four- to six-hour shifts during the event.

Dental health professionals from around the state already have agreed to take part to treat patients, Neeley said, so the volunteers that are being sought for the event need not have specialized skills to take part. He said people are needed to serve as translators, patient escorts and security personnel, as well as helping with volunteer check-ins and the set-up and tear-down stages of the event.

"You don't have to have experience running a (dental) drill, you just have to have experience with helping," he said.

Anyone interested in registering to help can do so by emailing nmdentalfoundation.org.

The clinic is held annually in New Mexico but rotates around the state. Neeley said he believes the last time it was held in San Juan County was in 2013.

"It's kind of our turn again," he said.

A call for patients will be issued as the event draws closer, but Neeley said some people already have begun to reach out to inquire about how to sign up for the clinic. He noted that some of the services offered through the clinic are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and others are scheduled in advance.

Neeley said the last time the clinic was held in San Juan County, some patients began lining up the night before the event started to ensure they would be seen.

"We anticipate that again this year," he said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.