Adopt-A-Grandparent Day Celebrates 31 Years; Peaches Manning Honored

Grandparents Day luncheon

Dental students shared lunch with their “adopted grandparents” at the 31st annual Adopt-A-Grandparent luncheon.

This year, the Wilda Seibert Adopt-A-Grandparent Day at Meharry’s School of Dentistry celebrated 31 years of providing dental care to low income seniors. The program, held Friday, April 10, 2015, has given dental screenings and free dentures to more than 3,000 "grandparents" since it was founded in 1984 by Wilda Seibert—at the time, a professor of dental hygiene at Meharry.

According to James E. Tyus, D.D.S., associate dean and professor, clinical affairs at Meharry's School of Dentistry, there were 29 participants who attended when the program held its first event. This year, dentistry students welcomed over 100.

Seibert stated that many participants are in pain and cannot afford dental care, so the program provides oral health care, free of charge. "It has been a success because we had good recruiters and grandparents that were...very appreciative that they could relieve themselves of pain," said Seibert.

"Adopt-A-Grandparent Day is the celebration we have annually to celebrate [participants] and provide dinner and presentations...in conjunction with the Metro Development and Housing Agency,” said Tyus. “They've been our partner for a long time."

The students who participate in the program are third- and fourth-year dental students. They are each paired with a grandparent and become their dentist for the day. After a luncheon given in the grandparents’ honor, students perform dental work for their adopted grandparents along with following up with their care. Dr. Tyus said of the relationship, "That student becomes their grandchild, so to speak, as they render service. We're blessed to be able to provide this service for them."

This year's program was dedicated to the late Peaches Manning, resident coordinator for the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA), who died January 3, 2015. Manning was instrumental in securing individuals from the MDHA communities to come and be a part of the Adopt-A-Grandparent program. She was honored during the ceremony and a plaque was presented to her family.

Peaches Manning family

Members of the family of the late Peaches Manning, the resident area Metro Development and Housing coordinator who brought seniors citywide from housing developments into the Adopt-A-Grandparent program. Left to right, Meharry School of Dentistry dean, Dr. Cherae Farmer-Dixon, Lamont Marshall, Deborah Marshall, Earnestine Swafford, Evan Swafford, Sharita Smith and Dr. James Tyus, associate dean and professor, clinical affairs, at the School of Dentistry.

Gwendolyn Davis, an adopted grandparent attended by third-year dental student, Shonteral L. Ward, said she learned of the program through a church member who works with American Association of Retired Persons, Inc. "I've had dentures about three years and I knew that they needed to be checked,” she said.

Adopted grandparent, Lydia Ford, attended by third-year student, Sydney Williams, said the program is a huge blessing to her. "I haven't been able to smile for years... 'cause I lost a tooth," Ford said. "This was a wonderful thing for me. I can get that big smile."

For the student/adopted grandkids, the reward is the reason for participating. Ward said her participation in the program reminds her of all the reasons why she chose to be a dentist.  "It was an honor and a privilege to be a part of a program that solidifies Meharry's mission to serve the underserved," she said. Williams acknowledged that the program is a way to give thanks to the seniors in her community stating, "It's a blessing to give back and bring others happiness.”

Adopt-A-Grandparent is made possible by a grant from the Kendall Fund Foundation, a part of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). UMCOR's mission is to alleviate human suffering with open minds to all religions and open hearts to all people.

For more information, contact the clinical affairs department in Meharry Medical College’s School of Dentistry, 615.327.6605.