For nearly 30 years, Manos de Cristo has helped Austin's working poor and under-insured receive quality low cost dental care. The organization continues to grow every year, which means their facility needs to match that growth. Our Alex Stockwell explains how two hefty grants will impact the program and why the funding comes at a perfect time.
Manos de Cristo is an organization whose mission is to make people smile—literally.
They provide affordable dental care to thousands of people in need, and oftentimes, they see patients leave with a newfound sense of confidence.
"Once they've been treated, on the way out, it seems like it's a different person that gets out of that chair. They're happy, they're not in pain any longer, they come back for their follow up appointments," says Rose Maldonado.
Ramon Cortez is one of those patients who keeps coming back.
Cortez doesn't have insurance, and would only visit the dentist once every few years. But he had a bridge come loose, so he turned to Manos de Cristo.
"The cost is reasonable compared to other dentists if I would have gone somewhere else," Cortez says.
Now, it's Manos de Cristo's turn to smile. The St. David's Foundation awarded the nonprofit two grants totaling more than half a million dollars to continue providing low cost dental care to patients.
"The larger part of the grant goes to the construction of a new parking lot," says Julie Ballesteros.
Executive Director Julie Ballesteros admits its not a glamorous purchase, but it's one that's much needed.
"We were seeing 4,000 patients a year. We now have the ability to serve 11,000 patients a year. So that's a huge growth for us, especially in a small area with no parking, that is why there is such a huge need for the parking lot," says Ballesteros.
Patients and volunteers currently have to park on the street in a nearby neighborhood, raising safety concerns.
They're looking forward to finally having their own lot, but in the meantime, word of mouth remains pretty positive.
"I've let friends know about it because I've had people ask me, and I'll always refer them. I say, 'You can't go wrong coming there because they will help you out, especially if you need help. They're there for you,'" Cortez says.