Project YouthBuild hosting UF Community Dentistry Saving Smiles Clinic

Press release from Project YouthBuild

Project YouthBuild will be hosting the UF Community Dentistry Saving Smiles Clinic January 31 through February 3 at the Dr. Banks & Dr. Cosby Youth Empowerment Center. Young people who attend Project YouthBuild along with their children will have the opportunity to access free dental exams and treatment. Services at the clinic will include dental exams and oral hygiene education, sealants and fluoride varnish, as well as tooth extractions and fillings.

Untreated dental problems can cause a number of issues, including pain and infection. For young people and children, it can result in missed school days and lower classroom performance. “Project YouthBuild is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with UF’s Saving Smiles Clinic,” said Jonathan Leslie, Project YouthBuild Executive Director. “There is a shortage of accessible, affordable dental care in our community, and we all know that poor dental health can have far-reaching health consequences that can negatively impact learning and overall quality of life. We hope this is the first of many Saving Smiles Clinics we will be able to host.”

Project YouthBuild’s campus is located at 635 NW 6th Street, the former site of Dr. Banks’s and Dr. Cosby’s individual private practices. Dr. Banks was a physician and Dr. Cosby was a dentist, and they worked together providing medical and dental services from the late 1950s until Dr. Banks retired and closed his practice. Dr. Cosby maintained his practice until he passed away in 2004; he was 83 years old. The building was used for several years by the City Police Department. In 2018, Project YouthBuild worked with the City of Gainesville to create the Dr. Banks & Dr. Cosby Youth Empowerment Center.

“Dr. Banks and Dr. Cosby were not only incredible doctors, they were community leaders who went above and beyond to help improve the lives of others,” said Leslie. “We use their example to help guide our work at Project YouthBuild as we strive to help our community.”

Project YouthBuild’s goal for this program is to provide accessible and affordable dental care to those who need it and to recognize and honor the work and legacy of Dr. Cosby. Dr. Cosby was known for his many contributions to the Gainesville community and was considered by friends and colleagues to be a man of great civic and personal responsibility. Prior to opening his practice in Gainesville, Dr. Cosby served as a captain in the U.S. Army Dental Corps in World War II. He held appointments from 1958 to 1993 at Alachua General Hospital, North Florida Regional Medical Center, and Shands at the University of Florida. Dr. Cosby served as an adjunct professor in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of Florida Dental School for more than 10 Years. He was the first black dentist to serve on the State of Florida Board of Dentistry. Dr. Cosby participated in countless community service activities throughout his lifetime.

Now, 18 years since Dr. Cosby’s passing, dental services are again being provided to those who need them in his honor. “This definitely is a wonderful way to honor our father, Dr. Cosby, and serve the community. This would make him smile,” said Dr. Leslie Carolyn Cosby Edwards, daughter of Dr. Cosby.

Established in 2009 and funded through a grant directly from the U.S. Department of Labor, Project YouthBuild is a 9-month educational, occupational, pre-apprenticeship, and leadership program for young people ages 16 – 24 who have a low income and have dropped out of school. While enrolled in Project YouthBuild young people have the opportunity to earn their high school diploma, nationally recognized construction and healthcare credentials, and an education award to be used for post-secondary education or trade school. Young people have the opportunity to participate in a rigorous leadership program helping prepare them for civic engagement and employment. Lastly, young people spend nearly half of their time completing hands on training renovating affordable housing in the local community.