How Texas Mission of Mercy is Providing Hope and Smiles Throughout Abilene, the Big Country and Beyond
They say a smile is worth a thousand words and thanks to the Abilene community and its servant-hearted nature, more and more people across the Big Country and the state of Texas are confident and able to experience a healthier and pain free smile of their own.
It all started in 2012 when Dr. Scott Dowell and Dr. Chris Proctor approached Shea Hall to join forces in hopes of bringing Abilene their first Texas Mission of Mercy event.
Texas Mission of Mercy, or TMOM, is a mobile dental clinic that travels around the state of Texas and provides charitable, basic dental care to those with limited resources and/or limited access to care. The organization typically holds four, two-day events per year, state-wide. For a city to host, an application must be submitted to the Texas Smiles Foundation for consideration and the community applying must have a local dentist and local non-dental community volunteers appointed to help throughout the process if approved.
Enter the first dream team of Dowell, Proctor and Hall. The three linked arms, applied for the event, and committed to the cause.
Planning and Community Partnership
As soon as Abilene was approved, the planning was underway and it was no small undertaking, as one can imagine. As representatives from the dental community, Dowell and Proctor organized the clinic portion. They worked with the staff in place at the state level to ensure they had the proper set up and recruited help locally to serve on the dental side during the event itself and while that was a huge priority, there was more that needed to be done.
“We knew that we were not gifted at the fundraising and community access side of things, but we knew Shea was,” Dowell said. “Needless to say, she was a rockstar and was able to exceed our expectations in regard to raising money and the in-kind donations.”
Hall connected with city officials, local businesses, and other community resources to create the village that it takes behind the scenes for something of this magnitude.
“We were all on a HUGE learning curve,” Hall said, “but we put together an amazing event with the help from great partners like Highland Church of Christ, the City of Abilene and Abilene Equipment Center.”
Despite the learning curve, the trio had the knowledge and foundation laid for this mission and just two short years later, in 2015, the same team and same partners hosted the 2nd TMOM locally. It too, was a great success serving 686 people with over half a million dollars donated in dental services.
The past several years with life circumstances and Covid on the scene, TMOM events were halted in the area, but as life settled in and the demand for dental work began to increase again, another servant-hearted citizen stepped up.
Dr. Teri Lovelace, who has served TMOM on the dental team locally and throughout the state at multiple events, teamed up with Hall for round three.
“The demand in Taylor County for dental care for those with limited resources has grown,” Lovelace said, “and our local dental society felt there was definitely a need to host this event in Abilene again.”
As the two began to plan and organize the 2023 TMOM clinic, Hall and Lovelace were thrilled that the past partners were eager to join the team for a third time, a testament to the incredible ministry and hearts of those organizing and serving. Just like the past TMOM clinics held locally, it went off without a hitch and a lot of people were beneficiaries of the donated time and resources. In fact, this past July set records for the TMOM organization while the team served over 600 clients, performed 4,256 procedures at a production cost of $845,358, and an average cost of almost $1,400 per person.
Serving Others with a Smile
This level of success is directly attributed to the hundreds and hundreds of volunteers and the community rallying around this mission. From unloading and setting up during the days leading up to the event, pre-screenings happening at various dental clinics prior to the event, serving in various capacities throughout the days of the event, and cleaning up once everything is done, an unbelievable amount of time and energy is literally given away for the greater good and it’s neat to see different groups ‘buy in’ to the cause.
“This year for set up we had help from the Abilene High School Baseball team and their coaches who know how to work,” Hall said. “We also had an unexpected group of volunteers from Highland Church come and help during clean up time and that was such a blessing.”
And speaking of Highland, they have been constant with every TMOM event organizing the entire food service segment, preparing, and serving the meals for the two-day event including breakfast, morning and afternoon snacks, and lunch. They served both the people receiving services and those providing services as well.
The Highland staff team consisted of Suzetta Nutt, Highland’s Executive Minister, Becky Almanza, Highland’s Community Minister, several of Almanza’s Community Ministry team members and AmeriCorps personnel who work with the Highland Food Pantry and the Abilene Hunger Coalition.
For the most recent two-day event, Highland prepared and served approximately 600 meals for breakfast and another 600 meals for lunch per day. But it could not have been done without the 50+ volunteers who prepared the meals prior to the event and another 150+ volunteers who participated in the set-up, serving and tear-down. Nutritious snacks were also served throughout the day by helpful volunteers who reassured patients through their anxiety.
“For Highland, providing a meal is a helpful act of hospitality for our neighbors,” Nutt said. “It was an honor to be part of such an important undertaking and it was an honor to witness the overwhelming response to our request for volunteers from Highland and the community.”
Lovelace shared gratitude for the generous donors as well.
“I want to express how thankful we were for the city and other local foundations and donors that helped us,” Lovelace said. “It was just amazing, and we could not have put on this event without their contributions.”
Thanks to the mentioned contributions and the incredible community that has developed such great success at every local TMOM clinic, Hall and Lovelace have already been approved for yet another clinic to be held in the summer of 2025.
“I have no doubt that our next event will be greatly successful again,” Hall said. “It does take a village to provide care, strength, love, kindness, and acceptance of all of God’s children and I will forever be grateful to Chris, Scott and Teri for allowing me to be a part of something bigger than life! I can’t wait to do it again!”
And our guess is that the Abilene community can’t wait to serve, too.