Kim Koga-Taki sorts and packages toothpaste, tooth brushes and other dental products into goody bags for more than 100 dentists who volunteer with the Hawaii Dental Association Dental Samaritans.
She faxes out the invitations, and phones them all to find out if they can give up a day’s work to volunteer in the community for any one of the organization’s projects, such as the Give Kupuna A Smile Day in September.
“My grandmother lives with me, so I have a soft spot for seniors,” says Koga-Taki, a Salt Lake resident and director of operations for Dr. Russell Masunaga’s Ohana Dental Clinic.
Koga-Taki scheduled dentists to ride along as the Hawaii Meals on Wheels volunteers delivered food. Dentists did dental work on the homebound senior citizens and gave them a goody bag with six months’ supply of dental products. The Hawaii Dental Service Foundation arm of the insurance company donated funds to purchase the supplies.
Koga-Taki says scheduling is the most challenging part of volunteering. “I appreciate them (dentists) so much,” she says. “To get 20-30 of them in one day to come out, people don’t see how much of a dollar value that is.”
She shares the reason she volunteers: “There’s so many people in my generation who are used to luxury. It’s my personal experience of knowing that someone down the street, a hanai aunty, can’t buy groceries that prompted me to volunteer.”
An 11-year-employee with Masunaga, she is joined by her co-workers who also volunteer with the Samaritan projects after work hours: Kendra Wong, Linda Teshima and Ann Perreira. She notes that all the spouses attend the events and help out sometimes, such as when the team created and coordinated a ball-toss game as a fun way for children to win toothbrushes at the National Kids Day event in July. They also teamed up to coordinate educational seminars for the dentists to give checkups to about 400 schoolchildren with the Give Kids a Smile day in February.
Koga-Taki also writes grants for the non-profit dental group, and she has secured more than $25,000 for its projects. The organization has also sent supplies to soldiers in Iraq.
Koga-Taki’s other volunteer project is soliciting donations for the American Heart Association. When she’s got some free time, she enjoys spending it with her husband, Les, as they both enjoy drag racing.
For more information on Hawaii Dental Association Dental Samaritans, call 848-8880.
- Linda Dela Cruz
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