Thanks to the Baileys | Letters

We all strive to leave a place a little better than we found it. As Dr. Steve and Rita Bailey prepare to leave Orcas for the next chapters in their lives, they can rest assured that they accomplished this goal in a big way in this community.

Six years ago the results of a survey of people living in poverty in our community cited access to dental care as the number one issue impacting their well-being. Many reported living with chronic dental pain, missing or impacted teeth and infection with little or no way to receive care.

These results caught the attention of the local dentists and the Orcas Island Community Foundation. Rita Bailey began to research solutions and soon a partnership developed including all three local dentists, Medical Teams International, the Community Church and the Community Foundation. She established an all-volunteer team to run the dental van on Orcas four times each year including retired nurse Barbara Ehrmantraut to help plan and oversee, local hygienists and assistants to work the van and the Lions and Kiwanis clubs for patient intake. Local donors have generously supported the cost of bringing the van, and housing for visiting dentists has been contributed by Rosario, the Inn at Ship Bay, Nelson’s Bayview Cottages, the Outlook Inn and SeaStar Lodging.

Since 2012 hundreds of islanders have received dental care through this program. Many additional dentists and hygienists have volunteered as well, including Dr. Chris and Kathy Wood, the new dentist and hygienist, who will take on Dr. Bailey’s practice.

All in all, over $380,000 in services has been donated through the

MTI dental van (this figure does not include the dozens of dentures that have also been provided).

Dr. Steve and Rita Bailey will continue to support our local dental van clinic, now as a visiting dentist and support team. Barbara Ehrmantraut will move into a lead role as manager, and Noreene Nealy has joined as the new support staff.

Thank you, Dr. Steve and Rita Bailey for leaving us with smiles and for all you have contributed during your years on Orcas. You will be missed and your legacy of service will be carried on. We wish you joy in the adventures ahead.

Hilary Canty