Children’s Smile Center brings dental care to low-income kids

Jackie Barger is in his 30th year working for non-profits, including the past five with the Children's Smile Center.
Jackie Barger is in his 30th year working for non-profits, including the past five with the Children’s Smile Center.

In sports, you hear of over-achieving athletes eager to run through a brick wall, so to speak, for their passionate coaches. You might have the same urge after listening to Jackie Barger of the Children’s Smile Center.

With a bounce in his step and passion for the non-profit dental clinic, Barger every day seeks out low-income families whose kids are on Medicaid and in need of dental care. In fact, he’s unafraid to stop by convenience stores and other businesses, and then hand out brochures and visit.

“My staff asked me, ‘So, you just walk up to complete strangers?’” Barger said with a laugh, and his answer is an empathic yes – for good reason. “One time, I was talking to a family and they were looking at the brochure. Going to the dentist wasn’t something they were used to. But one lady walked up (during the conversation) and said, ‘My kids go there. It’s awesome.’”

Such stories drive the Children’s Smile Center, one of the 44 non-profits whose missions are aided in part by the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper. A year ago, the PGA Web.com Tour event distributed a record $1 million-plus.

Now here’s your chance again to aid the Children’s Smile Center, which covers six counties (Barry, Christian, Dade, Lawrence, Stone, Taney) and leans on four annual fundraisers – including the PCCC — to help meet its budget. Here’s how to help:

SUPPORTING THE PCCC = SUPPORTING CHARITIES

  • CHILDREN’S SMILE CENTER: The non-profit provides dental care for children from low-income families eligible for Medicaid in six southwest Missouri counties. To schedule an appointment or aid through the PCCC, call the center’s Ozark office at 417-582-5439. It also has offices in Aurora and Branson West.
  • FOR BUSINESSES: Restaurants, clothing stores and entertainment stops, donate a gift card with at least a $25 value in the name of your charity of choice to benefit them in the Golf Ball Charity Auction.
  • BUSINESS SPONSORSHIPS: Businesses also can support the PCCC through various sponsorships, such as the daily newsletter, website or through several events such as a dozen Pro-Ams.
  • FOR GOLF FANS, WIN PRIZES: The purchase of a $25 ticket daily chances (during the tournament) to win gift cards from the local businesses. You’re also automatically entered to win a $10,000 prize and a 2015 Ford Mustang. The ticket also is a four-day pass to the PCCC on Aug. 13-16 at Highland Springs Country Club.
  • DIRECTLY HELP THE CHARITY: Contact the local charity of your choice, simply because they receive revenue directly from the TLC Property Charity Sweepstakes tickets marked with their names.
  • CONTACTS: Call the Price Cutter Charity Championship staff at 417-887-3400.

About Children’s Smile Center

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The non-profit last year covered 13,000 dental appointments for 5,600 children, or 2.3 appointments a year. That’s significant considering the percentage of children on Medicaid in the six counties serviced by the Children’s Smile Center.

This is where Barger inspires a so-called call to action and rallies the cause of the non-profit.

Barger, the non-profit’s executive director since 2010, rattled off some startling statistics, noting that 60 to 70 percent of kids in area small towns rely on Medicaid.

Unfortunately, only 10 percent of Missouri dentists accept Medicaid and the Smile Center knows of only two private-practice dentists in the six-county area that fall into that category, Barger noted. The reason dentists don’t accept Medicaid is because of a low reimbursement rate.

“This is a non-profit that sees only kids and pregnant women on Medicaid, but that’s why the Price Cutter Charity Championship is so important to us,” Barger emphasized. “We’ve got to raise the money every year to make up the difference.”

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The Children’s Smile Center conducts grant-writing and direct mailers seeking ways to supplement its $1.6 million annual budget.

The non-profit now has three locations in Ozark, Aurora and Branson West after initially opening in 2006 thanks to a $400,000 grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health.  The grant was for a three-year start-up process. The center received further financial support from the community, local dental professionals, building contractors and suppliers.

Rogetta Prueitt, Joe Millsap and then Barger have served as executive directors. Barger has worked in non-profits for 30 years, most of them children’s non-profits.

In addition, the Children’s Smile Center has become a popular destination for local students of Ozarks Technical Community College, Vatterott College, Midwest Technical Institute and Everest College as they complete their academic programs in dental hygiene and dental assisting.

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Students regularly rotate in and out of the center, and staff continues to provide advice and guidance to both students and the academic programs.

“We don’t charge any of our families to come in,” Barger said. “It’s very important for us to raise the funds, No. 1. And we don’t do events (strictly) for the money. We do them for the exposure, and the Price Cutter Charity Championship is a good opportunity to show what we’re doing. That provides a platform to tell our story.”