USS CARL VINSON (NNS) -- USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Dental Department personnel teamed with military and civilian colleagues to provide care for elderly patients at the American Red Cross Dental Clinic in Park Place, Norfolk, Va., April 1.
The volunteer effort was part of the clinic's annual "Senior Saturday" event, which provides financially disadvantaged Norfolk senior citizens with free dental care such as oral cancer screening, hygiene, fillings, and extractions.
"Our mission is to provide dental care to those residents of Norfolk who by no other means would be able to receive care," said Shirley Bisciglia, director of dental programs for the American Red Cross Dental Clinic. "We normally help low-income, working adults and once a year, we specifically focus on the elderly."
The clinic is the first and only dental facility run by the Red Cross as part of a pilot program, and serves as a model with the intent of developing similar facilities in the future.
The dental center is operated with the help of a limited amount of paid staff and mostly relies on volunteer support from local dentist, dental students, and from the many Navy dental departments and commands within the Norfolk area.
"This event wouldn't be possible without the help of the Navy personnel who give of their time here," said Bisciglia. "We wouldn't function as well as we do without the help of the volunteers ... not just with this event but with the care of all the patients we see."
Lt. Melissa Fries is a general dentist in the "Gold Eagle" Dental Department who often volunteers at the clinic, and helped to recruit dental personnel from the Vinson for Senior Saturday.
"I come here on a regular basis and I really enjoy helping people," said Fries. "We are able to give them a service they can't afford."
Fries said the experience also helps the Dental Department's junior personnel.
"They are able to come out here and perform work they aren't normally able to do within the Dental Department," said Fries.
For Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sonya Sample, the event went beyond the opportunity to further her dental skills.
"I really enjoy helping others and this is a great way for me to be productive in the local community," said Sample. "Today we did a good thing for people who otherwise wouldn't have been able to receive the care they needed."
By the day's end, 30 elderly patients were treated at the clinic free of charge. Some received minor cleaning and others had teeth extracted. The overall process and accomplishments of Senior Saturday were due to the contributions of the many volunteers - mostly from the Navy -- who helped with the event.
"We just really appreciate the support of the Navy," said Bisciglia. "The amount of support is simply phenomenal."
The Carl Vinson is currently undergoing its scheduled refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) at Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard. The RCOH is an extensive yard period that all Nimitz-class aircraft carriers go through near the mid-point of their 50-year life cycle.
During RCOH, Carl Vinson's nuclear fuel will be replenished and the ship's services and infrastructure will be upgraded to make her the most state-of-the-art aircraft carrier in the fleet and prepare for another 25 years or more of service.
For related news, visit the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn70/.