Helen Hardy remembers the excitement in her community on the day the ‘watermelon man’ would travel through Washington, DC neighborhoods to deliver fresh fruit, meats, and sometimes bottled milk. Reminiscing on the 1950s brought back so many pleasant childhood memories of living in the District with her parents and four sisters. Helen married young, moved to Anacostia in the 60s with her husband, and together they had five children.
Helen takes great pride in her youthful memories. Now, at 76, and a widow, Helen is creating beautiful memories with her three grandchildren, building lasting friendships in Anacostia, and utilizing the Seabury Connector to enjoy the many sights, activities, and events at the heartbeat of our greater Washington area. And it was during one visit to the Ward 7 senior wellness center when Helen first discovered Community of Hope. “I saw an article in the paper about free dental services if you were over the age of 65. I got excited and called my family first, and then called to make an appointment. I was happy.” While Helen had always wanted to go to the dentist to get work done to her teeth, she said that dental care was just too expensive and she couldn’t afford it. Now because of our Senior Dental Services Program, funded by DC Health, Helen and other seniors can access dental services for free.
When Helen finally arrived at her appointment and saw the facility – she couldn’t believe it. “I was so amazed when I walked through the doors at Community of Hope. I was amazed at how nice it looked. Some places you go to for disadvantaged people don’t look great, but this place looked great.” Helen’s positive first impressions of Community of Hope’s Conway Health and Resource Center didn’t stop there. She excitedly detailed her first dental visit experience – “The staff was so nice and when I got in the chair - no pain. God blessed me with Dr. Thomas because she is the best dentist I ever had. She’s so good at what she does and she cares about you."
The Senior Dental Services Program offers a full range of free dental services to eligible DC seniors which serve a high need in the community. Many of the seniors that we serve have lost some or all of their teeth and find it difficult to chew and eat and prefer not to smile which impacts mood and relationships. Eating without teeth or dentures can cause a number of health risks to include weakened jaw bones and gums as well as poor nutrition.
“I know a lot of seniors that don’t show the areas that are missing teeth. Seniors didn’t have great jobs growing up – so their retirement checks don’t cover everything. The grant is a blessing because you’re able to get a beautiful mouth for little to nothing.” For Helen, the grant gave her the opportunity to address the health of her teeth and gums and set a plan with her dentist to get a new permanent bridge so that her smile would last forever - for free.
“Community of Hope has hope in the name, but I know the hope was real. Everything that was told to me about the program was proven to be true. I am so thankful.” Hopefully, this summer Helen will get to sink her new and healthy teeth into a fresh watermelon with her children and grandchildren, delighting in her childhood memories.
Community of Hope provides accessible and comprehensive dental care to combat medical, dental, and behavioral health concerns that dental disease impacts. To learn more information about ways our Senior Dental Services Program can benefit you, please call 202.540.9862 or visit the Dental Service webpage of Community of Hope at https://www.communityofhopedc.org/healthcare/dental-services. Most appointments are scheduled within a week, and evening, weekend, and same day appointments are available!