Through United Way Nurse’s Pantry, Benco Family Foundation provides dental supplies to PA students

The Benco Family Foundation, the charitable division of the nation’s largest independently owned dental distributor Benco Dental, collaborated this school year with the United Way of Wyoming Valley to support its Nurse’s Pantry Program in Northeast Pennsylvania. Nurses in the Wilkes-Barre and Pittston area school districts received oral health kits to help support students’ dental hygiene.

“The nurse’s pantry is a simple concept but it is immediately impactful. Children will miss less school and they will do better.”

Bill Jones, president and CEO of the United Way of Wyoming Valley discussing the Nurse’s Pantry Program in a 2018 The Citizens’ Voice report.

In 2018, the United Way of Wyoming Valley was named the winner of a $25,000 grant from the Luzerne Foundation’s Millennium Circle Fund to expand a nurse’s pantry into more area schools, according to a report in The Citizens’ Voice. At that time the pantry expanded from five elementary schools in the Wilkes-Barre to 13 elementary schools in four other school districts: Hanover Area, Nanticoke, Pittston Area and Wyoming Valley West.

In the same article, Jones shared a few heartbreaking instances that demonstrated the need for the nurse’s pantry.

“Last year, a young boy missed four days of school because he split his pants. It was the only pair of pants he owned. Another child and his sibling had a more serious issue: head lice …. The kids ( who missed 10 consecutive days of school) still had lice because the family could not afford the medicated shampoo the school nurse instructed them to get. Think about the lives of those children for those two weeks and all the schooling that was missed all over $18.” 

Bill Jones, president and CEO of the United Way of Wyoming Valley said in 2018 report in The Citizens’ Voice.

In 2019, the Benco Family Foundation donated 300 toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss to each of the five Wilkes-Barre elementary school nurse’s pantries and 300 kits to one elementary school in Pittston, according to Rebecca Binder, the Foundation’s Executive Director.

Supplies are given out at the nurses discretion to children and families in need of dental supplies. 

Altogether, the donation will benefit over 5,000 students, according to the United Way of Wyoming Valley.

A screenshot from the United Way’s annual Nurse’s Pantry campaign video shows the care that nurses provide young students. Local schools will have dental supplies for students who need them most, courtesy of Benco Dental and the United Way of Wyoming Valley.

“Access to dental items is important because poor dental hygiene in a child can lead to tooth decay, which can progress into other medical issues. If a young child is in pain due to a dental issue, it’s difficult for them to focus and learn in school, which can lead them to fall behind in class and becoming discouraged because they aren’t doing well.”

Kathy Bozinski, Director of Marketing and Communications at the United Way of Wyoming Valley

If not reminded about the importance of oral health, children can neglect healthy habits like brushing after every meal and flossing once per day. Donated kits provide an essential benefit to Luzerne County’s 34,679 low-income families whose children may not have consistent access to dental hygiene.

The donation aims to curb the effects of tooth decay, a disease that on a national level affects 20 percent of children aged 5 to 11 years old, and 13 percent of children aged 12 to 19 years of age, according to the Center for Disease Control.

“The items provided by Benco Dental to United Way of Wyoming Valley’s Nurse’s Pantry will have a great impact on the dental health of students and hopefully, keep them on track for learning success.”

Kathy Bozinski, Director of Marketing and Communications at the United Way of Wyoming Valley

Bozinski confirmed the Luzerne County schools that received oral health kit donations from the Benco Family Foundation:

Wilkes-Barre Area School District ⁠— Kistler Elementary; Dan Flood Elementary; Leo E. Solomon-Plains Elementary; Heights M.L. Murray Elementary.

Pittston Area School District ⁠— Martin F. Quinn Primary Center; Pittston Area Intermediate Center; Pittston Area Middle School.

The Benco Family Foundation, in partnership with the United Way of Wyoming Valley, is dedicated to improving the dental health and quality of life in its local communities, regionally, and around the world.

How is the Benco Family Foundation helping regionally?

Learn more about how the Benco Family Foundation supports changing lives with its Buy One, Give One Program here.