OKEECHOBEE — Although dentistry is their profession, it is not the only iron Family Dentistry of Okeechobee has in the fire in the Okeechobee community. Founded in 1971 by Dr. Roger Davis, the practice was later purchased by his daughter Dr. Jennifer Laskey, who operates it with associates, Dr. Jennifer Shiflet and Dr. Zachary Viens.
Family Dentistry, as a whole — the doctors and the staff — believe in giving back to the community in every way they possibly can. Because of this, they are constantly searching for unique ways to give.
Family Dentistry is always looking for new ways to support the community, but there are a few groups they regularly support and whose causes are pictured on the practice’s “wall of fame.” The Guardian ad Litem program is near and dear to their hearts, brought to their attention by the work Laskey’s husband, Doug, does with the organization. Laskey’s husband is a guardian ad litem and in December, Family Dentistry organized a gift drive to help make sure none of the children represented by the local branch of the guardian ad litem program were without gifts for Christmas.
Each year, the practice works with Open Hands Health Care Center when the dental van comes to town. It was canceled last year due to COVID, but they hope it will be back this year. Open Hands Health Care Center’s dental van is supported both by physical labor and with donated supplies.
Real Life Children’s Ranch and the Okeechobee Pregnancy Center are two of the other organizations the practice follows closely and tries to support in every endeavor. When school started this year, Family Dentistry held a drive-thru school supply drive for the children of Real Life Children’s Ranch, and Kaylee King, the practice’s marketing director, said it was a huge success.
On Veterans Day, they offered free dental care to veterans, and it was very well received. “We will do that again next year,” said Laskey.
Shopping local is important to the practice, and they try to do a community spotlight every month as well said King. They highlight a business, organization or a home business.
They support Rock Solid Christian Academy fundraisers whenever asked and spoke excitedly of the upcoming 5K. They have also supported Healthy Start Coalition, and this year, they sponsored the Diamond C Country Christmas Event.
Not only does Family Dentistry believe in giving back to the community, they also believe in giving back to their own patients. They have many, many rewards and incentives for their patients. One of their contests is for those who do something special or kind. Any staff member can enter a patient into the contest, said Laskey. “We like to reward people for being wonderful. It’s really easy to find when you are looking for it,” she said.
Laskey also said they keep goodie bags filled and ready so that if a patient is having a bad day or is having a birthday or anniversary any other reason they might need a pick me up, staff members can run back and grab a bag and give it to the patient to let them know they are loved and cared for.
Each month, they choose a patient of the month. The prize is not a big one, but it makes the patient feel noticed and special, she explained. The employees each get a chance to nominate someone for these contests, so everyone feels as though they are a part of the process. “We try to include all of our team in everything we do,” said Laskey.
Pre-COVID, they supported many sports activities for the children of patients and employees. In addition, they had quite a few patients who raised animals for the youth livestock sale, and they supported that as well.
Often in a medical practice, there are patients who need additional care they just cannot afford. Family Dentistry tries to meet this need behind the scenes by allowing staff members to recommend patients for free care when they see a need. Each year, they choose a couple patients and give them the services they couldn’t otherwise afford, free of charge. Last year they gave away about $15,000 in services to help those patients in need.
They have also participated in benefits to help raise money for patients needing organ transplants.
When COVID-19 first hit, and everyone was a little shell shocked. Laskey wanted to do something to help her youngest patients get through the difficult time. She instituted a reading time with the children, her “littles.” There are videos on their Facebook page of Laskey and several of the staff members reading children’s books out loud for kids to enjoy.
“We were trying to find ways to connect with people,” she said. “There was so much negativity during that time. We wanted to revert back to something that was more simple and happy.”
These are just a few of the many examples of the ways Family Dentistry gives back to the community.
Family Dentistry really is a family practice in Laskey’s eyes. She wants everyone to enjoy coming in, from the doctors to the staff to the patients. “There is just something special about making someone’s day better,” she said. “We all need that.”