Beverly Holman had no sooner settled in her kids after a move from Chicago when she faced a challenge.
The 28-year-old discovered one of her young daughters had an abscess on a tooth.
Holman took her to several dentists but was turned away at each stop because she had no dental insurance.
That's when a school nurse recommended the Children's Dental Clinic.
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"She set me up to come to the clinic and told me about what they do," Holman said.
"It was a blessing for the state to have somewhere like this for us to go."
Marking its 50th anniversary this year, Children's Dental Clinic was established in 1959 as a unit of the Crippled Children's Association.
The clinic, now with two Midlands locations, offers free dental services to Richland and Lexington county public school students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch - a traditional indicator of poverty - and who do not have Medicaid or any type of dental insurance.
In the 2008-09 school year, 1,572 children were served by both clinics.
Unlike many clinics nationwide, the Children's Dental Clinic offers regular hours that patients can count on.
"Any time a family is struggling, you have to prioritize what you're going to do with the income that you have," said clinic director Diane Bouknight. "Lots of times, medical and dental issues are not a priority.
"I think we've been able to help families that have wanted to save their children's teeth but didn't know how they were going to do it."
DHEC provides funding for the clinics' office spaces, which are in the Richland and Lexington county health department buildings.
Money for the dental supplies and equipment is supplied by the United Way of the Midlands.
Having schools involved is a plus, too, Bouknight said.
"It's a pretty unique partnership with our volunteers and the schools. School nurses know that they have a place to refer kids when they come to them with a toothache.
"It's a great partnership for the community."
The clinics operate using a 200-plus volunteer staff, including dentists and hygienists - most of whom close their own practices for all or part of the day to offer their services at the clinic.
Those volunteers - 18 of whom have been volunteering since the doors first opened in 1959 - provide cleanings, X-rays and minor dental procedures, such as fillings.
Dr. Polly Paton, who has volunteered for 20 years, said giving her time not only benefits the children but the dentists as well.
"The kids are great, and you feel great because you are doing something for someone else," she said.
Like many of the dentists at the clinic, Paton volunteers three to four times a year and brings her hygienists with her.
But helping out at the Children's Dental Clinic is not just limited to those in the dental profession.
"People who aren't in the dental profession but want to help can certainly make monetary contributions to our agency at the Family Service Center of South Carolina," Bouknight said. "We can also use books and toys for our children to look at and play with while they're in the waiting room."
For Bouknight - a dental assistant herself who has been volunteering for 30 years - said the clinic generates a community feel that strengthens the bond between the volunteers and keeps the program going.
"One of the exciting things for me is to work with 14 second-generation volunteers. Dentists are coming back and volunteering just like their parents did and finding a way to give back to the community," Bouknight said. "That's just unreal."
For Holman and her three children, the dental care they receive is as real as it gets.
"If anyone is wondering if this dental clinic or these services are worth it, they are," Holman said. "It's a great, great thing to have for these kids."