Craig resident Joel Sheridan stands outside the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition office at 485 Yampa Ave. Sheridan, a retired Moffat County School District assistant superintendent, volunteers with the dental coalition as well as with Moffat County United Way.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Craig resident Joel Sheridan stands outside the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition office at 485 Yampa Ave. Sheridan, a retired Moffat County School District assistant superintendent, volunteers with the dental coalition as well as with Moffat County United Way.

Former school official seeking to improve community

In 2005, Joel Sheridan noticed a problem.

“I had come in contact with a couple situations where some students were missing a lot of school, spending time in the nurse's office because of dental issues,” said Sheridan, then assistant superintendent of the Moffat County School District.

To find a solution to the dental problems he saw, Sheridan, now 63, contacted the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition, a nonprofit group that offers comprehensive dental care to area residents in need.

“I started talking to the executive director at that time, trying to learn more about what was going on,” Sheridan said. “Through those conversations I ended up being on the board (of directors).”

Sheridan’s desire to work with the coalition was simple: the agency could directly improve the quality of life for the students he was entrusted with.

“I thought there had to be a partnership between the school district and the dental coalition … because we have 2,400 students,” he said. “At that time, (the coalition’s) focus was children, and maybe our focus still is (now), but we’re not as limited.”

Since he started working with the coalition, Sheridan, who has served as acting chairman of the coalition’s board for the past three years, said the amount of service the agency can provide has increased.

“Fortunately we’ve grown,” he said. “At that time we had a van that came into the community and treated kids. Now we have a clinic and a couple of dentists.”

Janet Pearcey, the dental coalition’s executive director, said Sheridan is a big reason for that growth, especially when it comes to matters of business and planning.

“He’s been an asset to the board,” she said. “He really helps the direction of the organization to increase our outreach, our ability to serve. Because of that we are able to deliver more services to more clients.”

Despite the growth, Sheridan thinks there is more work to be done.

“There’s tremendous need for unserved and underserved people, many of which are children in our community,” he said. “Having appropriate dental care not only improves your immediate quality of life, but also would lead you to doing better in school and having a better health future.”

In 2007, Sheridan once again was called on to serve the community when the seat on the Moffat County United Way Board designated for a school district representative opened.

“Somehow I was selected to fill that position,” he said.

While some United Way board members work on the agency’s annual campaign drive, Sheridan, who was reappointed to the board as an at-large member after retiring from the school district in 2008, helps allocate the funds raised during the campaign through interviewing agencies who apply for money from the United Way and “making an assessment of their needs,” he said.

“Being one of 19 or 20 board members, there’s a lot of very important decision making,” he said. “There’s a lot of give and take on the board and there’s a lot of points of view, but we pretty well represent the community at large, and I’m just one contributing factor there.”

What sets the United Way apart from other organizations that seek donations is that the money raised in Moffat County stays in Moffat County, Sheridan said.

“It’s an organization that you can donate to and be assured that people you know in the community are making decisions on where that money goes,” he said.

Although Sheridan has no plans to curb his volunteer work, he hopes more people get involved.

“If we all contributed some, then we could improve the quality of life (in the community) without some people just getting burned out,” he said.

“I just wish people would step up and give it a shot, because there are a lot of people in this community that volunteer in a lot of different ways. There’s a lot more that still could.”

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