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YYY: Adventures for Dentures Project Helps Homeless Veteran

Adventures for Dentures Project Helps Homeless Veteran

 Street Speech (USA) 08 June 2019

(Originally published: 07/2009) “I think I’m the richest person in the world right now because of this,” Raymond Allen said to the group of third graders sitting on the floor in front of him. While most people in Columbus, Ohio know Raymond as the homeless valet who helps people find parking spots in one of the Short North lots, to the third grade students at St. Matthew School in Gahanna, he is the first veteran they are helping as part of their Adventures for Dentures service learning project. (707 words) - By Shea Davis

"I think I'm the richest person in the world right now because of this," Raymond Allen said to the group of third graders sitting on the floor in front of him.

While most people in Columbus, Ohio know Raymond as the homeless valet who helps people find parking spots in one of the Short North lots, to the third grade students at St. Matthew School in Gahanna, he is the first veteran they are helping as part of their Adventures for Dentures service learning project.

The project was created when Cathy Mojzisik and Carol Spellacy talked about their jobs over dinner one evening.  Mojzisik, who is a Senior Research Nurse at the Ohio State University Medical Center, told the others about Raymond.  She got to know him through an unpaid clinical trial for people with kidney masses, and Mojzisik said she was struck by his generosity and kindness.

"He has a good soul, a good heart," Mojzisik said.  "He didn't have to do this [clinical trial], but he did because he saw the need to help people in the future."

At the end of trial, Allen mentioned to Mojzisik that he needed dentures.  "I told him I don't know how, but we'll get you dentures," Mojzisik said, adding that she assumed that they would go through the OSU Dental Clinic.

When Mojzisik finished explaining the situation to her fellow diners, Spellacy, a third grade teacher at St. Matthew, asked if Allen was a veteran and explained that her class was doing a project and needed a veteran to help.

"They took on Raymond as their project and called it Adventures for Dentures," Mojzisik said.

According to Spellacy, the students raised money to cover Allen's cab fares to Dr. Barry P. Backiewicz's office in Gahanna.  They collected most of the money through a project called Deeds for Dentures, where they did chores for relatives in exchange for a donation.

The students were very excited to aid a veteran after they heard several former service members speak at the beginning of the school year.  "It kind of became their year-long quest to help someone," Spellacy said.

Spellacy said that the students' parents also became very involved with Adventures for Dentures.  Backiewicz, whose daughter is in Spellacy's class, volunteered his services and is making the dentures for free.

Allen met the students on May 29, shortly before school let out for the summer.  The students had prepared questions in advance, which they asked eagerly.  Allen answered all of their questions with a smile.

He told them that he had spent 13 years in the military, working at a hospital Hawaii.  Although the draft for the Vietnam War was going on at the time, he volunteered to serve.  He explained that unless a veteran is disabled or has spent 20 years in the military, he or she is not eligible for dentures.

When one third-grader asked him about his work in the Short North, he told the class that he enjoys his job.  "I like talking to different people and helping people," he said.

While Allen's efforts to create a safe place for homeless individuals to store their identification papers demonstrated to the children that he still devotes time and energy to the needs of others, Allen said that he is overwhelmed by the students' kindness.  "I don't have the words to describe how I emotionally feel about this," he said.

Allen said that getting his dentures will mean a lot to him.  "I'm reconnecting with my daughter who I haven't seen in years," he said.  "Because first impressions are so important, I want to look my best."

He added that he is amazed by the Adventures for Dentures project.  "These kids reached down and came up with a solution to a problem that has existed for 20 years," Allen said.  "They made me feel like I was truly an American person."

Allen said that the students at St. Matthew made him feel proud of his military service.  "When we go to war, that's what we fight for-so our young people can have that freedom, and they exemplify that," he said.  "They made it all worthwhile-those 13 years in the military.  They made up for all those bad [experiences]."

 

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