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.”

 

For Boys & Girls Club of Springfield, it’s all about the kids

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Sometimes, life can turn in an instant. Just ask Brittny Tripicchio, who thought she had done just about everything after putting her master’s degree on hold and leaving the sorority back on campus.

About four years ago, she took responsibility for her sister Jenna, then only 4 years old, and packed up and moved from Texas to the Ozarks after their grandmother agreed to help.

Unfortunately, the plan hit a roadblock after their grandmother fell ill, leading to the real possibility that the state foster system take custody of Jenna.

Fortunately, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield provided a significant assist, thanks in part to your donations to the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper. The PCCC is an annual PGA Web.com Tour event that aids numerous children’s charities, with a record $1 million-plus distributed last year alone.

“I was going to have to quit my job,” Brittny said. “I didn’t want to pay for child care in the summer, but I was able to keep my job. The Boys & Girls Club was there. It was a real blessing.”

This summer, assistance from the business community and the general public to the Price Cutter Charity Championship could be meaningful again for Brittny, Jenna and the families which walk in similar shoes. Here’s how:

SUPPORTING THE PCCC = SUPPORTING CHARITIES

  • BOYS & GIRLS CLUB OF SPRINGFIELD: The mission of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield is to provide programs that guide and direct youth from all backgrounds with special concern for those from at-risk circumstances. Their number is 417-862-9249.
  • FOR BUSINESSES: Restaurants, clothing stores and entertainment stops are asked to donate a gift card with at least a $25 value in the name of your charity of choice to benefit the charity 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 means a four-day pass to the PCCC on Aug. 13-16 at Highland Springs Country Club as well as daily chances to win gift cards from the local businesses. You’re also automatically entered to win a $10,000 prize and a 2015 Ford Mustang.
  • FOR TICKETS: Contact the local charity of your choice, simply because they receive revenue directly from those TLC Property Charity Sweepstakes tickets marked with their names.
  • WHEN & WHERE: The PGA Web.com Tour is Aug. 13-16 at Highland Springs Country Club, with events beginning in late July.
  • CONTACTS: Call the Price Cutter Charity Championship staff at 417-887-3400.

About the Boys & Girls Club of Springfield

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Brittny is now 24 and, while she earned a bachelor’s degree, she still would like to finish her master’s.

“I was in a sorority and living the typical college life. Overnight, everything changed. I didn’t know how to pay a bill. I didn’t know how to schedule a doctor’s appointment,” Brittny said.

Fortunately, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield reached out its generous arms.

“Whatever the situation is, the Boys & Girls Clubs is there to help,” Brittny said. “At Christmas, they bought Christmas presents for Jenna. It’s nice to have some stability with everything she’s been through.”

The mission of the Boys & Girls Club of Springfield is to provide programs that guide and direct youth from all backgrounds with special concern for those from at-risk circumstances.

Through social, physical and educational development activities, the Boys & Girls Club of Springfield teaches youth the values of life, strengthens their self-esteem and makes them better citizens of our community.

The organization’s Executive Director, Pat Gartland, says it best: “People new to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield are pleasantly surprised by the variety of opportunities and quality of programs offered at such a value – we are impacting young lives to promote great futures every day!”

Offering individual and group activities, programs are based on principals of behavioral guidance and targeted to achieve social, health, educational, vocational, character and leadership development.

Opportunities offered include: leadership; education; music; technology; community service; special events; fitness including swimming, basketball, baseball, tennis, golf and dance; field trips; counseling; mentoring; job training and many others, including applying for college scholarships through the clubs.

These opportunities offer young people much more than just a safe place to be year-round when school is not in session.

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Youth ages 6 to 17 can be part of the program because there is not a specific criteria required. The Boys & Girls Club of Springfield has a diversity of youth from all over the surrounding communities.

Each of its three Springfield units has a teen center with a full-time director, and the teens spend most of their time – when they are not in the gym – outside the Clubs with programs especially for them.

They also have a pre-teen center for the tweens, with their own tween staff leadership. The younger kids follow a schedule and rotate through program areas and special events, as well as field trips throughout the day.

The units are open Monday through Friday during the school year and in the summer.