Dentistry is a profession where you can bring about real change and make a positive impact on someone’s life. One dental practice has taken that ethos a step further than most. Initially, Town Hall Dental began by working with their local charity providing dental care to the homeless and vulnerably housed. Since then they have set up their own charity and are also in the process of creating a community company to provide education, skills and training for the homeless.
Here, Rachel Dilley, Town Hall Dental’s Business Development Manager, explains their journey and how their award-winning practice is the cornerstone of all their charity work…
“Both myself and practice owner Imran Rangzeb have a history of being involved with charity work – in the past I have been a mentor at my local job centre and have worked with people with mental health issues. We’ve always been a community-minded business, and have actively looked for groups, such as our local hospice, to work with.
We set up Town Hall Foundation in May 2018 after working with a local homeless charity, that has unfortunately now closed down, to offer preventative dentistry. We wanted to carry on with the work we’d been doing, so the foundation became the official sponsors for another charity called Focus4Hope, where we go out to the cities of West Yorkshire and offer a pop-up dental clinic for those in need. At the same time, we hand out food packs and hygiene packs and anyone needing further dental treatment is invited back to the practice for us to carry out the work there. We know that oral hygiene can be one of the lowest priorities when you don’t have a roof over your head, but it also has a huge impact on your self confidence and your dignity.
Through spending time with our local homeless community, we learned about the desperate need there is for support for people on the streets at every level – not just in terms of their oral health – and that a lot of these issues are interlinked. We can’t stop our mission at providing hygiene services, people need education, financial stability and so much more to help them be less vulnerable.
“We know that oral hygiene can be one of the lowest priorities when you don’t have a roof over your head, but it also has a huge impact on your self confidence and your dignity.”
To that end, we have created our community company Focus4Success, which is to educate people who are struggling to get back into work and to be successful. Our strapline is Achieving Success Together, and I’m very passionate about everyone having a right to be successful and fulfil their dreams.
We’re in the process of setting up Focus4Success but our aim is to use the top floor of the dental practice as an education centre – as it is currently already set up for delivering dental training. We’ll be working with other organisations and businesses to deliver courses in everything from CV writing, budgeting, interview skills and basic IT to English, maths, science and apprenticeships. By putting these people to work in apprenticeships, we’ll be helping to safeguard the next generation, and the profits will go to support our Foundation.
We’ll continue offering dental care and food through the Town Hall Foundation and combined with Focus4Success we’re hoping we can offer long-term rehabilitation and support across a range of areas.
“Undoubtedly our patients and the practice remain at the forefront of our minds and our priority, but the charitable work we do has a knock-on effect for the practice because the patients feel really proud that they are part of a place that is trying to make a difference.”
Ultimately, the aim is to create a Centre of Hope which will have everything in one place for someone who has been or is on the streets, e.g. a bed, a shower, a dentist, a nurse, a drug and alcohol counsellor, a social worker, etc. Our long-term vision is to create a place where someone who is at the lowest point in their life can go to and come out with their head held high and the skills to manage their own life.
Undoubtedly our patients and the practice remain at the forefront of our minds and our priority, but the charitable work we do has a knock-on effect for the practice because the patients feel really proud that they are part of a place that is trying to make a difference. We won a Best Patient Care award at the practice and for us, they are two sides of the same coin – caring for people, whether they are our patients or at their most vulnerable. A business can choose to operate on their own, or become an integral part of their community; we’ve chosen the latter and the community have rallied in their support for us.
If any practice owners or managers are thinking of setting up a charity or a community group, I would suggest you think about how you want to make a difference and what area do you want to make a difference in. Then, start getting in touch with other charities and your local Voluntary Action Group to see how they can help, or if you can work together. If you’re active on social media it’s worthwhile putting a post on LinkedIn about your plans, and you’ll be surprised at how many people offer their help.
It’s heart-warming and life-affirming to be able to put a smile on someone’s face – which for many of us is why we got in to dentistry, but to do that in a different way for someone in so much need is a whole different feeling. If everyone can just give free time, just an hour a week, we could make the world a better place and build a much brighter future.
If you’d like to support Town Hall Dental’s charity efforts, or want more advice on how to increase your own charity work, contact Rachel by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org