Walking out a prison gate and getting a set of brand new teeth, is high on a convict’s bucket list – at least it was for me. I dreamed about stepping out into the brand new world with a brand new walk, a brand new talk and a brand new smile. When I finally left those prison gates, I had the walk and everything else but my dream was only half fulfilled because my mouth was raggedy as sour kraut – my grill was tore up! That’s the way it was, but that’s not the way it is and is certainly not the way it has to be for any good Fair Chance member, just stepping off the bus. We have the ‘hook up’ in place and the fulfillment of all these dreams, inside the vision and heart of a man I’m honored to bring to your attention.
His name is Dr. Jay Grossman, D.D.S. His age is hard to determine because of the youthfulness in his face and the freshness in his eyes. He has a swank dental office in the swank, upper-end Brentwood section of Los Angeles. His practice was very successful, then something happened to him in the year 1991. It began to weigh heavily on his heart to see a homeless person asking for a nickel or a dime every time he went into town. Finally a miracle invaded his heart and moved him to create an organization called HOMELESS NOT TOOTHLESS!
That was over 20-years ago. Currently, in 2014, along with his regular flourishing dental business, he has performed thousands of pro-bono (in case you’re not a jailhouse lawyer, pro bono means “free”) dental operations on the less fortunate. He has also enlisted the help of hundreds of dental professionals in this endeavor. Somehow our paths crossed and he invited me into his swank offices and began to work on my mouth with the same care, meticulous attention and professionalism that he would’ve given to a million dollar paying customer. He gently removed all my remaining teeth. He worked with my gums, working them into a condition of cleanliness and strength. He measured and fitted me for dentures, painstakingly addressing every detail – taking imprint after imprint so I’d have a perfect and comfortable set of teeth!! At my last fitting he pulled out a mirror and put it to my face and asked me to smile. That was the first time I was willing and able to make a full, unguarded smile in decades. Do you guys realize what I’m saying? What he gave to me was a blessing and a new connection to life. I’ll forever have gratitude for his generosity. It doesn’t end with me. I told him I would write an article about him in our prison newsletter. He instructed me to extend the same invitation he had given me to everyone in the Fair Chance Project. He wanted me to quote him as saying, “If everybody gave just a little, it would make a lot.” It would certainly mean a lot… it means that all Fair Chance Project members can scratch free dental care off their bucket list. Is that cool or what?
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Today marks the date that I have 10 years of continuous sobriety.
I have become sentimental in the days leading up to today. And I have given a lot of thought about how I got here, how all the broken parts of me somehow reassembled.
In my first months of my recovery, you gave me the confidence to smile. And in so doing, you gave me my voice again. Your work allowed me to awaken the part of myself that spoke without caring about the shape of my mouth, the gaps in my teeth. I could focus on the words again. And I could be heard.
The work you do so generously in Homeless But Not Toothless is vital to people like me. It is immeasurable. You and everyone on your staff have always taken such great care of me and I am grateful. The fact that I am treated so well in both your practices, HNT and your private practice, speaks volumes about the integrity of you and your staff.
When I reflect on the major moments of these years, how I managed to arrive to this place of peace, I realize now - it is the people of my life who brought me here. A small handful of people and you are among them.
Much love to you and everyone in your office,
My name is Keith Wieser and I am the Executive Director of Angels Nest TLP. Angels Nest TLP is a 501-C non-proﬁt that provides housing for Former Foster Youth and Homeless Youth to attend college. For the last 3 years Homeless not Toothless has been instrumental in providing low cost (at times no cost) dental services to our clients. Angels Nest TLP is forever grateful for the continued support that Homeless not Toothless has provided to our clients. Most of our clients have serious dental issues due to not seeing a dentist in years. The services that Homeless not Toothless provides has improved the overall health and well being of our clients. Without Homeless not Toothless many of our residents would have missed school due to serious dental issues (gum disease, needed crowns, cleanings etc.). Homeless not Toothless is a great resource that is needed in communities striving to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate. Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding Homeless not Toothless.
Executive Director Angels Nest TLP