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‘Pay It Forward’ Dinner: Comfort Food From a Caring Community

Dental hygiene students made their annual visit Saturday to Williamsport’s Christ Episcopal Church, where they prepared a free dinner for the community.

Known in the Dental Hygiene program as the “Pay It Forward” dinner, what began as a class project for students in Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Community Dental Health course has evolved into a volunteer experience open to all second-year dental hygiene students, arranged by faculty member Barbara K. Emert-Baldwin. Seven dental hygiene students were joined in the effort by culinary arts and systems student Scott L. Neff (one of Emert-Baldwin’s two sons who helped) and Paige E. Monk, a student in applied health studies: occupational therapy assistant concentration.

The volunteers pause for a photo.
The volunteers pause for a photo.
Students Cassandra B. Mohr, left, and her roommate Paige E. Monk, handle pans of meatloaf.
Students Cassandra B. Mohr, left, and her roommate Paige E. Monk, handle pans of meatloaf.

The group spent the afternoon preparing a hearty meal of meatloaf, scalloped potatoes and other sides. When guests arrived, the students worked both the kitchen and the dining room, waiting on guests and sitting down to enjoy their company.

“It’s the individuals’ day to be here and be taken care of,” Emert-Baldwin said.

Totaled, the Penn College group served 222 meals, comprising 42 pounds of meatloaf, 32 pounds of scalloped potatoes, 18 pounds of coleslaw, eight large boxes of Jell-O with fruit, eight loaves of bread, several dozen cookies and three boxes of cake.

“We decided to come and serve the community and show them that there are people who care about them,” said Angela J. Sharer, a student in dental hygiene: health policy and administration concentration.

Amy B. Fasnacht and Angela J. Sharer take on dish-washing duties.
Amy B. Fasnacht and Angela J. Sharer take on dish-washing duties.

The church offers a free meal for the community on the first Saturday of each month. Since the dental hygiene program began providing one of the monthly meals, other Penn College groups have also gotten involved.

“It makes you more grateful for what you have, and it makes you more appreciative of what opportunities you have,” said dental hygiene student Jena M. Albon.

True to the original learning experience, the dental hygiene students brought free toothbrushes and toothpaste and fielded questions about dentistry.

“There’s no better feeling than giving back,” said Amy B. Fasnacht, a student in dental hygiene: health policy and administration concentration.

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