Spokane Develops Free Dental/Medical Clinic

December 04, 2018 | Gayle Haeger

Spokane’s Better Living Center in eastern Washington has been part of the local Adventist church’s outreach to the community since 1976, when an auto parts store was purchased and converted into a community services center. Its location, right on the main north/south arterial of the city gave it good visibility. For many years it served as a clothing bank and a center for offering health classes to the community. Cooking classes and stop-smoking classes were often presented there. It then became a food pantry connected with Second Harvest Food Bank. Currently, about 400 families each month receive donations of  40,000 pounds of food.

But the board was seeking ways to make the center more than just a food bank. Members explored ways of reaching clients who wanted to study the Bible with someone. Now about 30 people are studying with four different church members who volunteer at the center.

When the television station that had been occupying the offices on one side of the center relocated to the Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) office, Patty Marsh, UCC Adventist Community Services director; Cindy Williams, UCC wellness coordinator; and Gayle Haeger, executive director of the center, met with several community health leaders to explore specific community needs that could be met. With one accord they all named dental health as the greatest need. 

About that time, Tom Cho, a dentist who had recently relocated to Spokane from the Seattle area, began commuting by the Better Living Center. He knocked on the door one evening after closing time. “Is this an Adventist place?” he inquired. He came in and looked around. He felt that the center would make an ideal place for a free dental clinic.

After hearing Cho’s vision and praying about it, the board voted to explore the possibility of building a dental/medical clinic at the center. After careful study, a contractor who was experienced in dental clinic construction came, brought in subcontractors and submitted an estimate.

The board voted to begin finding donors to make the dream a reality. To their amazement, the exact amount needed was raised in about three months.

Construction is underway and due to be completed by year’s end. The renovation includes a reception area, two dental operatories and a medical consult room. Many dental professionals have volunteered to be part of this ministry. Many more will be needed for this form of minsitry Ellen White pointed out as important: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, 'Follow Me.'” (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 143)  If you feel led to become part of this ministry, please email Gayle Haeger for more information.