Posted by Editor: FDBobko
January 28, 2021
Tracey Carillo Fecher
Chief Executive Officer, Sonrisas Dental Health
Article by Stacy Trevenon
Photos by Dianne Bobko
Club President Mary Rogren introduced speaker Tracey Carillo Fecher, Chief Executive Officer at the Sonrisas Dental Health clinic on the Coastside. She had already sent an email to club members naming Fecher and identifying Sonrisas Dental Health as “a nonprofit dental center dedicated to providing access to quality dental care and oral health education to our community. Sonrisas provides these services with dignity, respect and compassion at its locations in Half Moon Bay and San Mateo County. And Sonrisas is celebrating its 20th year!” 
She continued, “Sonrisas plays a key role in addressing oral health equity gaps in San Mateo County through its Access to Care program for low-income residents.”
Tracey earned her degree in math and science at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and very shortly went into working with nonprofits. She had spent 18 months working with Sonrisas, where she had also been a development director. She asked for a show of hands of Rotarians who had heard of Sonrisas, and was pleased to see many hands go up.
She summarized the history of the clinic, now going into its 20th year since opening in Half Moon Bay in 2001 with the goal of providing access to dental care and oral health education. It only had a couple of chairs when it opened, but hopefully will grow to include eight chairs. She said that its services go back to 1996, when they were started by Coastside residents who perceived the need for dental care for low-income fellow Coastsiders. Active in that movement was Judy Macias, a longtime volunteer with RotaCare. Tracey explained that the name “Sonrisas,” is Spanish for “smiles,” and it expanded to its second site in San Mateo in 2015.
Why is Sonrisas important? Tracey offered some numbers, telling how in 2019, 900 children in local schools were screened for possible treatment through Sonrisas, and how 25 percent of seniors age 65 and over had lost teeth. She said the No. 1 reason that children miss school is dental problems, and that poor dental health has ties to other health conditions, including lung problems, stroke, and heart disease. She said that bacteria from dental trouble can get into the bloodstream through the gums. She said that in the fiscal year from July 2019 to June 2020 the clinic saw almost 9,900 patients, 70 percent of whom were low-income individuals. 
Many of the patients are very vulnerable, and spoke of the nearly 10,000 patients who were able to get care through Sonrisas’ Access to Care program for low-income county residents. She contrasted the conditions of that time with conditions in the era of Covid – how now, medical professionals must use face shields, shielding over their hair, and special shoes. But still the clinic thrived. Patients include those with special needs. She said that the clinic even has a wheelchair lift. She reflected on how the clinic was outfitted some 20 years ago, “with a lot of heart and soul.”
She said the Covid pandemic has had a “significant impact.” Covid cases account for 85 percent of the volume of patients, and the amount of PPE and protective items that are needed is mind-blowing.  Many appointments with young patients are done virtually, and YouTube has been helpful with translation.
She spoke of oral health screenings she had done virtually, with children from San Mateo County schools. As a mother herself, she was sometimes shocked at what she saw in terms of decay and poor oral health in children. She showed photos of a Sonrisas hygienist at work, recounted a case of a family in which several children needed treatment, and spoke of connecting patients to care – some of which were drastic, and some which required dental professionals who speak Spanish.
She proudly showed a photo, taken before the pandemic, of 12 volunteers who assisted at the clinic. 
Sonrisas will celebrate its 20th anniversary, Fecher said, with a virtual event in June. Supporters can participate by helping sponsor that. You can follow Sonrisas on social media. Staff want the public to know about Sonrisas and its events and the anniversary, and to follow it on its Web site. 
She said Sonrisas has a pilot program for senior services, noting that Medicare does not provide such dental benefits. Many seniors struggle to obtain care, sometimes a challenge in assisted-living situations. 
She invited questions and responses from viewers. Kevin O’Brien, saying it’s gratifying to see what Sonrisas has become, noted that some children have sugary snacks or beverages before bedtime. Tracey noted that that is why Sonrisas does education, citing the Watch Me Grow program that covers childhood growth up to age 5, which cautions against parents giving children sugary bedtime snacks or beverages, and advised having children brush their teeth right before bedtime. Hygienists work with families, she said, educating about foods that promote oral health. Some families coming to the U.S. from other countries may not have access to healthy food, she said, emphasizing the importance of teaching young children about brushing their teeth.
In these stressful pandemic times, she pointed out, there is a tendency to eat less regularly and less healthily and to snack more; and many snack foods are not good for oral health.  At a time of lockdown, she noted, kids are at home more, and may not follow healthy eating practices. 
President Mary asked about the size of the Sonrisas staff; Tracey said about 39, including about 24 FPEs.
Dianne Bobko recalled that Judy Macias had received Rotary’s prestigious Service Above Self award.  She emphasized Sonrisas’ importance in our community. Tracey said she had met Judy many times, including via Zoom in June, and commented on “taking Judy’s work forward in the community.”
President Mary inquired about funding sources for Sonrisas; Tracey responded that about half comes from patients and the remainder from fundraising – and they must raise about $1.5 million annually. The still see patients during this pandemic, and are expecting an increase from last year. They plan to celebrate their anniversary; “we should be proud of what we do at Sonrisas,” said Tracey.
Looking ahead, she said, there is a need for a larger clinic. For example, the pediatric dentist can see multiple patients at the same time; but there are not enough chairs to accommodate that. As opposed to the only about two chairs they have now, given the need to help the pediatric dentist they envision a clinic with about 4 to 5 chairs. 
Rose Serdy asked about the wait time for appointments? Less than with Medicare, she said.
Rosi Fontana mentioned oral health kits such as those given out by ALAS, which include toothbrushes and toothpaste, and spoke of getting those kits to schools and to Puente. 
President Mary presented a certificate of appreciation to Tracey as the speaker and said that a donation has been made for polio, Rotary’s signature cause, in her honor, which greatly pleased her.
Club Meeting - January 28, 2021 
Pledge of Allegiance -  The virtual meeting began when Kevin O’Brien led the club in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Inspiration Thought - Dave Andrews read several thought-provoking quotes from Robert Heinlein: 
“Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done, and why. Then do it.”
“If it can’t be expressed in figures, it is not science, it is opinion.”
“A generation which ignores history has no past – and no future.”
“A motion to adjourn, is always in order.”
“Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks.”  

