By STEPHEN FLANAGAN JACKSON
Often neglected but an important spoke in the wheel of good health is dental care.
To address this lack of dental care in eastern Hillsborough County, the Mission of Beth-El opened a free dental clinic for income-qualified adults in September. To date, two clinics have been held and a third planned for Saturday, Dec. 1, at 18240 U.S. 301 S. in Wimauma near the Little Manatee River State Park, starting at 7:30 a.m. on a first come first serve basis. For more information, call the Rev. Kathleen Dain at 813-675-7170.
Beth-El is an ecumenical ministry started by Presbyterians in 1976 to feed mind, spirit and body. Much of Beth-El’s support comes from Covenant Presbyterian churches throughout Central Florida, including St. Andrew in Sun City Center, which provides volunteer support to the universal ministry near Wimauma.
Beth-El is a Hebrew-language phrase, which means “house of God.” According to Dain, many of the people in Wimauma have rarely, if ever, been to a dentist. This is a problem, she said, because poor oral health can lead to a large number of related health problems and disease, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. “Beth-El Farmworker Ministry is working to change all that,” points out Dain, adding that Beth-El’s purpose is to support farmworkers, community and neighbors in need, through opportunities for hunger relief, education, healthcare and spiritual growth.
Randy Talaski, one of the volunteers at the Beth-El clinic, a retired dental technician, says the dental clinic is “state-of-the-art.” Talaski is only one of the dental professionals who helped install the high-quality equipment donated to the mission clinic. Other altruistic dental professionals include Dr. Don Branca and Dr. Greg Jacobs along with hygienists Angela Zane and Carmen Felts, who donate their services to patients at Beth-El.
“The dental clinic is a team effort,” said Dain proudly, “and a true blessing from God that all the pieces and people came together.”
She said the response has been amazing as on opening day, people were waiting as early as 5 a.m. to receive treatment.
Dain showed off more than just the dental clinic on a recent Saturday at Beth-El. She said Beth-El presently offers a free legal clinic as well as the dental services and looks forward to opening a free medical clinic on the premises.
Presently, the Beth-El campus also encompasses a kindergarten through eighth grade public charter school, an RCMA day-care facility and a new ample warehouse for storage and distribution for its food pantry, which now serves about 600 families, or up to 2,500 people each week. Additionally, Beth-El personnel deliver food and household products to several thousand migrant farmworkers in the South Shore area.
A Thanksgiving meal for 375 farmworkers here on work visas will be provided at JayMar Farms in Balm later this month.
The spacious pre-fab metal building, which functions as the pantry warehouse, was sorely needed and constructed in 2016 thanks to donations from Matthew 25 Ministries of Cincinnati, and Church of Palms Presbyterian Church in Sarasota, along with the Dana Beck Fancher Fund affiliated with the First Presbyterian Church of Dunedin.
“We always need volunteers,” expressed Dain, urging anyone with specific professional expertise, or just willing to lend a hand, to call her at 813-675-7170.