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Kindness brings a smile
The smell of sizzling onions wafts through the air as Kevin Gilchrist sinks his chompers into one of Sizzlin Shamrock’s fully-loaded hot dogs.
It’s a bite Gilchrist has been anticipating for some time now and it wouldn’t have been possible months ago when the Fauquier resident had no teeth.
Allergic to fluoride, Gilchrist had to have all his teeth removed due to rot, and did not have enough money to replace them with dentures.
As he resides outside the region, he was unable to receive help from Vernon’s Community Dental Access Centre, as it is only able to service residents of the North Okanagan, so he had to come up with a way to raise the $1,100 for a set of new teeth himself.
“I didn’t know what to do. I was having problems eating,” said Gilchrist, adding the government could only provide half the money needed for the dentures. “With people on low income, how the hell am I to pay for them and eat?”
The loss of Gilchrist’s teeth also affected his employment. A former street performer in Nelson, Gilchrist was a lip syncing champion and also used to have a street cart, selling pop and ice cream. He has a newspaper clipping from the former Nelson Daily News showing him performing on the city’s famed Baker Street.
“I have been out of business for three years now dealing with medical issues,” he said.
It was around that time that he started coming to Vernon to collect bottles, which he turns in to the local depot.
“I like doing it. It’s an addiction. I like picking up things along the way,” he said.
It was through his collecting that Gilchrist met Vernon food vendors Shannon and Dave Braybrook, who run Sizzlin Shamrock Gourmet Hotdogs in front of Fisher’s Hardware.
“We live in a neighbourhood where people need help. We have a soft spot for people here,” said Dave. “Kevin is a trustworthy guy and he is always helpful, willing to assist with any odd jobs we may have.”
With the Braybrooks helping, other downtown businesses, including K-9 Grooming and the Mug ‘n Muffin, also donated to Gilchrist’s cause, while the Upper Room Mission provided support.
“I even had kids helping me with the empties. Every four days, these boys would bring me their empties, saying ‘we want to see you smile.’ I never asked for money, just for empties,” said Gilchrist, who has been overwhelmed with the community’s generosity.
“Everyone was so helpful. I had people on the street offer me a ride with all my bags. The guy who has the contract to clean up at Funtastic knew who I was and let me collect what I needed. A kind lady donated $120. I never knew this was going to happen.”
Gilchrist is hardly recognizable now, with his new set of teeth. He also recently shaved off his beard and is getting ready for a hernia operation, which has been long in coming.
“It’s amazing what you miss... I have really been enjoying my salads,” he said. “People have wondered why I look so good. It’s because I have teeth.”
Besides a resounding thank you to the community, and a reminder for everyone to take care of their teeth, Gilchrist also has another message from his ordeal.
“Don’t be afraid to deal with or offer help to street people. Give your empties to them and also help the Upper Room Mission,” he said.