Dental Depot’s Summer of Giving
Dental Depot is about more than just dentistry. We also are committed to giving back to the communities we serve. But when serving and dentistry can combine, that’s when we are lucky enough to make dreams come true. This summer, we were fortunate enough to do just that for two incredibly deserving women: Michelle Murphy of Tulsa and Sara Spencer of Oklahoma City. While their stories are different, the fresh start they both received from dental work is much the same.
Michelle Murphy had her world rocked on September 12, 1994, when, as a 17-year-old mother of two, she woke to a parent’s worst nightmare.
“I don’t remember exactly what time it was,” Michelle said. “The sun wasn’t up yet but the light was on in the living room and my front door was open, and my head hurt severely. I went to check on my kids and my son was gone… He was laying on my kitchen floor in a puddle of blood.”
Michelle’s infant son Travis had been murdered and police immediately took Michelle into police custody where she was questioned for eight hours without parental/guardian or legal representation. Michelle was pressured into a false confession, having been told by the officers that if she just admitted to the crime, they would help her and let her see her daughter.
Along with her freedom, Michelle’s two-year-old daughter was also taken away from her and adopted into another family.
Michelle spent 20 years in prison but was exonerated with prejudice in 2014 after her case was taken up by the Oklahoma Innocence Project (OKIP), an organization dedicated to finding and solving cases of wrongful conviction.
“The judge [who presided over Michelle’s exoneration] said, through tears, that in four decades on the bench, he’d never seen a worse miscarriage of justice,” said Jason Flom, founder and host of the Wrongful Conviction Podcast. “And I can say that in my 25 years in criminal justice reform, I’ve never seen one either.
“We have found gross prosecutorial misconduct. We have found falsifying evidence. We have found with scientific certainty that she could not have done this. It’s not possible.”
During her time in prison, Michelle’s access to health care was practically nonexistent and over time she developed a range of health issues including dental.
“I didn’t get to see a dentist but once, I believe, to get a wisdom tooth removed,” Michelle said.
So earlier this year, when a producer from the CBS program The Doctors contacted Dental Depot to let us know about Michelle’s story and to ask if we would be willing to donate dental services to help her, of course, we agreed!
Dr. Steven Knox of our recently opened Central Tulsa office donated his services to help care for Michelle and give her a healthy smile again. Still, we wanted to go a step further.
“I knew that Michelle had long been subject to an untrusting environment in prison, and I have experience working with previously incarcerated women, so I gladly volunteered to help her,” said Kaylee Campbell, Dental Depot’s marketing manager. “I helped get her scheduled for her appointments, made myself available to her for directions to our office, and I drove to Tulsa to be with her during her first appointment.
“I showed her around the office and introduced her to her dental care team. We joked around and laughed, and we all just got to know her. It was a great experience and I was incredibly impressed with her positive outlook after all she’s been through.”
While our contribution can never erase the pain Michelle has gone through, we hope we’ve given her another way to heal and move forward.
According to OKIP, Oklahoma ranks in the top 10 in the nation in terms of the number of proven wrongful convictions against innocent people.
To learn more about Michelle’s story and watch her tearful reunion with her daughter, click here:
For more information on the Oklahoma Innocence Project, visit https://www.okinnocence.com.
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This summer Dental Depot’s director of marketing, April Sharry, was invited to join our partners at the YMCA and City Care for the Togetherhood Project, a volunteer opportunity tasked with improving the community. The focus of this project was The Pershing Center, a supportive housing program for those who are homeless, fleeing domestic violence or recovering from an addiction.
This 60-unit facility offers more than just shelter to its residents, it’s an opportunity to heal, grow and reemerge as strong, capable members of the community.
Sara Spencer is one of these residents.
Sara is originally from Louisville, Kentucky, and in late August 2017, she fled an abusive marriage in the hopes of a fresh start with a friend living in Oklahoma City.
“When I got here I found out she was really bad-off on drugs, and within five days everything was so chaotic,” Sara said. “I was robbed and everything I owned was stolen and I ended up at the City Rescue Mission.”
At the City Rescue Mission Sara was put in touch with an advocate at Palomar, the Family Justice Center in Oklahoma City. That advocate knew a case manager at the Pershing Center and was able to get Sara an interview to become a resident and was approved the same day.
Since moving in, Sara has gotten a job and made new friends and a church family, and found several opportunities to volunteer and give back.
“The latest project I did was with City Care and the YMCA, the Togetherhood project, and that’s how I met April,” Sara said. “That opportunity completely changed my life. And it wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for this place. When I met the team I didn’t have any teeth on the top because I lost them in an accident one night with my husband.”
“I had to have oral surgery after I got injured,” Sara said. “I had to let my face heal first and then I had to have everything surgically removed from the top. So I went almost two years between with no teeth at all. It was scary. It was just something that I was really self-conscious about and I talked to April a little bit about it.”
April came away from meeting Sara and went to Dr. Glenn Ashmore, Dental Depot’s founder and owner, and told him Sara’s story. There was only one thing to do.
“They surprised me one day and told me they were gonna give me a whole new smile at no cost,” Sara said. “When I say that changed my life, I’m talking about, it REALLY changed my life. It was so huge, and that’s an opportunity that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t come here.”
So much of people’s perceptions can focus on your smile. Living with missing teeth can age your face or make it harder to find a good job or connect with people. For someone like Sara trying to get back on her feet, a beautiful smile meant everything.
“It was amazing. We were all crying because it was a dream come true,” Sara said. “I’ve never had anyone do anything like that for me in my whole entire life. I so self-conscious about it and I’ve always wanted a beautiful smile, to have one again. I still kept pressing on in my life, but it was always something in the back of my mind that bothered me. And April knew that about me without me having to go into detail and it was the most thoughtful, amazing thing that I’ve ever experienced and it has changed my life. I smile every day, all the time now and I finally feel like now, my outside matches my inside. It’s been amazing.”
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If you or someone you know needs help with their dental needs, we encourage you to attend Dentistry From The Heart by Dental Depot, an annual free clinic for adults (18 years and older) to receive a cleaning, extraction or filling at no cost to the patient. Patients are seen on a first come, first serve basis.
This year’s clinics will be held on Sunday, October 14th at our Central OKC office, located at 3104 N.W. 23rd Street in Oklahoma City, and at our Central Tulsa office, located at 4770 S. Harvard Ave. in Tulsa. For more information, be sure to follow us on Facebook at DentalDepotOKCMetro or DentalDepotTulsaMetro.
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If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence, help can be found 24/7/365 at the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Local resources include Palomar in OKC, and the Domestic Violence Intervention Services in Tulsa.