The Dentists on Wheels Pittsburg Free Dental Clinic at St. Vincent de Paul officially saw its first patient on October 7th, 2021. As the first free dental clinic in Contra Costa County, the clinic will provide free dental care to adults in Contra Costa County without dental insurance. The free dental clinic is the culmination of years of work by SVdP volunteer “Vincentians,” – Vincentians like Bill Clarke.
“The way I see it, I’m just fulfilling my Biblical obligation to care for the poor,” Bill Clarke said. “As a Vincentian, you deal with people on a really personal, 1-on-1 basis, you get to know these people and its just impossible to not want to help them.”
Bill Clarke became a Vincentian volunteer over 30 years ago, when the SVdP branch at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Walnut Creek put out a bulletin notice for volunteers. Since then, Bill has worn many hats at SVdP and has always been a pillar that SVdP and our neighbors-in-need can rely on.
“Bill Clarke has to be one of the kindest, most generous human beings I know,” Stephen Krank, SVdP Vincentian Services Manger said. “He won’t make a decision or commit to something until he has all the information he feels he needs, but once he does he’s just unstoppable.”
The free dental clinic is the culmination of years of work by SVdP to ensure those without dental insurance have access to dental care. Originally, SVdP operated a dental program as a partnership with La Clinica – SVdP would fund dental services provided by La Clinica for patients who had no dental insurance and were in pain and needed dental care.
“The original dental program was pretty basic,” Bill said. “We partnered with La Clinica to have patients evaluated, and most would qualify for some form of free care or assistance, and for those that weren’t eligible, SVdP would pay for their care. We always wanted to offer a little more though, as the original program couldn’t do things like root canals, but the new clinic can.”
The new 3-chair operatory dental clinic, and SVdP’s partnership with Dentists on Wheels (DoW), will allow for much more intricate dental procedures than the old program, Bill said. He said the partnership with DoW is a great boon to the mission of helping his neighbors in need with access to dental care.
“The dentists at Dentists on Wheels are amazing, they do quality work,” Bill said. “They won’t just pull someone’s problem tooth and send them on their way. It’s really nice to know that you’re really helping people with a real, tangible need and improving their lives.”
Bill worked closely with fellow Vincentian Jim Noe to raise the funds necessary to build the clinic. The pair approached potential donors, and over the course of 2 years, raised over $100,000 to construct and provide equipment for the free dental clinic.
“I’d like to say we worked hard, but it really wasn’t a hard sell,” Bill said. “Everyone understands tooth pain, so it really wasn’t difficult to find backers for the dental clinic.”
The free dental clinic is just one of many programs Bill has been an essential part of at SVdP during his time as a Vincentian. Bill has served as Conference President at SVdP’s St. John Vianney Conference (branch), as well as served on the Board of Directors at SVdP. Bill and his wife Sally, are active Vincentian volunteers at the SVdP branch at St. John Vianney – helping individuals and families through crisis regain stability. Over many years, Bill & Sally, as representatives of SVdP, have not only offered financial assistance, but provided home-made cookies and Christmas presents to families in need.
Bill also helped SVdP open the RotaCare Pittsburg Free Medical Clinic at St. Vincent de Paul, which is able to offer free medical care to uninsured adults in Contra Costa County. Bill said the existence of the medical clinic is one of the catalysts behind the free dental clinic project. He said it only made sense to try to provide the most comprehensive care possible for our neighbors in need.
Barb Hunt, Development Director at SVdP shares that Bill brings unique skills as a dedicated volunteer at SVdP. “Bill has years of professional experience as an executive with international logistics and planning expertise. When he retired, St. Vincent de Paul was fortunate to have him join our team as a volunteer Vincentian. When Bill gets involved in projects – such as the building and development of the free medical clinic and the free dental clinic – he goes “all-in”! He has donated his time, treasure, and talents to SVdP in substantial ways!”
“Bill has a huge heart and we’re truly lucky to have a volunteer like him,” Stephen said. “Bill is really upfront, and amazing at holding people to task at hand. If he has a problem with something he has no qualms voicing it, and if he thinks we’re losing sight of the mission to help those in need, he gets us right back on course.”
Bill even volunteered as the volunteer Interim Executive Director at SVdP when the organization needed his financial acumen and expertise. “There was a period over 15 years ago where SVdP ran into some financial trouble. We were over-extended with 7 Thrift Stores in Contra Costa,” Bill said. “I stepped in as executive director for about 2 years and we found ways to right the ship, and now we’re financially stronger than we’ve ever been.”
Thanks to the dedication and generosity of Vincentians like Bill Clarke, SVdP is able to help thousands of our neighbors in need each year. Bill’s hard work and compassion for helping his neighbors in need is truly inspirational.