No Muss, No Fuss, No Bother

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Marcia found Manos de Cristo when she decided to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). Most of her life has been directed at creating access and opportunity for economically and socially disadvantaged individuals, and Manos de Cristo was just the right fit.

She began supporting Manos de Cristo financially after she was moved by the students that she was tutoring. “The only thought that I could hold in my mind was that I ‘would pay to have this much fun,’ she said.

“As soon as I processed that thought, it was very clear that I could translate that feeling into financial support for the organization.”

As a certified Early Education teacher, Marcia even teaches the young children of the adult education students. She’s a huge believer in the need to get all kids ready for school, so she takes pride in the short time that she gets to teach them something new; like how to use scissors and different iterations of the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

To Marcia, monthly giving is “no muss, no fuss, no bother,” and after being involved with other nonprofits, she fully understands how important it is to have steady and predictable income. “If [my monthly gift] can be a small part of creating the stability, I am honored to do so,” she said.

Marcia became a monthly Grin & Share It member a year ago, and continues to support our programs by giving her time and money. It’s a privilege to have Marcia as a Founding-100 Member of the Grin & Share It monthly giving program.

Check out her donor testimonial courtesy of I Live Here, I Give Here’s video series above.

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Meet Steven & Eugene

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Steven and Eugene will never forget the story about Rev. Frank Diaz, one of our founders, and the man with the pliers.

In the late 80s, the poor and homeless were constantly knocking on the doors of Rev. Diaz’s church. Many were young men asking for baby food. Rev. Diaz assumed they had children to feed, but he soon found he was wrong. The baby food was for them because they had no teeth.

The local hospital could not provide the dental care they needed, so they resulted to pulling their own teeth. Many even visited a local man working out of his garage – he used pliers to pull their teeth for them. So began the vision to create a safe, low-cost dental facility for the working poor who had nowhere else to go. In 2014, we expect the new Dental Center to serve affordable oral care to approximately 11,000 patients.

“The mission of Manos is to give people an opportunity to be healthy, whole and ready to do work,” said Steven.

Steven and Eugene are proud supporters of Manos, and with their sustaining support we continue to make an immediate impact in Central Texas.

Restoring a Smile of Confidence

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dr stephanie rodriguez-kevin clem-ziba samaniKevin struggled with broken teeth and gaps all his life, hurting his self-confidence along the way. At age 45, when he lost and swallowed a previously repaired tooth, Kevin was referred to Manos de Cristo by a friend. He didn’t have a dentist, was in between jobs, and had no dental insurance.

Kevin’s dental issues began early in his life. When he was 14-years-old, his front left incisor was sheared off with the root exposed while he and his buddy were roughhousing. Kevin’s tooth was rebuilt but because of the trauma, the root eventually abscessed, and he developed a major infection. “I had to have a root canal on the tooth, with the dead root ultimately removed,” Kevin said.

That chipped tooth would bother him for the next thirty years. While he still managed to save the tooth, it eroded over time. “I could tell the tooth was getting shorter and shorter, it wasn’t dramatic, but it was enough, it felt funny, and it was becoming somewhat noticeable,” he said. Kevin’s other teeth started to grow away from the injured tooth, causing gaps in his front teeth. “I not only had that odd, eroded tooth, but now I had the gaps on either side to make it all the more prominent, which was just wonderful,” he joked.

When he lost the repaired front tooth, which somehow became a hors d’oeuvre at a holiday party, his smile disappeared too and he suffered from a lack of self-confidence. A friend of his spoke very highly of Manos de Cristo’s Dental Center. Kevin went to see what, if anything could be done for his dental needs. He initially came in to have only some essential work done, but received much more than he could have imagined.

Kevin said he had been reluctant to get the gaps filled in the last 30 plus years because he didn’t know what to expect, and he was sure he could not afford the care. “I was expecting that a dentist would be grinding down the other teeth in order to build them back out again, and that would be too expensive. I didn’t realize that you could actually bond to the enamel as it was standing,” he said.

According to Dr. Stephanie Rodriguez, Kevin’s dentist at the Manos de Cristo Dental Center, the ideal treatment plan would have been expensive orthodontic work. Money was still a determining factor in his treatment plan, so Dr. Rodriguez took that into consideration. First she evaluated his smile, and then took before and after molds of his teeth. Once Kevin saw the cast of what his teeth could potentially look like, and he realized that Manos was an affordable dental center, he was eager to have the work done. Dr. Rodriguez closed the spaces and fixed the broken tooth by adding composite veneers – essentially a tooth-colored filling.

It has been four years and the composites are still holding up wonderfully. “Because of the gaps in my teeth, I’d always been self-conscious about my smile, but after Dr. Rodriquez’s work, you know, I have no problems at all at this point. And that’s why I’m here, I’m so grateful for the affordable treatment,” Kevin said.

The quality of work here is just top rate. Plus, the dental staff is friendly, very caring and professional. I was provided with the treatment that I needed and I felt like I wasn’t sold more than that, Kevin said.

All of these years, he thought dental work was more cost than it was worth, but with Manos’ affordable dental services, he has rebuilt his confidence, dignity and improved his overall health.

Click here more information about the Manos de Cristo Dental Center.

Citizenship Matters

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Sabry and wife SalmaTheir joyous and positive demeanor belies the hardships they have gone through to get to where they are now.

Sabry and wife Salma, both 65, were displaced by the civil war in Iraq, and came to the United States as refugees. After years of wanting to become citizens, they decided they would do something about it.

In their search for citizenship classes, their friend referred them to Manos de Cristo. Manos offers a year-long program for eligible Legal Permanent Residents, as opposed to the month-long preparation courses that are typically offered around the Austin area. This provides students with more time to prep for all parts of the interview process, and help establish their self-confidence along the way.

Unfortunately, the U.S. citizenship test isn’t as easy as you would imagine. There are four parts to the test: civics, reading, writing and speaking in English. Students learn about US history, government, culture and holidays, along with reading, writing, speaking and understanding English in preparation for the interview that they must pass to become US citizens. Manos also offers a hour-long English as a Second Language (ESL) class before citizenship class – a critical component to passing the test.

Kathy Schneider has been Manos’ citizenship teacher for nearly five years, and she can see the results in her students’ feedback. “They almost always say it was very easy, but of course that was because they went to school and they knew exactly what to expect, and they were well prepared.” Schneider says that the biggest stumbling block for her students is speaking and understanding English, since most students are quick to grasp the concepts.

Manos has helped both Sabry and Salma fill out their application; they both completed their fingerprints, and received a written notice for their interview. At the end of June, both Sabry and Salma passed their citizenship test! After taking the naturalization oath and becoming U.S. citizens, they can now call themselves “Americans.”

“The goal is to help humans without regard to race, without color, without anything,” said Sabry. “The Manos administration helps everybody.”

They are so grateful, and have sought out Manos’ other services like ESL and Computer Literacy so Sabry can find a new job.

Thanks to the help of Manos and its supporters, this couple now calls the U.S.A. their country, their home.

Click here for more information about Citizenship classes at Manos de Cristo.