Every bite of food and each spoken word was painful for the 86-year-old Freeport woman, who in recent years has eaten only soup and purees. She was a devout member of the Refuge Apostolic Church, but her faith in God could not shield her from the hardships of old age and poverty, but it could, according to her pastor, inspire acts of charity in others.
That was what happened last year when Oceanside dentist Dr. Alan Schwartz, in partnership with Donated Dental Services, a national charity organization, decided he would restore Beeks’s teeth. DDS puts willing dentists and oral surgeons in contact with patients who cannot afford essential dental procedures.
“She’s a nice woman,” Schwartz said of his patient, who for the past year has had to undergo a grueling series of surgeries to extract the shattered remnants of her teeth, before anything else could be done. Two weeks ago, Schwartz received the delivery that he and Beeks were waiting for: a new set of custom-made dentures. The casting and fitting of the teeth normally costs $5,000, according to Schwartz, but it was free for Beeks.
“I smile now,” she said while sitting in the Davison Avenue office, with the Southern twang of an Alabama native. Beeks noted that although she is still getting used to the dentures and has some pain, she has been transformed. “She looks totally different,” Schwartz said. “It’s like night and day.”
A “mother” at Refuge Apostolic, Beeks forms part of the rock-solid foundation of the institution, her pastor, the Rev. Dr. Phyllis Carter, said. “Everyone looks up to and respects her very highly,” she said, adding that Beeks remains positive and faithful to God, despite her medical issues. “She’s one of our best.”
Beeks said she has never missed a Sunday. “I’m there from 9 to 9,” she said of her weekly ritual. Although she has relied on the charity of others since her retirement as a caretaker in 2008, she said that support has waned in recent years.
She spoke of two families who had given her monthly payments. “They died,” she said, looking off into the distance.
Despite her difficulties, she regularly invites neighbors to her house for dinner, she said, and noted that the people at her church encouraged her to seek a way to get her teeth fixed.
Beeks’s daughter signed her up for the DDS network, and Schwartz met with her after being notified by the organization about her situation. The two hit it off, and soon Schwartz was planning her dental revitalization.
Faith in God, Carter said, was what allowed Beeks to endure despite such hardship, and what led Schwartz to help. “It was faith that someone would donate,” she said. “The fact that the teeth did not have to be paid for. It was her strong faith in God that allowed it.”