PACS Holds Grand Opening for New Dental Clinic

September 10, 2019 | Health | Steve Vistaunet

After years of preparation and prayer, Portland Adventist Community Services (PACS) held the official ribbon cutting for its new dental program, the Gateway Grace Clinic, on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019.

Robert Stafford, dentist and dental services director, and Carol James, clinic manager, plied the ceremonial scissors, while an appreciative crowd applauded the historic moment on a rainy Monday.

The initial patients will receive care by John Ritacca, dentist, assisted by his wife, Sharilyn, dental hygienist. Ritacca is volunteering his services through September.

Jonathan Russell, PACS board chairperson, says this new effort is an outgrowth of the organization’s longtime mission. “As long as we’ve existed,” he says, “our passion has been to minister just as Jesus did — to meet the felt needs of the people in our community while we build relationships.”

Dental care is indeed a difficult need to fill for those often referred to as the “working poor.” Stafford says this includes individuals and families who earn too much to qualify for the Oregon Health Plan but not enough to afford private dental insurance. The Gateway Grace Clinic will focus on this important segment, providing ongoing care for each patient who meets the basic parameters. Fees will be set at $25 per hour to see a dentist and $15 an hour for dental hygiene work. Initially, the clinic will be open for patients two days a week, expanding as funds and staffing becomes available.

“We are paying for a core team to be on-site,” says Stafford. “Our clinic manager, receptionist and a hygienist will be paid to provide any incoming dentist with not only the proper equipment and supplies, but also a consistent support group.”

The clinic is housed in a former residence behind the main PACS facilities. When the location first became available several years ago, PACS leadership initially planned to move their medical services there. But, with the changing tapestry of medical care, they realized that dental care was fast becoming the main area of need. Clinic renovation was quickly altered to accommodate a dental facility. The new space features treatment rooms, offices, work space and a waiting/reception area.

In addition to dental services, the clinic’s dream, says Stafford, is to eventually add vision care and also social services to help patients fill other critical needs in their lives.

Russell acknowledges the project is a venture of faith, along with a clear need for the community to rally around the new services. The clinic depends on donations, not only to help cover additional equipment and operational needs to date of about $50,000 but also ongoing expenses. Dentists with a heart and ability to give some of their valuable time and expertise are needed to fill the two-days-a-week schedule after the Ritaccas finish their stint at the end of September. “We are earnestly looking for people who believe in this project and are ready to help it make a difference in the community,” says Russell.

Carol James, clinic manager, says faith has been a cornerstone of the project. “Time and time again during this project,” she says, “we came up against challenges that caused us to ask God, ‘Well, what do You want to see done here.’ And every time, He would just bust right through those barriers. We have a beautiful clinic thanks to Him.”

The Gateway Grace Clinic will continue to be a journey of faith for the PACS staff and community volunteers. God’s blessings have brought it this far, and they will be evident for every patient who enters the clinic doors. During initial space renovation, the PACS staff and community volunteers wrote inspiring words and Bible verses on the drywall as they dedicated the project to God. One such verse says simply, “You will be blessed when you come in and when you go out” (Deut. 28:6). That will continue to be the hope and the promise of this prayerful project.

There are a number of specific needs at the clinic for interested donors. Call PACS at 503-252-8500 or go online at