New toothbrushes giving orphans reason to smile

Below is an article from the Asbury Park Press about one of my students:
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APP March 25, 2008 photo

Melanie Lauro of Manalapan has grown up hearing her mom extol the virtues of good oral hygiene … so much so that she sometimes got tired of the spiel.

It didn’t help matters much that her mother, Stacie, is a dental hygienist, the 16-year-old jokes. But today Melanie, who wore braces, says she’s thankful for the motherly tooth wisdom on flossing, brushing two to three times a day, and making regular appointments with the orthodontist.

“When you’re little, you don’t really feel like brushing your teeth all the time, but it’s good that I did, because now my teeth are nice,” said the Manalapan High School sophomore, who’s proud of her great smile.

She’s hoping to share that smile with those in need through her charitable endeavor, a toothbrush drive she dubbed A Brush with Greatness.

Melanie began collecting toothbrushes last year after learning that children at General Israel Orphans Home for Girls in Jerusalem could use them.

Why toothbrushes? Big things come in surprisingly small packages, Stacie Lauro said.

“A toothbrush is a little thing, but it’s powerful, it helps your mouth, it helps your whole body,” Stacie Lauro said, pointing to studies that indicate oral health and the health of other organs are linked. “There’s a whole mouth-body relationship.”

“Because my mom is a dental hygienist, I knew I was really fortunate to get proper dental care,” said Melanie, who collected about 200 brushes this year. “I realized there were people who don’t have the same opportunity and I thought it would be a good thing to do.”

And yes, they’re brand new, Stacie added with a laugh.

The mom-and-daughter duo, led by Melanie, contacted area dentists through a mail campaign to get donations. They collected about 400 toothbrushes last year and are hoping to step up their efforts to collect more in the years to come.

The Lauros have made a family affair out of helping those without families. Melanie’s sisters, 12-year-old twins Courtney and Chelsea, said they’re hoping the project is kept alive.

“It’s a great thing she is doing,” Courtney said of Melanie. “I want to take over when I’m in high school. It’s a nice thing to do and it will make me feel good knowing I helped somebody.”

“Hopefully, when they graduate (from high school) we can pass the torch to someone else,” Stacie Lauro said.

Orphanage director Miriam Sloman said the dental donations are appreciated.

“(The Lauros’) gift will emphasize the need for (the orphans) to take good care of their teeth each day and make them very happy to know that there are people who, although far away, are thinking of them,” Sloman said in an e-mail.

Dr. Leslie-Ann Furie, who has a periodontal practice in Manalapan with her husband, Gary Penner, is among area dentists who have donated to the cause. Furie said learning about Melanie’s work was a breath of fresh air, and she hopes to do even more to keep smiles on the faces of orphanage children.

“I was so proud of them (the Lauros),” Furie said. “We’re all in this together in life. I wrote an e-mail to the orphanage directly and asked, “What else do you need? Shampoo, clothing, notebooks, what could make life easier?’‚”

“Toothbrushes to me is just the start, just the tip of the iceberg,” Furie said. “I wanted to shock the girl who made this effort and show her, “Look what response you can get.’‚”

Melaine Lauro, 16, of Manalapan (right) and her mother, Stacie left, collected two hundred toothbrushes and dental supplies to benefit a girls orphanage in Israel. Frank Galipo/Special to the Press

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