May 12, 2020
GC Phi Theta Kappa students serve the community by 'Brightening Lives through Brighter Smiles'
Dental kits project funded through Robert Woods Johnson Foundation
Members of Garrett College's Alpha Omicron Phi chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society recently participated in a community service project, 'Brightening Lives through Brighter Smiles,' during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Funding for the "Brightening Lives through Brighter Smiles" community project was made possible through the Population Health, Innovation, & Informatics Unit at the Garrett County Health Department. Support is provided by the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR&R) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the community collaborative learning funds.
Part of the mission for the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, the most prestigious honor society for recognizing scholarship and academic achievement among students at two-year colleges, is to provide opportunities for students in the development of leadership and service, particularly in one's community.
"Our first project of the year was making baby blankets for the department of health, so doing the Brighter Smiles project seemed like a natural extension of that," said Anna James, GC's Assistant Professor of English, and Alpha Omicron Phi Chapter Advisor.
"Zachary Friend spear-headed the project by writing the grant and handling all of the details, so this was truly a student-led event. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we were unable to meet as a group to purchase and assemble the kits, but I am impressed that Zach didn't let quarantine derail the project and took a lot of responsibility seeing it to completion," noted James.
GC's Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) students created enough dental hygiene kits to serve 144 adults and 96 children as part of the project.
Brighter Smiles Project Cards: Over 144 adult and 96 child dental kits were created by Garrett College’s Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society members as part of the ‘Brightening Lives through Brighter Smiles’ project, distributed to organizations within the community.
Drop Off Early Care Programs: Pictured from left to right are: Deb House and Marilyn Kight, of Garrett County Healthy Families Early Care Programs, just one of the locations within Garrett County that received the dental kits.
"This group of young students persevered and have demonstrated innovative ways to serve during unprecedented circumstances," remarked Shelley Argabrite, Chief Health Strategist & Director of the Population Health, Innovation & Informatics Unit at the Garrett County Health Department. "In addition to supplying artful dental hygiene kits to the homeless and others most vulnerable, they've given the entire community a story of hope!"
Zachary Friend, GC student and PTK chapter president, commented on the completion of the project and challenges faced by the group during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It is fair to say, we hit some bumps along the way! Our Phi Theta Kappa group was on track to complete the project with several members taking on parts of the project," noted Friend.
However, during the middle of the group's project timeline for completion, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the group to social distance, when the College closed its physical location.
"By the time this happened, five organizational sites had accepted our offer of dental kits to distribute throughout the community, supplies were ordered, Ian Bode (artist in W.Va.) had created the specially designed artwork, and plans were made for members to meet to assemble the dental kits," Friend stated.
With the College closing its physical campus location, this resulted in several PTK students having to return to their hometowns. However, this didn't stop Friend from assembling the kits, which he did primarily on his own, along with assistance from his parents while at home during quarantine- and seeing the project through to completion.
Fellow PTK member Tierra Jones assisted with finding organizations within the community to distribute the kits to.
"Even though we hit some bumps along the way because of COVID-19 and social distancing, the project was well worth the effort," added Friend. "The most meaningful takeaway for us as a group is that even in the midst of a pandemic – COVID-19 – we can still serve our community!"
The dental hygiene kits were delivered to the following organizations in the county: Garrett County Local Management Board's housing assistance program, Garrett County Lighthouse, and Garrett County Healthy Families. Once the Maryland state of emergency is lifted, additional kits will be delivered to the Dove Center.
To learn more about the PTK project, as well as others that have been funded in Garrett County, please visit: https://mygarrettcounty.com/groups/garrett-county-maryland-2017-rwjf-culture-of-health-prize-winner/impact/.