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Solana Beach community celebrates dental clinic renovation

St. James and St. Leo dental clinic
St. James and St. Leo dental clinic
(Kristina Houck)

Patients treated at St. James and St. Leo dental clinic will leave with even bigger smiles now that the Solana Beach facility has been completely rehabilitated.

Community members gathered May 4 at the church to celebrate the renovation of the clinic and recognize the donors and volunteers that made the project possible. Spearheaded by former Solana Beach Mayor Joe Kellejian and his longtime dentist, Dr. Daniel Tevrizian, volunteers worked to repaint the clinic, replace the floors, reupholster the chairs, and enhance the landscaping.

“It’s so heartwarming to see what it was before and what it is now,” Kellejian said.

Kellejian learned that the clinic needed improvements during a conversation with Tevrizian and his wife, Jan, who works as a volunteer hygienist at the facility.

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“I said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Kellejian recalled. “He said he’d do the planning, and I said I’d do the fundraising.”

The San Diego County Employees’ Charitable Organization, Del Mar Rotary Club, Del Sol Lions Foundation, Optimist Club of Del Mar-Solana Beach, La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation and Triple X Fraternity, as well as individual contributors, donated a total of $6,800 for the restoration project. Funds covered the cost of the materials and installation of the flooring, as well as the restoration of the four dental chairs and eight dental stools.

A former dental patient from Carlsbad was among the donors, which helped raise more money than needed. The remaining funds, Kellejian said, will help cover the costs of repainting the hand railings around the clinic. Members of the Eden Garden community have already volunteered to do the work.

“That’s the community themselves getting involved,” Kellejian said with a smile.

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“You work for money to feed your mouth and you volunteer to feed the soul,” said Jan Tevrizian, a Rancho Santa Fe resident and dental hygienist who has volunteered at the clinic for about six years.

In addition to financial contributions, the project also received a number of in-kind donations.

The SeaWeeders Garden Club, which operates under the umbrella of the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society, donated the time and materials for the landscaping. Several members of the club put in new soil and plants in April.

“Part of our mission in our garden club is to be involved in projects that are for the beautification of Solana Beach,” said club president Sandy Parish. “This certainly fit the bill because it was for the community, citizens of Solana Beach. We were quite pleased to be able to participate.”

Additionally, Kellejian’s wife, Mary, an interior designer and owner of Solana Beach-based Polo Bay Interiors, obtained 10 gallons of donated paint from Sherwin-Williams. Tony’s Jacal of Solana Beach also donated food for the recent event.

“It’s very seldom that you see so many different entities come together in one community to help with a project like this,” Kellejian said. “It’s heartwarming.”

Founded in 1991 by the late Dr. Dick Wheelock and with support from Deacon Albert Graff, the St. James and St. Leo Medical and Dental Program offers medical and dental care for the uninsured working poor every Saturday morning and Wednesday night.

The clinic, which started in 1993, provides services for children and participates in Welcome Home Ministries for female prisoners who are in transition from incarceration to productive citizenship. The program serves about 10 patients every Saturday and about 20 patients every Wednesday, totaling more than 1,500 people annually.

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“It’s not a handout; it’s a hand up,” said Kellejian, noting that the clinic accepts $10 donations per visit. “If somebody needs help, they’re going to help them.”

Entirely volunteer run, Dr. Bob Bobbitt headed the clinic until his retirement at the start of May. A dozen volunteer doctors and 10 volunteer hygienists rotate weekly. Pre-dental students from San Diego State and UC San Diego also support the volunteer staff.

“We’ve got a committed group, and we’ve got a lot of younger volunteers coming in, which is a good thing, but we need more,” Tevrizian said.

“I felt like if we made the structure better and all the equipment up to snuff that we’d get more people who would want to volunteer,” she added. “There’s a big need.”

For more information about the clinic, visit stjamesandleo.org.


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