Having fun raising money for Valley dental clinic

Natalie Beltan and her grandmother, Josephine Montoya, pose with their Red Noses to support others getting medical care at the Clinicas de Salud.

BRAWLEY -  In an effort to end childhood poverty, Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo, Inc. held their Red Nose Day fundraiser Thursday, May 25, at the Brawley dental clinic on Thursday. Red Nose Day is all about having fun, raising money and changing lives, especially for financially-strapped families with children.

Red Nose Day was launched by Comic Relief, a charity group comprised of comedians who decided to use their talents to raise money in a fun manner for those less fortunate.

The very first Red Nose Day was 1988. Popular from the start, millions of people participated in its first year. Red Nose Day has raised over $1 billion globally, according to their website, rednoseday.org.

Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo’s Brawley dental clinic decided to jump on the popular international fundraiser to highlight their dental services and raise money for their cause. Leticia Ibarra, Director of Programs at Clinicas, and her team set up tables at four of their locations, two in Brawley, and one in Calexico and El Centro.

In Brawley, Clinica’s worker, Cecilia Cota, was helping Josephina Montoya and her granddaughter, Natalie Beltan of Westmorland buy red noses to support their clinic and pose inside of an over-sized white picture frame adorned with more red noses for a photo to post on social media and the rednoseday.org website.

Nine-year-old Natalie was grateful for the Clinicas.  According to her grandmother, she has had extensive work on her teeth and more is planned in the future. Although dental visits are not her favorite, without affordable help, her teeth problems would lead to further health issues down the road.

Ibarra affirmed the importance of good dental health for children as well as adults.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, conditions such as endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis may be linked to poor oral health. Many Valley residents are either not aware or uneducated about the services at Clinicas. That is Ibarra’s mission and work, to educate and reach out to those in need of their services and to insure funding is available.

“We hold fundraisers connected to national events such as Red Nose Day, World Asthma Day, and National Diabetes Week. Locally we visit churches, schools, and wherever people are to let them know about our services, medical and dental,” Ibarra said.

Funding is provided through migrant aid, medical, and other state and federal programs. The past year, Clinicas through the National Council of La Raza’s Healthy and Ready for the Future initiative received $50,000 from the Red Nose Day fund.

One of the Clinicas’ families was recently featured on the RND website, Miguel Angel and Jose Luis. Their mother, Yesenia, was new to Westmorland when she met two community health workers from Clinicas . One short month later, both of Yesenia’s sons, Miguel and Jose, had their cavities treated at the Clinica’s dental office. Soon both boys were back on track to a healthy lifestyle, according to the website.

One of the Brawley dentists, Dr. Brian Shue, grew up in El Centro and after graduating from dental school and working in San Diego, he decided to follow his dream and give back to his community.

Nineteen years later, Dr. Shue still enjoys working for Clinicas, helping the neediest in the community, and giving children a chance to enjoy good oral healthcare. 

“We are very busy. So many patients have needs, as do their children. I try to make it a fun environment for kids because dental work can be scary. I really want to help them. Now I find I’m taking care of children whose parents’ teeth I worked on when they were little,” said Dr. Shue.

Red Noses sold for a dollar each and were available at Clinicas and Walgreen’s.