Concert brings back Chilhowee galas, benefits Trinity Dental

It was a recipe for success.

The Chilhowee Club had its first large-scale fund-raising event last month, and the push behind it was due in part to a cookbook.

Dianne Cserbak, who chaired the event for Chilhowee Club, said the inspiration for the Spring Blossom Dinner came from the “Junior Chilhowee Club Cookbook.” Published from the 1950s to the 1980s, the book documented 30 years of fund raising by the Chilhowee Club.

Cserbak said that back in those decades, the club had a gala every year that would bring the community together for a worthy cause. “Every story had extravagant food, style and costumes. The community really came alive,” she said. The luncheons would cater to hundreds of people, and she said the Spring Blossom Dinner was a way of “getting back on track” and a “breaking of bread” with the community.

If there was any indication that it was an event whose time had come, it was in ticket sales. All 185 tickets were sold and the 185 patrons had to maneuver shoulder-to-shoulder to get around the Royal Oak Event Center. June Ackerman, one of the event organizers, said she was not sure how well tickets would sell at first. “We were hopeful we would sell 100 or 110, but soon after that we sold all 185. … Then we had a waiting list. We have a mob here,” she said with a laugh.

And that mob came together to support the Trinity Dental Clinic.

Trinity Dental Clinic, located on Lamar Alexander Parkway, is a nonprofit, nondenominational dentist office that provides care for lower income families and families without dental insurance. Dr. Ben Briley, Trinity clinic director, came to the dinner to express his appreciation. Briley said he was very “humbled and honored” to be there.

Ackerman said Cserbak had the vision for the event but it was Joy Bishop who picked Trinity Dental. Bishop knew of the clinic and brought it to the Chilhowee board for approval. “I admire their work and Dr. Briley so much,” Bishop said. She said Chilhowee could devote the time and the volunteers, but a fund-raiser was the right thing to do.

Trinity is in its second year of operation and had a shaky beginning. “We had no resources and no creditability,” Briley said. “Hope, prayer and faith sustained us in what we were doing for the first year.”

He said Trinity is there to fill a void in Blount County. Since it opened, Trinity has had 2,500 patients, done 3,500 tooth extractions, 300 surgeries and 33 teeth cleanings, a new procedure Trinity hopes to increase. Briley said most of the procedures cost the patient just mere dollars to complete. For example, basic tooth extraction cost $10 while surgical tooth extraction cost $15. While these costs are low, the patient fees make up 20 percent of the clinic’s budget.

“We accept patients from all over, and we have ongoing fund raising,” Briley said. All together the budget for Trinity is $12,000 a month. Most of that money goes to rent, supplies and contract custodians and secretaries.

Right now, the clinic is only open on Mondays and Tuesdays with a goal of being open half of a day on Fridays for post-op work. Briley said with fund-raisers like the one Chilhowee Club hosted, the dream might become a reality, and patients will be able to have the follow-up procedures and checkups they need after surgeries.

“We want to have a high standard of care with a limited scope of care,” he said. “We cannot be everything to everybody.”

After dinner, guests were promised entertainment from Amanda Ingram and Robert Ergenbright. A native to Maryville, Ingram has gathered international fame. She has sung with the Chicago Opera Theatre, the Sarasota Opera and the Orchestra di Guiseppe Verdi in Milan, Italy. Ergenbright, a bass baritone has performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and with opera companies in Boston, Ithaca and Knoxville.

Ingram did not, however, get to sing at the fund-raiser, because of an illness. “It is wonderful that there is a full house,” she said, in a whisper. “The town is so giving of their money and time which is why I know Tennessee is the Volunteer State.”

Ergenbright took the stage and with his deep voice he offered patriotic songs and hymns.

At the end of the night, it was clear the community had come together. Guests were mingling and talking. New relationships formed and the community of Blount County grew that night. To cap it off, a check was presented to Trinity Dental Clinic for $4,500.

There is talk of another fund-raiser next year, Cserbak said. Overall, she said the club seemed pleased with everything and hopes they can continue to offer help where it is needed in the community.

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