Miami Proud: Coral Gables Woman's Club provides underserved children with free dental care
MIAMI - Founded one hundred years ago in 1923, the Coral Gables Woman's Club is older than the actual city. The service organization's beautiful building on Ponce de Leon Road is a National Historic Landmark. Today the building is a popular venue for events of all kinds.
In 1939, the club opened a free children's dental clinic.
Doctor Iris Torres-Rivera sees patients every Monday at the Coral Gables Children's Dental Clinic. The staff does cleanings, fillings, crowns, and more.
"Many of the children treated here have never been to a dentist before," Torres-Rivera said.
For families who don't qualify for Medicaid, and cannot afford dental insurance, the clinic provides the service free of charge. The fully equipped dental office is bright and cheery, features art from some grateful patients, and a lot of reading material, as literacy is at the very foundation of the service organization.
Ruth Martinez is the current CGWC President and explained the history.
"The club started as a reading circle. Eunice Merrick, who was George Merrick's wife, was the first director and the one who kind of organized it," she said.
In 1935, the city donated a block of land to the club, in exchange they raised $10 thousand to build the structure and then opened and ran the first library in Coral Gables until the city opened one they could run. These days you can still borrow or donate books there.
"We have the Little Library outside that the community can take books from and bring books if they want," Martinez said.
But the dental clinic is the biggest program the club funds, helping over 40,000 children to date.
Like Luis Medina. Torres-Rivera follows the progress of his braces, which were provided at a low cost by a partnering orthodontist. Three years ago, the now freshman in college came in with a serious gap in his teeth. It was impacting his life more than medically. He smiled without showing his teeth.
Now he says his confidence changed.
"I can show my teeth and the progress that I made," he said.
Progress that makes Torres-Rivera proud.
"It's a good feeling to be able to help out the community," she said.
The Coral Gables Woman's Club currently has 75 members and has raised over $3 million dollars to date to support the clinic. They do outreach to elementary schools in underserved areas, with the knowledge that early education about oral health makes all the difference.
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