A faith-based organization based in Florida that runs a dental operation in Jenkins is building a community and recreation center on the same site.
SmileFaith Inc., a nonprofit originally created to provide dental services to military veterans, runs dental clinics two times a month in a former call center next door to the Jenkins Public Library, but organizers say SmileFaith recognized other needs in the community, and will be using the former warehouse section of the building to meet those needs with the addition of indoor basketball courts, exercise equipment, space for gospel and bluegrass concerts, and a coffee bar.
“We really need things to do for families — good wholesome things for health and exercise,” said Les Sizemore, a registered nurse from Neon who with his wife Shannon, also a registered nurse, is co-directing the project.
Jenkins Mayor Todd Depriest said SmileFaith has been coming to the city for about five years, and has leveraged a $50,000 Delta Dental grant with volunteer labor to renovate the building. The dental clinic side is “as nice as any dental office around,” Depriest said, and he’s looking forward to the recreation/community center side being finished. With a shortage of money from government sources, the mayor said communities have to rely on nonprofit and faith-based groups to help.
“It’ll be a rec center we wouldn’t have otherwise if they hadn’t come into the community,” Depriest said.
Shannon Sizemore said the group hopes to provide other health-related services such as a nutrition consultations. They also hope to offer the dental services on a more regular schedule — especially denture making — by getting dentists from the local area to help. Currently, dentists come from other states to run the clinics.
She stressed that the services are only for people who would not otherwise go to a dentist at all, and should not be seen as a threat to dentists in the area.
“We’re hoping to maybe get some local dentists on board with us,” she said. “We’re not trying to compete with local dentists. The people we serve don’t have any money for dental visits.”
The clinic doesn’t charge for its services, instead using the visits as an opportunity for evangelism.
“We have a faith and evangelism booth at the end of it,” Les Sizemore said. “We don’t push anything, but we pray with them if they want us to.”
The group also gives patients contact information for pastors and churches.
Shannon Sizemore said even though the recreation center and community center won’t be completed until mid-2019, the organization is already “way more than a dental clinic.” She called it a “mission center,” and said it operates a guesthouse for visiting missionaries that can house up to 20 people. She said once the center is completed, it will be available for community events, and will be rented out as a conference area for businesses and churches.