In the small town of Onamia, Minnesota, community members come together to rally around a simple cause: “Connecting people to the services they need.”
With an initiative called Operation Community Connect, now in its third year in Onamia, vendors and volunteers come together to provide services including free shoes, haircuts, dental care, job resources, and more for their neighbors in need – all accessible in one space.
For Karen Nelson, a volunteer serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) member, Operation Community Connect has been a chance for her to help give back for the past two years.
Read Karen’s perspective on her experience with Operation Community Connect below.
AmeriCorps VISTA members typically make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project with a nonprofit organization or public agency. As a VISTA, I have been specifically focusing on oral health and pre-literacy for children.
Serving with a local nonprofit, I attended Operation Community Connect to educate on the importance of oral health with children, distribute oral hygiene supplies, and share handouts on some of the activities in the area for children over the summer.
I found that many adults at the event have had trouble finding a dental home for themselves and their children, as they are on state insurance and had difficulty finding a provider who will take them. Unfortunately, Minnesota has low reimbursement rates for dental care with those on Medicaid.
Parents and children alike were very receptive to taking home new toothbrushes, floss, and toothpaste from the Henry Schein Cares Foundation. I could tell the donation would be impactful to their oral health, and they were excited for the new supplies to take home and share with family members.
Karen Nelson was supported with a donation of supplies by the Henry Schein Cares Foundation Health Kit Outreach Program.