Members Making a Difference

Mission of Mercy

Several Harrisburg area dentists volunteer their time and talents through Mission of Mercy, a two-operatory clinic located within Christ Lutheran Church in Harrisburg. The permanent clinic, which opened in 2010, is open two Fridays a month, with recently added Saturday morning hours, and offers palliative treatment, exodontia and operative dentistry to patients generally over age 18.

The clinic started out as mobile in 2007, operating out of a classroom at the church. Mission of Mercy reached out to HADS seeking volunteer dentists. Dr. John Kiessling along with others began volunteering their services. However, the logistics of the setup and breakdown and quality of the equipment greatly affected the amount of patients that could be treated in the limited time frame. Jody Silliker, the pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, had the idea of establishing a permanent clinic site at the church. The biggest hurdle wasn't location, as the church had suitable space available, but cost. Pastor Silliker and Dr. Kiessling brainstormed the steps necessary to bring this vision to reality. Pastor Silliker handled fundraising efforts and grants, while Dr. Kiessling secured donations of equipment and cabinetry from Benco and HADS dentists. The project cost more than $50,000 to complete, even after donations of materials and labor.

Dr. Kiessling currently oversees the administration of the clinic, recruits and schedules volunteer dentists and provides dental treatment. Drs. John Mayes, Brice Arndt, Dave Killian and Andy Gould also volunteer at the clinic. Translators are available during clinic hours, and Dr. Kiessling's daughter, a Spanish major in college, has volunteered at the clinic to both interpret and assist.

All services are free, with most of the cost for providing services borne by the church. Typically anywhere from 25-40 patients are seen each month.

Future goals include expanding the clinic hours and days, adding a second dentist on duty on Fridays and finding more volunteers for Saturday hours.

Christ Lutheran Church is in a coalition called Harrisburg SMILES along with HADS, Harrisburg Area Community College, Hamilton Health Center and Holy Spirit's Health Share. HADS' primary role in Harrisburg SMILES is provision of funds for dental outreach in the HADS geographic area and encouragement of their members to volunteer their services. To date, approximately 40 HADS members have volunteered to treat patients in their own offices. Those patients enter into the Harrisburg SMILES system through the West Shore Health Share intake or East Shore intake through Christ Lutheran Church.

Dr. Kiessling says of his experience with Mission of Mercy, "The satisfaction gained through seeing the look of relief and joy on a patient's face when I have alleviated their pain or restored their smile is priceless. This clinic is the last strand in the dental safety net and without it there is nowhere else to turn."

Volunteers interested in volunteering with Mission of Mercy should contact Dr. Kiessling at (717) 657-3290.

For more details, visit Christ Lutheran Church's website.