Donors come through for dental coalition

The Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition has raised the money needed to pay off the debt it was left with after an alleged embezzlement scandal rocked the organization in late March.

The coalition set a goal of $15,000 to pay off outstanding bills left after former executive director, Robin McKenzie, was arrested on charges of theft March 27. One week after beginning a media fund drive, the coalition has raised the necessary funds.

Dental coalition executive director Debi Garoutte has been heard daily on the 93.3 KRAI FM radio station morning show since April 30. After going off the air this morning, the fund-raiser had successfully raised the $15,000 needed to pay off back taxes, bills and a loan from the Bank of Colorado that covered an improper wire transfer McKenzie allegedly initiated just before being arrested.

The ideal goal was to have the money raised in one week, said Cheryl Ivy, co-president of the coalition board.

"When Deb and I first talked about (the fund-raising), we knew if it was going to work it would happen in about a week," Ivy said. "And then we raised the majority of the money in three days, which really surprised me."

Another cause of excitement about the Save the Coalition fund-raiser for Ivy was the large spectrum of donors that came forward.

"We saw quite a diversity of people donating, especially with the challenges (on the KRAI radio station)," she said. "We had housekeepers, landowners, law enforcement, restaurants just so many different kinds of people.

"The biggest surprise to me is that people are having a good time while giving, which is really neat."

The fund drive saw businesses challenging other businesses and children donating their lunch money to the cause.

The coalition board has itself donated $800, Ivy said.

The money has been raised in all three counties the coalition serves Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties. The Bank of Rangely and the county nurse station in Meeker have been collecting donations for Rio Blanco County, Ivy said.

The Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition was created in 1997 as a program of the Visiting Nurse Association office in Craig and became an independent non-profit organization in 2000. The dental coalition acts as a clearinghouse for dental care for children and their families who can't afford dental insurance or services and aren't eligible for other types of public aid.

The dental coalition is an organization that needs to be saved because of the importance of its work, donor Lynn Nichols said.

"I know what it's like to need something you can't afford, and there are so many problems that can be caused by severe dental problems," she said. "Kids shouldn't have to suffer like that."

Nichols is an emergency medical technician and works in the purchasing department of The Memorial Hospital.

"It's always good to see people support things like (the coalition) and save it from being destroyed," Nichols said. "Our local kids need to come first."

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