“She was really upset,” said Taylor, office manager at Jubilee Project. “She had a tooth that was really hurting her, and she had been coming here to the dentist every year.”
On May 6-7, 2021, Appalachian Miles for Smiles returned to Jubilee Project to provide not only free dental care but also free vision care for neighbors without insurance or with limited medical access.
In addition, Jubilee Project hosted Ballad Health, offering free mammograms, and Friends in Need, offering COVID-19 vaccinations. Miles for Smiles previously appeared at Jubilee Project in 2017-2019.
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful opportunity. We’re glad they’re back,” said Lisa Nichols, Jubilee Project executive director.
Appalachian Miles for Smiles, a nonprofit based in Kingsport, Tennessee, had had already set up appointments for about 60, but telephone calls were being made to local residents to let them know about medical services offered, said Frank Waldo, director and founder.
Waldo created his organization in 2016 after seeing firsthand the desperate need for free dental care in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The vision emerged as Waldo volunteered for Remote Area Medical (RAM) and saw that “hundreds were left behind” after RAM left town.
RAM sets up clinics throughout the world, offering free medical care for two days in low-income areas through the help of volunteer health-care providers. “They do phenomenal work but people are always left behind, Waldo said. “We take care of people who don’t have the access.”
Appalachian Miles for Smiles currently has two dental vans and one vision van. “Our idea is to set up a unit that would be self-contained and ready to go, with equipment on the trailer,” Waldo said.
The organization offers 24 clinics each year, about every other week, with the help of supporting individuals and organizations. On June 3-4, Appalachian Miles for Smiles will offer a free clinic at First Broad Street United Methodist Church in Kingsport. In 2020, clinics were offered at Hiltons Memorial United Methodist Church in Hiltons, Virginia, as well as other churches.
United Methodist workers were stationed throughout the Jubilee Project campus on May 6. Charlie Sorrells, a member of First Broad Street United Methodist, is a key volunteer for Appalachian Miles for Smiles. Conti McMillin was serving in the vision van, along with her husband, optometrist Cham McMillin. Both are members of Colonial Heights United Methodist Church in Kingsport.
“We just love doing this,” said Conti McMillin. “We feel like God has blessed us with skills, and we like helping people.”
In July, she said, her husband plans to reduce his hours at his Kingsport office and spend more time helping those in need. “As we are leaning toward slowing down, it’s a shame to waste these skills,” she said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 12.2 percent of Hancock County residents 65 or older are uninsured. Eight percent of the total U.S. population was not covered by health insurance in 2019.