Meet the Millers
Like the past few Januaries, we’ve dedicated this month to Global Dental Relief (GDR). During The Everything Event, We’re donating 10 percent of every lighting and mirror sale to the Denver-based charity to fund clinics halfway around the world providing children dental care—many for the first time in their lives.
A few years ago we were introduced to two of GDR’s amazing volunteers from Columbus, Ohio: mother and daughter, Marilyn and Jennifer Miller. They discovered GDR while shopping our store at Polaris Towne Center during a lighting event and a similar giving campaign supporting GDR. Jennifer, a dentist, and Marilyn, a hygienist, immediately pocketed the information we had on-hand and reached out to GDR for more information. Before they knew it, they found themselves en route to Nepal to work their first clinic with GDR.
Today, the two have been to Nepal and Guatemala volunteering with GDR, and have treated hundreds of children. We recently chatted with Jennifer about her globetrotting.
Of the many things you can discover at our stores, you discovered GDR. (We’re laughing when we ask this question.)
I often find myself at your store with my mom hunting for great furniture. Our house is “Arhaus”. We happened to be there during the lighting event that benefited GDR and having already been involved in several cleft lip and dental mission trips in the past, I was excited to see that Arhaus was supporting a dental non-profit and was drawn to the organization.
My mom and I signed up for GDR’s Nepal trip first. That was the fall of 2014. The following summer we were back on the bandwagon and headed to the clinic in Guatemala. I think we make quite the dynamic duo!
That’s right, you were in Guatemala and treated the 100,000th child. What was that like?
An absolute honor. 100,000 kids. That’s a grand number and it only happens because companies like Arhaus support GDR and people give their time to volunteer. There aren’t a lot of companies that give back in this magnitude. They don’t have to. And the same for volunteers. But there are passionate individuals willing to not only donate their time, but pay their own way to make organizations like GDR such a success.
People might wonder why? I would urge them to take a challenging step to volunteer and I think everyone would return saying – why not! When you see what a significant difference a small group of compassionate people can make giving these kids a healthier life, you can’t help but want to continue to support groups like GDR. In the end, when you return home – you realize you have worked yourself to the bone but would do it all over again. You know you have become a better person with a whole new perspective and a connection with people from all over the world. I feel lucky to have this amazing gift in life and this type of opportunity to volunteer.
What’s the actual clinic like?
I’ve been on similar trips and you don’t know what to expect when you sign up. But with GDR, they blew me away. They are super organized and efficient. You can tell there are months of dedicated preparation done pre-clinic. As soon as your feet are on the ground, you’re off and running. The children have already been scheduled for care in the clinics and they move through treatment stations like a well-oiled machine. But with as much preparation that goes in, you must always be ready to think on your feet and have your headlamps ready. The electricity can go out without a moments notice!
It sounds like there’s a third trip with GDR on your horizon?
Absolutely. Without question. Ever since my first dental mission trip, I knew I wanted volunteering and helping those in need around the world to be a part of my life. The beauty of this organization is that if you volunteer at the same clinic every two years, you get to see the same children and the progress that each child is making. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you were a part of such a dramatic change in someone’s life.
Finding new adventures in travel and helping those in desperate need has become a bit of an addiction. I wouldn’t want a year to go by without it.
Will Marilyn go too?
Yes. I’ve taken my mom to both clinics so far. She doesn’t get an option (laughing). She loves doing this work though. I am envious of her energy and dedication to educating patients about dental hygiene. It’s so fun to see children and other volunteers gravitate to her and feed off of her passion. She’s retiring soon, so she’s definitely going! I’m lucky to have the perfect travel partner. We have a ball together!
We have to ask, did you climb Mount Everest?
We trekked to Mt. Everest with two other GDR volunteers following the clinic. It was spectacular! An experience of a lifetime. The scenery and the challenge literally were enough to take your breath away!
You were telling us that you had just returned home and then heard about the earthquake in Nepal.
Yes, we had been home a few months. It was hard to watch the devastation on the news and know it affected people we had just met and traveled with. Having that connection, you immediately want to do everything you can to help in the rebuilding process. It’s just unimaginable. They struggle in the best of times, so to add this is just heartbreaking. The Nepalese live in such a strong community-oriented fashion with determined spirits. They are some of the hardest workers I’ve ever encountered and have this amazing ability to find positivity in the hardest of times.
You don’t have to have a dental background to volunteer. Tell us why someone should sign up?
Do something you’ve never done before. I promise, it will change you. It will cause a ripple effect…a positive step that will not only change someone else’s life, but your own. These trips aren’t just for dentists and hygienists. In fact, half of GDR’s volunteers have no dental background at all. There are so many other important roles that people may not think of that absolutely make these clinics run, from translating to applying fluoride treatments to handing out toothbrushes! GDR is always looking for volunteers to continue making their mission trips successful.
And another added bonus is you get to do some REAL traveling. You’re not a tourist. You truly get to “experience” where you go. You become immersed in the culture as the community embraces you. You start to feel like a local because you live and work side-by-side with the very people you’re helping. It’s these special connections that you will never forget. In the end, there’s nothing more gratifying than a hug from a little one or a parent who is thankful for your care…words are rarely needed.
I urge everyone to get out there and experience this unique opportunity…you’ll realize how lucky we really are and that we always have this wonderful ability to help one another.