The Whitefish Soroptimist group is continuing its mission to make sure local women have healthy smiles.
The Smile of Hope program was created about 10 years ago and continues to take applications for working women who don’t have access to dental care. The program provides grants of up to $2,000 for those who qualify.
“We are looking for working women who want to improve — go to school or seek a promotion — but their teeth are holding them back,” Joanie Sorensen, coordinator for the dental program.
Soroptimist International is a worldwide women’s organization that works to advance the status of women. Known in Whitefish for their Thrift Haus, Soroptimist donates proceeds from the store to dozens of Flathead Valley nonprofits with an emphasis on helping women and children.
New starting the fall, the program is only accepting applications from Nov. 1 until Dec. 15. Ten patients will be awarded the dental scholarships.
To be eligible, a woman must: Be the primary income earner for her family and have a financial need, be employed and seeking promotion, have a need for dental care, have a proven financial need and be a non-smoker. In addition to completing an application form, women are asked for personal statement and references.
After the women are selected they are assessed by a dentist to create a treatment plan and provided with an electronic toothbrush. The program has partnered with Flathead Valley dentists in Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Kalispell.
Sorensen remembers the stories of many of the women who the program has worked with. She recalls one woman who was shy about talking to people because of her teeth and that was holding her back from getting a promotion at work. The woman was awarded a scholarship and had her teeth fixed. Sorensen ran into the woman a few years later and said not only had the woman gone to college, but she was almost unrecognizable because of the new-found confidence of her new smile.
Sorensen said dental work isn’t just about vanity, often the women are suffering in pain and have infections that impact their overall health.
“We want them to have a healthy mouth and a nice smile,” she said.
The Smile of Hope will have an informational booth at the Shepherd’s Hand Clinic on Monday nights this fall. Applications forms are available at the clinic, at the Soroptimist Thrift Haus, 303 First St. in Whitefish, and on their website at www.siwhitefish.org.