Dr. Williams, Orphan Grain Train
The appointment had been scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 31, at 10 a.m. Our local retiring dentist, Dr. John Williams sat quietly in his office awaiting the prescheduled extraction. Several attempts had been made over the past year to find a way to save it, unfortunately, all efforts proved hopeless.
So on Halloween, a day synonymous with dentists, the community of Elgin would say a final goodbye to the Elgin Dental Clinic, all of it’s equipment, as well as the hopes of finding an interested replacement for our retiring dentist.
A large white semi pulled up along the curb in front of the multi-purpose building that had been Dr. William’s Dental Clinic since 1985. Along the side of the truck in large purple letters read, Orphan Grain Train (OGT). After all efforts to find a suitable dentist with interest in practicing in Elgin were unsuccessful, Doctor Williams made the decision to donate all his dental supplies and equipment to the OGT. The organization has an impeccable reputation for disbursing used dental and medical equipment to areas in need, many times to third world countries.
Stepping out of the truck to greet me with a handshake and a smile was Bob Schleppenbach of Norfolk. To be fair, Bob may have been smiling because I approached him dressed as an oversized feline in celebration of Halloween.
However, more likely, after meeting him and understanding the work he does, Bob smiled simply because he likes people. Bob has been making donation pick-ups and deliveries for OGT for the past 2 1/2 years. He has transported donations as far as Panama City, Florida following Hurricane Michael, as well as El Paso, Texas.
“I love this job. I love feeling a sense of accomplishment in helping those that need help,” he said.
Of all of his donation transfers and transports, Bob finds loading medical and dental equipment to be the most interesting, “Many times the pieces are huge, delicate and intricate. For example, take those huge lights that hang over operating tables,” he said.
I witnessed this first hand as I watched Pope John student volunteers, Blake Hupp, Lane Bartak, Austin Bauer and Brie Bartak, as well as Alan Reicks, president of the Elgin Men’s Charitable Corporation and owners of the building, carefully load the truck. These donations included a large procedural light, cabinets, x-ray equipment, as well as boxes and boxes of smaller dental instruments and supplies. However, seeing the final object to be loaded, the infamous dental chair, had the biggest impact on me.
I thought of the array of emotions that had been experienced by the various patients who sat in that chair. I recalled some of the great stories Dr. Williams had shared with my family while they were patients there. He shared with them stories about his life in the service, about dealing with his difficult, childhood English teacher, and even what led to his decision to become a dentist. I believe the stories Dr. Williams shared with his patients were intended to not only distract from the sometimes unpleasant matters at hand, but also teach a lesson in life he had learned the hard way during his own experiences.
I have always thought The Elgin Dental Clinic could have been more appropriately titled, The Wisdom Tooth, because of all the wisdom and experience Dr. Williams had to share.
Today, with a big white semi loaded and ready to hit the road, Dr. John Williams’ sharing continues. As an OGT employee, Schleppenbach stated right before leaving, “These Third World country organizations will greatly appreciate this. They don’t see anything of this good quality.”
As for the community of Elgin, according to Reicks, the former dentist office building already has two businesses committed to renting the space. Derek Scholl, a current renter, will move his chiropractic business to the front location where the dentist office used to be and Troy Foecking, a Knights of Columbus insurance agent, will utilize the back office for his business a couple days a week.
As for Dr. Williams, I think his years of service to our community can rightly be compared to a tooth that has been pulled, you never really know what you got til it’s gone.