Nightly News | August 12, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: And here's a sign of these hard times. A crowd of 4,000 people came to get dental care for free today at a church in a suburb of Atlanta , 4,000 of them. Many of those who waited in line for hours to be seen by a dentist are people who said they never imagined it would be them in this circumstance, or that it would come to this. Our report tonight from NBC 's Mark Potter .
MARK POTTER reporting: The line to the clinic stretched around the block, with more than 1,000 people already there when the doors opened at 5 AM .
Unidentified Woman: You're going to be in good hands.
POTTER: With 200 dentists and 1300 other volunteers, this free clinic north of Atlanta is sponsored by the Georgia Dental Association , caring for those who can't pay.
Dr. KAREN STOCKWELL (Georgia Dental Association): They're getting fillings, root canals, extractions.
POTTER: Among the chronically poor and their families are some new faces in line. For 15 years, before she lost her job as an administrative assistant, Karen Spiers had dental insurance but now cannot afford care.
Ms. KAREN SPIERS (Patient): Never, never anticipated it. And then my mother got sick and had to care for her while, you know, she was in hospice. And it's just -- just, you know, could not get, you know, a job.
POTTER: Clinic organizers say they're seeing many jobless people now who could afford private dentists a year ago.
Dr. JONATHAN DUBIN (Georgia Dental Association): A lot of these patients were our patients last year. They've lost their jobs, they've lost their benefits.
POTTER: The demand for this clinic is so great that after the first 1400 patients were admitted today, another thousand were given these yellow ID bracelets and were told to come back tomorrow.
Ms. SHEILA PHILLIPS: We have faith.
POTTER: Among those told to return is Sheila Phillips who had a 30-year sales career before losing a job at IBM two weeks ago. Now she struggles.
Ms. PHILLIPS: It doesn't says anything about me. It says something about our state of our economy.
POTTER: An economy where for many even basic care is now a luxury. Mark Potter , NBC News, Woodstock, Georgia.