February is National Dental Health Month, and while that brings posters and other information to raise awareness of the importance of oral health, a group of Southwest Riverside County dentists will be visiting Murrieta Valley Unified School District elementary schools with tongue depressors and flashlights in hand.
Monday noon, Feb. 24, the Rotary Club of Murrieta will honor those dentists and school nurses who make this project possible. The longest running service project of the club, the annual dental assessment in Murrieta elementary schools was started by Dr. Jim Yanoschik, a past president and founding member of the Murrieta club in the early 1990s.
“Back then, we looked around to see how we might help with a dental health program in the schools,” Yanoschik says. “There was a mobile van but it would have cost $10,000 and that was way more than our fledgling club could afford.
“We said ‘let’s just locate some dentists who would be willing to help out on a pro bono basis.’ We did that and have been able to accommodate the growth in the number of schools with more and more dentists getting involved,” he said. Today, there are 11 elementary schools in the Murrieta district; in 1992, there were five elementary schools.
Children in the first, third and fifth grades line up for examinations each year with the volunteer dentists recording what needs to be done, if anything. In addition to the grade school students, pre-schoolers are being examined, a task that Yanoschik himself takes on at 16 or 17 locations.
District Nurse Michelle Fackelman has been involved with scheduling the dentists for the past 18 years and has seen its growth.
“From five or six dentists, we now have a list of 20 dentists who exam the students,” she says. “Neighboring districts have asked how we do it.”
Rotary’s motto is “Service Above Self,” a tenet that Yanoschik certainly exemplifies, says 2013-14 President Patsy Orr.
“Dr. Jim sets a high bar for each of us in Murrieta Rotary to aspire to. He’s not only leading the charge for the dental exams, but he chairs our Valentine’s dinner-dance for special needs adults, serves as Foundation chair, runs numerous marathons and tri-Athlons for the benefit of causes and raises service dogs for Canine Support Teams.”
The Rotary Club of Murrieta was chartered on April 28, 1992. The club is involved in many community and international projects, in cooperation with Rotary International. Club meetings are held Mondays (excepting holidays) at noon at Richie's Diner, 40651 Murrieta Hot Springs Road, in Murrieta. For information regarding the club or membership visit www.murrietarotary.org or call President Patsy Orr, 951-693-5589.