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Nonprofit dental practice brightens Minnesota smiles

Twenty-nine years ago, a group of dental professionals in the Minneapolis area realized that many older adults and those with disabilities didn’t have access to affordable dental care, so they created a nonprofit dental practice: Apple Tree Dental. The practice brings dental care to people who face a variety of barriers to care.

“People need dental care as they age, and most people are surprised to learn that you typically lose dental coverage at retirement,” says Dr. Michael Helgeson, one of the practice’s founders. “Or people who rely on Medicaid learn it doesn’t adequately cover the dental care they need.”

When Apple Tree Dental needed to expand on-site dental care for low-income residents, it needed to purchase two buildings and expand its entire practice, so the dentists started looking for financing.

Making the connection

Apple Tree Dental was referred to Wells Fargo through Patterson Dental, a dental supply company and longtime Wells Fargo customer.

“We’ve been working with Apple Tree Dental for many years and believe strongly in their mission,” says Scott Anderson, CEO of Patterson Companies, Inc. “What they’re doing is really changing the lives of people who previously had limited access to dental care.”

Bryan Chambers of Wells Fargo Practice Finance connected Apple Tree with Justin Schultz of the Business Banking Group.

Justin says, “We looked at all kinds of programs and at first didn’t know whether we’d be able to help, but we stayed in touch to try to find a solution.”

A few months later, he met with the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, a nonprofit that funds low- to moderate-income housing. “I asked its CFO what else they were looking to do, and he told me the board really wanted to get into community clinic lending,” he says.

That’s when Justin started connecting the dots. He set up a meeting with Wells Fargo, the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, and Apple Tree Dental.

In the end, he says, “Wells Fargo financed $5.5 million, the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund financed $2.5 million, Nonprofits Assistance Fund financed half a million, and Patterson Dental contributed another half-million. The Wells Fargo Public Finance Department assisted with bonds,” he says.

Dr. Helgeson says, “We experienced a lot of hurdles and complexities while putting the package together. It was a long task, but Wells Fargo didn’t give up and was persistent in finding a solution. The magic in the whole success was teamwork and making connections.”

Meanwhile Apple Tree Dental has opened another clinic in the Twin Cities and one in Rochester, Minn., expanding its mobile service with support from the Mayo Clinic Community Relations Program.

Watch the video to see the impact of Apple Tree Dental.

Taylor H. Blanchard contributed to this story.