Giving others hope
This article is reprinted from the winter 2009 issue of HOPE.
On this day, it’s raining. You fumble with an umbrella and hustle inside the back door of St. Ann Dental Services, which has been at its current site since Jan.12, 2005. An elevator carries you to the second floor and when the door opens, you find yourself walking into a comfortable, well-lighted room.
Magazines and other reading material are nearby. Beautiful artwork hangs on the walls. The staff’s warm smiles greet everyone as they come and go. At a desk before you sits Ruth Woods, administrative assistant at St. Ann Dental Services. She’s answering phones, fielding questions, handling medical files, taking patients’ names and making certain all who enter feel at ease and welcome. This could be any dental waiting room. But you see, it’s not.
That caring atmosphere is currently fostered by Sister Connie Kramer, who wears three hats inside this building on Locust Street in the midsection of Terre Haute, Ind. Sister Connie is director of St. Ann Dental Services. She also serves as director of St. Ann Community Outreach Services of Terre Haute and is parish life coordinator of St. Ann Parish. It’s all connected not only by programs and goals, but by the humanity served.
But don’t think Sister Connie will take credit for all the good that has taken place within these walls. No, Sister Connie passes those accolades on to volunteers — the professional and support staff, the St. Ann parishioners and others — who come together to serve, to connect and to forge right relationships with others.
The volunteers, she says, are the heroes. They are the ones who have chosen to make a connection and commitment to those who have less but whose needs are more.
The past year of record-keeping shows volunteers logged 8,190 hours, Sister Connie said. Think about that — eight thousand, one hundred ninety hours! They are the dental services parish volunteers who offer their services. They are St. Ann Parish volunteers who do everything from cleaning offices, to working on equipment, to contributing funds, to stocking shelves, to sterilizing dental tools.
“This number of parish volunteer hours includes 2,120 hours of medical clinic support,” Sister Connie added.
The ages of those who offer support vary widely. “We’ve had preschoolers who sold lemonade and brought their money here to help to people who are in their 80s. It’s the whole gamut,” Sister Connie said.
Then, there are the people served, those who are either at or below poverty level who don’t have medical insurance. Their numbers grow each year. “In 2005, in the first six months, we served 88 people,” Sister Connie noted. “This past year, 950 were screened for dental services.”
And what does Sister Connie see most about the clientele? “The poor are getting poorer,” she said. “They are losing their phones, which they use to make connections for service and to make appointments, and they are losing their transportation to get here. One of the challenges for the people who are employed is that they cannot leave work for an appointment. Their needs are not being met and that’s very sad to me. In our society, we need to continue to work to provide for the needs of the poor and to find ways for them to be meaningfully employed.”
It would be another way to achieve right relationships.
“Right relationships exist when individuals use their gifts and talents to enjoy the fullness of life and make life better for the world community,” Sister Connie said. “God meant for us to enjoy healthy friendships, to share our gifts and to respect each other. With right relationships, we give each other hope. And when there is hope, there is life.”