Free dental clinic draws hundreds to Pallotti's gym [Old Town Laurel]

There were no bouncing balls or athletes hurriedly pacing the facilities floor in the gym at St. Vincent Pallotti High School this past Friday and Saturday. The sports arena had been transformed into a 53-chair dental facility. While the first day's count was in excess of 450, more than 600 adults were provided dental hygiene, restorative and oral surgery services over the two days, organizers said.

Upon entering the school I was not sure what to expect. What I encountered was a well-thought-out, well-executed plan in effect, with the efficiency and order of a military operation. It was most impressive.

The two-day clinic, known as the Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy, was cosponsored by Catholic Charities and the Maryland Office of Oral Health, in conjunction with Prince George's County, the city of Laurel and others. More than 300 dentists, hygienists, pharmacists and volunteers provided an estimated $650,000 in dental work, free of charge.

An email from Erik Salmi, Director of Communications for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, quoted Deacon Jim Nalls, who was instrumental in planning the clinic, as saying, "It highlights the dramatic need for adult dental care." He went on to say, "There are a lot of programs, thankfully, to help ensure children have access to dental care, but there's very little once you turn 18. It's tragic how many people can't afford this kind of medical care."

According to its website, the pantry at Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services, 311 Laurel Ave., has reached the "critically low" point as donations from the winter and early spring continue to disappear off the shelves at alarming levels.

Peanut butter, jelly, tuna and Tuna Helper, along with canned goods, including soup and beans, are among the items most needed. Also in high demand are cereal, oatmeal, instant pancake mix, pasta and sauces, rice and macaroni and cheese.

As you are cleaning out your own pantry, keep these folks in mind, but please, no outdated or opened items. If you are doing some grocery shopping, pick up a few "extra" can goods and drop them off at LARS during business hours, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

If you or your religious or civic organization would like to hold a food drive on behalf of LARS, contact Charles Smalls at 301-776-0442, or

City police officer and longtime Old Town resident Capt. Carl DeWalt retired recently after a long and storied law enforcement career. Rick Wilson said it best when he wrote in an email, "Our fair city could not ask for a finer police officer or neighbor." Best of luck in whatever your next venture is, Carl, and thank you!

This story has been updated.

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