Happy/Crappy News smiley/crying 

When happy/crappy news was called for, Krystlyn Giedt noted that the HMB Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual awards ceremony, only virtually, as usual this year. She said the chamber wants to honor businesses that met the pandemic head-on, and that the virtual celebration is scheduled for Feb. 25.

Under crappy news, Kevin reported that Susan Berkowitz, who helped start the RotaCare clinic along with Dwight and Julia Wilson, passed away this week. Dwight Wilson noted that Susan and husband Joe had been married for 45 years, and thanked Kevin for mentioning her. Mary noted that it is good to have Dwight back, active in the club.

Mary also welcomed new Rotarians Sean and Michelle.


Rotarians were urged to save the date of March 4, for a virtual wine tasting set for 6 to 7 p.m. It will include a chat about wine-grape history, and how the three wines being “tasted” at this event are available for purchase at a discount. This will kick off fundraisers to come.
Discussion turned to larger events. A possible cooking demonstration is being considered for April. Joe Brennan announced a Road Rally auto-centered event, which will highlight the club’s 50th anniversary, and is being considered around Memorial Day. It will involve a drive of 50 miles around notable spots on the coast and emphasize Coastside features. The cost of participation will be $50 per car, and there will be prizes, for the oldest, most beautiful car, and more.
John Evans playfully suggested getting the Highway Patrol to cordon off Highway 1 for that event, so people could drive fast along the coast. 

Kevin mentioned his brother-in-law who created and presented a fun online magic show, which thought the Rotarians might be interested in doing. Updating on Little Libraries, he reported how Liz,  Teri, Stacy and Doug had helped pick up some large wooden boxes for use as Little Libraries.

Stacy mentioned how she plans to reactivate the club’s World Community Service committee in support of international projects and, while travel now is not a good idea due to Covid, the need for supporting international projects continues. She asked Rotarians interested in this work to let her know. Rosi and Joe indicated interest.

Rose spoke of a project she is interested in, which is described under “Rotary projects around the globe” on Page 18 of the February 2021 issue of the Rotary magazine. It began with the Rotary Club of Windsor, Ontario, Canada and involves repurposing plastic shopping bags into sleeping mats for homeless people in the community. She mentioned this as a possible project to benefit Coastside Hope. 

President Mary mentioned that we have $563 in DDF which she would like to see disseminated Possible recipients include global grants or polio.
That led to mention of little things that we pick up on our regular shopping trips that might be welcomed by many of the people we support. For example, those little plastic bottles of hand sanitizer, or those inexpensive little toothbrushes.


Mitone will advise us on the next beach cleanup. She noted that that is a very visible way we can let the public know who the local Rotary club is and what we are doing. She suggested sharing that information with our Facebook groups, which is a good way to spotlight upcoming speakers and promote our club. Mary noted that she is still looking for speakers for the month of March. Regarding speakers, Ralph Ely suggested tapping club members for shop talks via Zoom -- having newer members Zoom shop talks would help members get to know them.

Joe mentioned that there is an opening on the club board for the position of Foundation chair, a position that had previously been filled by Kevin and Dave Andrews. He added that Dwight will take over the position of Treasurer next year.

Ralph mentioned that he has not had much luck getting information on the availability of vaccines. Kevin said that Dignity Health may be a vaccine source, and discussion followed as to where to get it.

The next board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1. Next week, instead of noon, the regular, virtual Rotary meeting is set for 1 p.m. on Thursday.


Marble Draw - Kevin drew the WHITE one!yes. The pot starts over next week.  😢

The marble game was played, the wheel spun and Kevin’s name came up. President Mary rummaged in the bag and drew out the white marble!

To get a tickets for the marble draw and to feed the pig, remember Mary sends an email with the link prior to each meeting.