Monday, June 6, 2011


Harry Brooks, long-time volunteer dental technician, donated a world-class lab & his time to provide dentures to many mountain residents.

During our year at Red Bird Mission 3,000 volunteers came to work on Community Housing projects. More came to help out with the school, community services, or in healthcare. Some long-term volunteers lived on the campus and volunteered full-time, generally helping in the school. Red Bird is a popular destination for church work teams, especially youth teams.

Tucked in the mountains, miles from the closest town, and with a tightly organized program, dorms and cabins, scheduled meals and activities, and a mid-week day off to explore the locale, it proved to be ideal for teams. Most came for a week, arriving Sunday evening in time for supper in the Cardinal House (its dining facility) and a program of introduction to the community and their work for the week. Team schedules included breakfast at 7 (some preceded by individual team devotions), work in community from 8 to 4 (most packed team lunches), supper at 5 (with showers pre- or post-), and ended with nightly programs in the Cardinal Houses auditorium. Thursday night programs were always a favorite, when teams participated in talent shows—a totally unpredictable evening of entertainment that always managed to please the crowd. Occasionally a local musician joined them for a touch of mountain music. Volunteers have saved a lot of homes in the mountains by providing the labor and materials for projects such as roofs, bathrooms (some a first), ramps, floors, walls, and more. The heat, humidity, and vegetation of the Daniel Boone National Forest took its toll on housing, especially if it was sub-standard to begin with.

Individual volunteers came for short and long terms (6 months or more makes one a long-termer). Several lived on campus and worked full time at the school; others came and went to work in varied services that Red Bird provides. Community Outreach was a popular workplace, especially for those who worked in its Christmas program, or in meal delivery or services for senior citizens. Occasionally medical volunteers came, including dental hygiene students or physicians with Kentucky licenses who could provide coverage for the on-site doctors. The Clinic was a popular place to do rural health rotations as medical students or those wanting to be Physician Assistants or nurses. I coordinated a number of programs with varied universities so that students could come get a taste of rural medicine on the edge.

One of the most amazing long-term volunteers was Harry Brooks, a retired dental technician specializing in making crowns, bridges, and dentures. Through his efforts--personal donations, soliciting donations of equipment, raising money--he built a world-class dental lab at the Red Bird Clinic. In addition to making the prosthetics needed, he also began a small training program to teach his craft to local students.

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