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Mission: Toothbrush – A Community Outreach For Dental Health

Q&A with co-presidents Kelsey Ge and Jay Sangwan

Jonathan Huang and Catherine Jiang

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1) Can you explain what Mission: Toothbrush is and why it was started?

Kelsey: Mission: Toothbrush is a student-run 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, where we raise money and collect dental care supplies to donate to local soup kitchens and homeless shelters to reach members of our community who do not have access to them.

Jay: Mission: Toothbrush is a nonprofit organization that was started two years ago by then seniors Josh Farahzad and Hugh Ferguson. It was started because they noticed that, while charities really focus on many goods like food, soap, and clothes, there isn’t a lot of emphasis on dental hygiene, which is extremely important.

2) What are some long term and short term goals you have for Mission: Toothbrush?

Kelsey: One of the main goals we have is to spread recognition of Mission: Toothbrush and its goals among our peers and the Long Island community. While we have been able to reach many lives with the work we have done so far, we hope that by increasing awareness of our organization, we can encourage more volunteers to help work towards our mission.

Jay: I think the main long-term goal was always to help smaller units start all over the nation and even the world. While we feel were making a huge impact on Long Island and in our area, we really have always wanted the issue of oral health to be in the spotlight nationwide.

3) How have you contributed to the goals of this organization? What kind of position do you hold?

Kelsey: I have been co-president of the organization along with Jay Sangwan since spring of 2017. During the past two years, I have been involved in every aspect of the organization’s function, including arranging supply drives and donations, contacting outside organizations, remodeling the website, and managing financial transactions.

Jay: I, as well as my co-president Kelsey Ge have really worked hard to develop these goals from organizing drives to donating supplies to reaching out to sponsors. We recently brought on three new members, Katherine Liu, Neil Mehta, and Preeti Kota, who have all been extremely helpful in executing our goals.

4) What kind of progress has Mission: Toothbrush made towards its goals?

Kelsey: Last year, Mission: Toothbrush worked with Ward Melville Key Club to recruit more volunteers and spread awareness of our mission. Additionally, we have been in contact with other volunteer organizations from different areas around the world.

Jay: Currently we are in discussion with various key clubs and students in 5 different states who are interested in undertaking our mission. We have collected over $40k in donations, with over 5000 toothbrushes and 8000 ounces of toothpaste, all of which has been donated to promote dental hygiene around Long Island.

5) What was the most memorable moment or interaction you have had with Mission: Toothbrush?

Kelsey: My most impactful memory from working with Mission: Toothbrush occurred at a supply drive, when an elderly man expressed to us his gratitude for our efforts and spoke about how he was about to stay healthy in his youth due to organizations like ours that fought for greater access to dental care and hygiene supplies. His words allowed me to see directly the impact of our initiatives.

Jay: Certainly the most memorable moment with Mission: Toothbrush was when an individual approached us at a drive at Walmart. The man said he did not have enough to donate to us at the moment, but thanked us for our service. He also told us that local charities like ours helped him in his time of need. This really opened my eyes to the impact our community service has.

6) What is something you have learned?

Kelsey: Through my position in Mission: Toothbrush, I became familiar with the amount of work that goes into running an organization. I have dealt with a variety of tasks, from tax forms to technical issues with the website, and have also gained important experience with teamwork and delegating tasks to ensure that our nonprofit functions smoothly.

Jay: I’ve learned so much through this whole journey so far. From how to manage and run a business, to what’s the best way to ask people for donations, to even how to handle the rejection when someone inevitably doesn’t want to donate.

7) What is something you would change?

Kelsey: One way in which Mission: Toothbrush could improve is by expanding opportunities for volunteers to become involved. We recognize that dental health issues are pervasive, and hope to help active citizens across the nation to help their community members in need.

Jay: It would great to find more efficient ways to schedule. Sometimes, and I’m sure anyone who has worked with us would agree, it’s hard to make time when enough people are free to run a 3-4 hour drive, and we all wish we could do them more often.

8) Where do you see yourself in five years? What has Mission: Toothbrush done to help that?

Kelsey: In five years, I hope to continue finding ways to initiate positive change in my community. Through Mission: Toothbrush, I have been able to take an active role in community service since our accomplishments could not have been possible without the hard work of myself and my fellow board members. Engaging with the needs of my community has always been incredibly significant to me, and I hope to keep this important part of my life with me for years to come.

Jay: Mission: Toothbrush made me realize the challenges of running a business, but I also think it showed me the thrill and joy of running a business as well. It also exposed me to how rewarding community service can be. In 5 years time, I really hope I continue to do something that involves helping my community and communities around the world that also incorporates the aspects of business management I learned through Mission: Toothbrush.

9) What is the most difficult challenge you have been approached with, in this organization?

Kelsey: The most challenging aspect of running our nonprofit organization has been encouraging new members to become involved, outside of our regular volunteers. In addition to collecting donations, one of the main goals of our organization is to raise awareness of the issue, and by incorporating a large number of new volunteers, we could be able to spread this message far and wide.

Jay: Scheduling has by far been the most challenging aspect. It’s hard to get dates when enough people are free, or when there aren’t major conflicts like an SAT or ACT so that we can have enough volunteers. We continue to find new ways to make our scheduling more efficient so we can run more drives and collect more supplies.

10) If there was one thing you would like people to know about Mission: Toothbrush, what would it be?

Kelsey: Above all, Mission: Toothbrush is an avenue for students and active community members to become more familiar with the specific needs of the people around them and engage with like-minded individuals. People from a wide range of backgrounds can come together, united in their determination to effect positive change and become more involved within their communities.

Jay: People should really know that Mission: Toothbrush is extremely accessible. We’re never going to turn away someone that wants to help out with our cause, and we are always looking for new people to get on board. If anyone would like to help out with spreading oral health throughout our community and even the world, they should get in contact with myself, Kelsey, Katherine, Neil, or Preeti, and we’re always happy to bring you in!

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