They arrived late on an evening at the end of March. A Good Neighbor Team from First Presbyterian Church in Neenah, WI welcomed them with nervous and excited happy smiles. Exhausted and overwhelmed, the family climbed up the stairs to their apartment, crawled into their beds, and slept restlessly. The next day began a journey of appointments, orientations, and overwhelming emotions. Some days felt like the warm breeze of a calm summer day; happy, relaxed, and reassuring. Other days felt like the sharp icy sleet of a Wisconsin winter; scary, overwhelming, and uncertain. One constant during those six months was a group of dedicated volunteers, diligently walking alongside them to encourage, teach, empower, and love them. Within this group was a dentist.
In the next six months, the family built friendships, practiced English, went to doctor appointments, went to Mosque, attended birthday parties, and spent hours in a local dentist office. That office was Mid Valley Dental (https://www.midvalleydental.com/) and the efforts were let by Dr. Wockenfus. Dr. Wockenfus has been a dentist for 23 years and has been working with this particular office for 22 years. He has built relationships resembling that of a family among his staff and they have grown together with a common heart for serving others. Beyond their everyday dental care for the community, the office gathers every year to determine where they would like to donate their times and services. When the Good Neighbor Team with First Presbyterian Church in Neenah asked to partner with the office, it felt like the right fit. Suddenly, they had an answer to the annual question of where to donate their time and services.
Mid Valley Dental originally planned to assist one of the family members in avoiding a dental emergency. However, after completing exams for each family member, the office decided to treat all of their dental needs free of charge. All of the family’s dental needs included everything from cleaning to wisdom tooth removal to placing crowns. It included hours upon hours of hard work and thousands of dollars donated to the care of a newly arrived family. When asked what the most challenging part of this experience has been for the office, they listed the language barrier. Dental work can be scary and painful, imagine not being able to fully communicate about your own dental procedures! Dr. Wockenfus seems to admire the family and noted the large amount of trust that this family had to place in him, his staff, and the Good Neighbor Team as a whole; as they spend hours in a new country, with people they barely know.
Dr. Wockenfus says that Mid Valley Dental receives joy from giving back, from helping and serving others. Though he knows the office has helped, he feels the office has equally benefited from the opportunity to meet and serve this family. The dental office doesn’t exhaust themselves donating their time and effort to make themselves feel better, or even to serve just one family in need. The way Mid Valley Dental sees it, they are using their passion and talents to give back to individuals in need with the belief that when one person gets back on their feet, they can turn around and help another in need. What a true testament to the idea that God has gifted us each with passions and talents to be used to love and serve His world. What a beautiful picture of Americans welcoming Immigrants. What an inspiring movement, serving others to empower them to serve others.
Thank you First Presbytarian Neenah, thank you Mid Valley Dental, and thank you Dr. Wockenfus!