Linda Haigh Director and Founder
Linda has devoted over 30 years advocating for low-income veterans and seniors. She worked at the University of Nevada, Reno for 10 years in a Senior Outreach Program where she discovered 60 low-income veterans living in subsidized housing in dire need of dental care. Linda soon discovered that the vast majority of our veterans (90%) do not qualify for dental care at the VA because the qualifications are so restrictive. This seriously unmet need for dental care became the driving force for Adopt a Vet Dental Program (AAVD) which Linda and her husband, Wayne, founded in April 2010.
Currently, AAVD has recruited 130 dental professionals who have donated over $5.6 million dollars in services and has provided dental care for over 1,160 low-income veterans in Northern Nevada. To our knowledge, there is no other program like ours in the United States that harnesses the goodwill and skills of dental professionals to help low-income veterans. AAVD received the Newman’s Own and Fisher House Award in 2014 for our innovative approach to providing dental care to low-income veterans who cannot qualify for dental care at the VA or afford to see a dentist.
This program is dedicated in memory of J.C., a veteran, who could not find affordable dental care for his decayed and abscessed teeth. He died when the infection went to his heart – he was only in his 40’s.
Jim Snyder, USMC Veteran Advocate
USMC, Veteran Advocate for the Adopt a Vet Dental Program (AAVD) is a true success story. Jim is a Marine Corps veteran and served in the 1st Marine Division in the 80’s as a grunt. He had a great job in the golf industry and worked with the California Highway Patrol raising money for the Widows and Orphans Fund. Through that volunteerism, he developed a deep understanding of the value of giving back.
Unfortunately, Jim’s job and health feel apart when he was faced with a disease that affected his teeth, jaw and nerves. He was in pain every day and his teeth were cracking so badly that most had to be removed. He battled a vicious cycle of self-medication and anger, quit his job and moved to Reno. His doctor at the VA referred him to the AAVD and he waited for treatment for 18 months. When he got the call that it was his time to receive his dental care, it was hard for him to accept that something good was about to happen. Jim also had a hard time asking for charity, as he had worked hard all his life.
Jim’s experience going through the program was an incredible one and he feels lucky to have had the care of two great volunteer dentists, Dr. Joe McElhinney and James E. Jones, DDS, MSD. His dental care was quite extensive. He received an upper denture and lower partial denture, which allowed him to smile again and gain back his self-worth. He felt so much gratitude for the care and work that was given to him that he felt he needed to give back, so he became a volunteer for AAVD. After several years of volunteering, Jim was hired by the program as a part-time veteran advocate and fundraiser, positions he’s held for the past four years.
Jim truly enjoys helping other veterans who may have a hard time asking for help and walking them through the process. He says that seeing the “before” and “after” photos of himself and the other veterans who have been helped by AAVD continue to motivate him today.
Charlotte Worthley Community Dental Manager
Charlotte Worthley is the Community Dental Manager for the Adopt a Vet Dental Program. She grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, where she worked in the dental field as an assistant and dental hygienist for 30 years. Charlotte moved to Sparks, NV in 2001 with her husband and 2 children. She worked at the Reno VA Dental Clinic from 2003 to 2009. This was her first experience working with veterans. While in this position she learned of the difficulty veterans experienced obtaining dental benefits. Charlotte learned of the Adopt A Vet Dental Program while working in a dental office that participated in the program. She started volunteering in August 2012 and continues to work with Adopt A Vet Dental Program assisting veterans in obtaining quality dental care.
Heather Borkowski Clinic Dental Manager
Heather Borkowski is the Clinic Dental Manager handling operations at the AAVD Dental Clinic. She coordinates all the important details with veterans and the AAVD team, ensuring that the clinic runs smoothly and efficiently and that the veterans receive the best of care.
Before joining AAVD, Heather was a contracted dental assistant for the Navy on Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base in Jacksonville, North Carolina and credits her experience working within the military setting as the foundation for her continued career in the dental field. During her time serving the military men and women at Camp Lejeune, she found the need to be part of a greater cause and believes that veterans deserve great, extensive care for the service they provide to our country. Upon moving to northern Nevada in 2016 Heather took a job at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center where she was in charge of running the dental clinic. After that, she also spent some time working alongside a local oral surgeon, furthering her experience in the field.
Working with veterans holds a special place in Heather’s heart. Her grandfather was a Marine stationed at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in the 1950s, where he worked on the aircraft rescue and firefighting squad. He was very proud to be a Marine and held on to all his memories of his time in service until the day he passed in July 2013.
When Heather’s not serving our veterans, she spends time with her husband and two daughters. They spend as much time outdoors as possible, enjoying Northern Nevada.
Penny Babe Program Assistant and Women’s Outreach Coordinator
Penny Babe is the Program Assistant and Women’s Outreach Coordinator. She handles all the administrative tasks of the Program. She is also the Women’s Outreach Coordinator who is actively reaching out to low income women Veterans who need dental health assistance.
Penny has devoted her life in service to both the military community and veterans. She began her career in 1980 as a Department of the Army Civilian; she was a dedicated Army wife for 18 years, served on the Army Family Support Team for many years. In 2000, she began service to Veterans as a Veterans Service Representative with the Veterans Benefits Administration in Las Vegas and then in 2002 at the Reno Regional Office. Penny has been a valued member of the Northern Nevada Veterans Community for over 18 years. During her career with the Veterans Benefits Administration, she was selected in both 2007 and 2009 to be the Military Service Officer in Germany and provided Transition Assistance Briefings to separating service members throughout Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. After retiring from the Veterans Administration in 2014, as a Supervisory Veterans Service Representative, Penny could not just retire; she became a Veterans Service Officer with the Nevada Department of Veterans Service. She was an accredited Veterans Service Officer with the State of Nevada, American Legion, and the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers. She again proudly served our Nevada Veterans for almost three years and tried again to retire. Her passion for our Veterans again, brought her back to her current position with AAVD in November 2018. Penny has come full circle, her very first work experience was as Dental Assistant, which she did for over 12 years and her almost 40 years of serving the military and veterans makes her a perfect fit for Adopt A Vet Dental Program.