RUMFORD — A 90-minute meeting Thursday afternoon at Rumford Hospital galvanized about 30 community leaders and River Valley residents to start fundraising efforts to retain the Community Dental Health Center in town.

They need to raise between $20,000 and $30,000, Lisa Kavanaugh, Community Dental chief executive officer, said at the community stakeholder meeting.

They also need to attract more patients to be sustainable, she said.

“We don’t want to lose Rumford, because there is a need here,” Kavanaugh said.

Their current crisis came to a head on July 2 when high winds from severe thunderstorms ripped off 30 percent of the roofing atop the River Valley Technology Center where the dental office is located. Water poured in from the storm and heavily damaged the office. The dental office, which opened in December 2008, has been closed since then.

Kavanaugh said that until July 2, they had 2,300 active patients.

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“Since we’ve been out for over two months and losing money in operations, we need to support the center financially to offset costs for providing our services at a reduced fee,” she said.

The River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition convened the meeting with Kavanaugh and Kathy Gregory to gauge community support for sustaining Community Dental’s reopening. Gregory manages the Rumford dental health center and does community outreach for Community Dental, which is based in Falmouth.

The nonprofit organization also has dental health centers in Farmington, Lewiston, Biddeford and Portland.

Kavanaugh told the group that she was glad to see there are so many people vested in this community.

Community Dental’s Board of Directors are to make a decision at its meeting on Sept. 19 to either reopen the Rumford center, downsize or close it.

Since July 2, they’ve had to wait and see what their insurance provider would cover. In the meantime, Kavanaugh said she and Gregory have been trying to ascertain whether the River Valley community wanted the dental health center and was willing to do whatever it took to retain it.

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“We need to show our board that we have the support necessary to raise the funds,” Kavanaugh said.

To kick-start the fundraising campaign, David Frum, president of Rumford Hospital, said the hospital is pledging $7,500 annually for three years.

Rich Allen, who is on the Technology Center’s Board of Directors and employed by Franklin Savings Bank in Rumford, said he would check with bank officials to see it the bank could offer help as well.

“In the six years, it hasn’t been always bad, has it?” Allen asked Kavanaugh, about keeping the Rumford dental center in the black.

“It’s always been bad,” she said. “We’ve been unable to break even, but we’re losing a modest amount of money and another center can offset that. If we can attract more patients in time, we can be sustainable.”

She said that only 60 percent of people with private dental insurance use Community Dental. They’re also seeing problems with their dental health center in Lewiston.

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“Our first quarter results in Rumford were horrendous,” Kavanaugh said. “We lost $37,000 and not being open since July 2 hasn’t helped.”

Rumford Selectmen Chairman Greg Buccina said the town via selectmen could help with economic development funds to provide low-interest revolving loans or other assistance. However, Kavanaugh said they are not interested in incurring any more debt.

Still, Buccina said he is “semi-confident” that selectmen would be willing to find a way to help retain the center.

“So we have eight days to come up with $20,000,” Bob Stickney of Rumford said of the time remaining before Community Dental’s board meeting on Sept. 19. When that was met with raised eyebrows, Stickney said, “Look what we did with Black Mountain last year.”

Patricia Duguay, executive director of River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition, said she believes there is enough support in the area to raise the needed funding within five weeks.

“Out of crisis, comes opportunity,” Kavanaugh said in closing. “This has been heartening.”

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“We need this dental center in Rumford,” Pam Kaubris of Rumford said. She is a patient. “It would be a huge loss to this community if this wasn’t here. I love Community Dental.

“I love having it right in town, and I want to support it, and I hope it stays in our community,” Kaubris said.

Jolene Lovejoy of Rumford agreed with Kaubris. She didn’t want to lose it either, saying she would be very upset if she had to find another dentist.

After the meeting, Gregory summed up the outpouring of support, saying, “This was good. It was so heartening to hear.”

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