It was raining toothbrushes last week at the Quinte West Youth Centre (QWYC) after a local dental office dropped by with 140 dental hygiene kits containing the toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss.
Byron Emmons, practice manager at the West End Dental Centre Trenton, said staff at the clinic were looking for a way to give back to the community.
“After seeing a lot of the news about how much youth are in need, how they’re facing difficult challenges and the affordability crisis, we started thinking about how we could make a very big impact.”
The team of dentists and hygienists wanted to see “a big shift” in how they interacted with the community, Emmons explained, so they started brainstorming ways they could have an immediate and significant impact on people in need.
“Normally you go to the dentist and you have to pay for an expensive treatment to get a toothbrush and toothpaste at the end. We thought ‘well why don’t we just give these to the kids, so they can have access to high-quality products right away?’”
Emmons did some research into how best to distribute the kits, and found that the QWYC does “a lot of excellent work.
“When a place charges a $5 membership fee for a year, that shows me they’re really committed to the kids. We wanted to help them establish some good, healthy habits, and really be part of something bigger without it being a barrier.”
“This donation is huge,” said Jessica Coolen, Executive Director of the QWYC. “We have a lot of youth who come from low income, who struggle going to see the dentist, so being able to provide new toothpaste and toothbrushes and floss is going to be a huge benefit.
“Just being able to know that they can have access to basic hygiene for their teeth is going to be going to make a world of a difference for them,” Coolen noted.
The QWYC has been in operation since 2011, offering youth a safe space to hang out and a healthy meal every night.
“What we do is based off of the needs of the youth that come,” Coolen said. She explained that when the organization first opened, the focus was mainly on steering the kids away from smoking and drugs. Now, most of the needs are mental health-related.
“Mental health is huge since the pandemic, and we shift based on what’s needed.”
Staff mentor and build rapport with youth, and also offer programming such as learn-to-cook sessions.
“Everything we do we’re teaching some sort of life skill,” Coolen said.