DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
At Oahu Care Facility, Hawaii Dental Association's Dental Samaritans and Hawaii Dental Service joined with Hawaii Meals on Wheels to give free dental screenings and home care kits to homebound residents during senior dental health month. It is called "Give Kupuna a Smile Day." Dr. Russell Masunaga, a dentist, visits some of the Meals on Wheels clients who signed up for dental screening. Above, Gordon Lau, Claire Shimabukuro, Masunaga and Andy Nomura helped to load up some meals before they went out on rounds yesterday.
Dentists ride Meals on Wheels to aid seniors
Meals on Wheels and dentists gave homebound people even more reasons to smile yesterday.
"It's Meals on Wheels and a dentist," Claire Shimabukuro, Hawaii Meals on Wheels executive director, announced, knocking on the door of an elderly woman in a Punahou apartment building.
The client gratefully accepted a hot lunch from Shimabukuro and a package of dental supplies from Dr. Russell H. Masunaga, director of Hawaii Dental Association Dental Samaritans.
"I'm doing pretty good for 91," the woman told them, explaining she used to dance on the stage, and she still dances twice a week at the Elks Club.
Also accompanying Meals on Wheels volunteers as they delivered hot food yesterday to elderly, disabled and homebound clients were dentists Karen Hu, Mason Savage and Mark Greer, state Dental Division chief.
Among the drivers was Meals on Wheels board President Andy Nomura, a frequent volunteer.
The Dental Samaritans and Hawaii Dental Service join with Hawaii Meals on Wheels annually for "Give Kupuna a Smile Day." They provided free dental screenings to about 40 residents who requested them and distributed 350 dental home care kits.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii Dental Association's Dental Samaritans and Hawaii Dental Service join Hawaii Meals on Wheels to give free screenings and home care kits to homebound residents. Dr. Russell Masunaga checks 91-year-old Chien Fen's teeth.
"The tooth back here -- you should have it taken out," Masunaga told another 91-year-old woman in an assisted-living facility, asking if she has a dentist.
A major goal of the free dental program is to ensure that homebound residents have access to dental care, he said.
He also examined the woman's son James, 58, who said he has an appointment next week with a dentist.
"We've got to keep reminding people there is this fragile community," Masunaga said. "Often they have a dentist, but they don't know they need to go see them. Transportation has been a difficult issue for them."
When told they need to see a dentist, someone usually will make arrangements, he said. If they have no one else, he suggests they call Meals on Wheels.
Nine churches of different denominations established the nonprofit organization in 1979 with six clients and six routes, Shimabukuro said. Volunteers now deliver hot lunches or dinners to 400 households on 31 routes from Kaneohe and around Waimanalo to Ewa.
The program works with hospital and care home kitchens to prepare therapeutic meals. Its newest partner is Zippy's in Mililani, Shimabukuro said.
Volunteers deliver more than food. They cheer clients and give them "peace of mind that someone is going to care," Shimabukuro said.
Ruby Siu, 79, said she began volunteering 17 years ago after a near crash in an airplane, and a friend told her she should be doing God's work because "God spared you for a reason."
"I enjoy it," she said. "People are so appreciative."
She said she receives "more blessings" than she can give to her clients.