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Mayor donates to soldiers

Date: 6/6/2007

By Katelyn Gendron-List, Staff Writer

AGAWAM In an effort to give back to the United States soldiers serving in Iraq, Mayor Richard Cohen, in conjunction with the Department of Veterans' Services, and even his own father's dental office, have worked to donate over 700 toothbrushes and 300 tubes of toothpaste to the soldiers.

"This is just a small gesture of appreciation for those giving us the ability to live free," Cohen said. "I thank every veteran, past, present, and future."

Having grown up with a father and grandfather for dentists, the magnitude of oral hygiene was never overlooked, according to Cohen.

"I grew up in a dental office," Cohen said. "I was always listening to my father and how important it was for the troops to have toothbrushes and toothpaste because he is a veteran himself."

Cohen's father, Dr. Phillip Cohen, DDS, served in the United States Army, Infantry Division during World War II, and went on to serve in the Air Force during the Korean War.

"As a veteran, it was my civic duty to help," said Dr. Cohen. "I think that they're under lots of duress over there [in Iraq] and they need all of the help they can get."

Along with his father, the Mayor worked with Lucy Discenza, a dental assistant at his father's dental office in Springfield to coordinate donations from various toothbrush and toothpaste companies.

According to the Mayor, Colgate, GUM, and Oral-B all donated various amounts of toothbrushes and toothpaste to their cause.

"We wanted to see if we could get any donations," Discenza said. "So I made a few phone calls and voila, we got lots of toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste."

Discenza went on to add that she shared Cohen's strong viewpoints on the importance of dental care for the soldiers, and that she was more than happy to help.

"Those poor guys over there, the least we could do was get them a toothbrush," Discenza said. "But I wish that we could have gotten more."

According to Cohen, they fell 300 short of their initial goal to obtain 1,000 toothbrushes however he is confident that they will be able to organize another donation.

"There are a couple of companies that I didn't hit and we are willing to try again," Discenza said. "If anyone would like to help us we'd be more than willing to have their help."

Dr. Cohen also stated that he was happy that they were able to obtain so many items for donation and that not matter what the number, he was grateful.

"We can't be greedy," Dr. Cohen said. "But everyone should contribute their share, including the toothbrush and toothpaste manufacturers."

The Mayor also encourages citizens to donate on their own or through the Department of Veterans' Services.

All postage to Iraq is paid through private donations, according to Richard Girard, Jr., the Deputy Director of the Department of Veterans' Services, therefore citizens may send their donations to the department and they will be gathered and shipped accordingly.

Additional donations may be sent to the Department of Veterans' Services, 681 Springfield St., Agawam, MA, 01001.