Dr. Teresa Perkins had no idea her speech at Independence Rotary would lead her to fulfill a long-term vision of providing dental treatment to children from low-income families.

Dr. Perkins, who practices in Jackson, Mississippi, and New Orleans, had been invited to speak at the weekly Rotary luncheon in early 2013. Her speech was about the top 10 dental achievements in the last the last century. When she got to No. 4, which was on fluoridation, she mentioned the importance of all children having proper dental care, even those who could not afford it.

Perkins returned to Independence two months later to attend a dinner and cocktail party. She said she casually talked about how wonderful it would be to have a mobile dental until to take to different locations to treat children.

Local dentist Dr. John Dane said he had an old unit that she could purchase at a low price. Even though it was in need of a lot of repair, she purchased the unit.

“I began pondering how I could make my vision come true,” Perkins said, “so I remembered the wonderful reception I received from Independence Rotary and contacted them to see if they could help.”

Ron Thornbury, then Rotary president, immediately appointed an ad hoc committee chaired by Dr. Ken Weinand, who started the project by asking for volunteers to get the unit refurbished. Thornbury, owner of R & D Auto, offered to refurbish the unit. It took a lot of work but Thornbury got it working again.

Dr. Weinand said the unit also needed a lot of cosmetic work, so he asked Rotary member Pat Turner, CEO of Truman Heartland for Humanity, for assistance. She donated wallpaper and did a lot of other cosmetic changes. The unit had two dental chairs but no X-ray unit. Dr. Weinand said he got a tip from the Rotarians and went to the Sisters of Saint Francis in Independence to ask for an X-ray unit, which they immediately donated.

“I then called Casey Burns, who works as a dental technician for Goetz Dental Company, and he came out and installed the unit,” Dr. Weinand said. “He also helped to get power to the dental unit, all without pay.”

After the unit was completed, a Rotary member, attorney Alan Garner, hosted a dinner reception for all who volunteered. As chairman of the ad hoc committee, Dr. Weinand thanked his committee, consisting of Thornbury and Turner, as well as other volunteers: Garner, Dr. Donald Potts, Jim Gamble and Michael Finley. He also gave special thanks to former mayor Barbara Potts, Ilene Shehan, Alan Lefko and Rachael Shinabargar.

Dr. Perkins flew in to receive then like-new dental unit and was “really surprised when I saw the changes on the bus.” She and her brother drove the unit to Jackson, where she can now go to schools, daycare centers and Head Start to give free dental care to children who would otherwise not have it, and she says she owes it all to Independence Rotary.

“I am grateful to Rotary of Independence and to Dr. Weinand, who became so excited about this project and made it really happen,” Dr. Perkins said. “They made my vision come true.”