by: Natalie Pasquarella Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Cold weather didn’t stop five people from lining up extra early outside the Charlotte Convention Center to get into a dental clinic that will open Friday.
"I feel like if the doctors are willing to do it free, then I should be willing to wait," said Katha Lee.
Lee plans to wait overnight to get free dental care at the clinic organized by North Carolina Missions of Mercy.
"I think it's really important because there's so many people that don't even have any insurance at all, and can't afford to get the work that they need to be done,” Lee said.
Leah Vancuren is also waiting.
"It means the world,” Vancuren said.
She doesn't have insurance either and said she appreciates how the dentists treat her.
"They are so fantastic with you. They don't make you feel like you're a charity case. So, you humble yourself,” Vancuren said.
Crews were busy setting up Thursday for the thousands expected on Friday. Last year, they helped 2,200 people and performed $1.1 million worth of dental work.
"To be able to help people of this magnitude is wonderful,” said Dr. Bill Blaylock.
Blaylock said dentists will do fillings, cleanings, extractions and, new this year, crowns and partial dentures.
"We see people coming in with tears of pain all the time, and leaving with tears of joy, but it's such a heartwarming gift to us," Blaylock said.
Those already waiting know they have a long night ahead, but say it's worth it.
"It means I get a pretty smile again, and that's what my goal is, I would like to have a pretty smile again,” Vancuren said.