One kiss on the cheek and simple words from a homeless woman was all it took to get Dr. Elliot Shin thinking about how to change his community.
"About 20 years ago, I gave food to this homeless woman," Shin said. "She gave me a kiss on the cheek and said, 'God bless you.' That struck me, and it set me on a path where homeless people became a big part of my life."
Shin is the founder of Operation H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People Everywhere) Inc., 3430 E. Flamingo Road, a non profit organization that provides dental and medical services to uninsured, low-income and often homeless people.
In exchange for these services, recipients must exercise a "pay-it-forward" concept by doing a good deed for at least three people in three months and writing about their experiences to Operation H.O.P.E., Inc. If the patient does not submit a letter, he does not receive a follow-up visit.
"I feel like more people these days are taking things for granted, which is why we ask (patients) to pay it forward three times," said Dr. David Ting, who runs the H.O.P.E. dental clinic at 2100 S. Maryland Parkway. "Hopefully, all of these good deeds will be amplified and bring love and light to people."
Since Operation H.O.P.E. 's inception in March 2009, there are three medical clinics that provide basic health care needs and generic medicines at little or no cost. Even with limited hours and few volunteer medical professionals, the organization has been able to help more than 700 people thus far, Shin said. Part of this success, he said, is the result of help from organizations such as the International Church of Las Vegas, which provides volunteers and mentors to patients, and Trinity Life Church, which provides free rent and utilities to the main clinic at 970 E. Sahara Ave.
Shin hopes to build on the organization's success and its partnerships.
"For our medical clinic, we want to expand our hours and we want to go to every day of the week," Shin said. "Our medical clinics have grown so fast this year. We have physicians who can volunteer every week for four hours at a time and some every other week. We're waiting for more health care professionals to volunteer with us. If all specialists come on board, we'll be in a very good position (to stay open longer)."
Operation H.O.P.E. relies on volunteer healthcare professionals, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Nursing interns, members of nearby churches and others to run its three clinics. Trinity Life Church, 1000 E. St. Louis Ave., has helped enable Operation H.O.P.E. to provide resources to patients beyond their medical needs.
"We try to meet the patient's basic needs and go beyond that by mentoring them and helping them with life skills," Shin said. "We try to provide them with a road map to transformation and help them become self-sufficient."
However, the pay-it-forward concept, Ting said, is what truly keeps Operation H.O.P.E. 's clinics open.
"We have a lot of homeless people come in who think they can't help others," Ting said. "I tell them, 'I know you don't have a home or money but you have dignity and heart.' I think it helps show that even though they're homeless, they can go out and help people, even in a small way."
Ting said seeing these patients make a difference with acts of kindness, such as breaking up a fight on a street or simply giving someone a hug, reminds him of why he initially got into the medical field.
"By knowing patients have actually gone out and helped other people keeps us going," Ting said. "As a medical care professional, I consider it a privilege to not only treat others' diseases but also their hearts. I wouldn't trade this for any other job out there."
For more information on Operation H.O.P.E. , visit operationhopeinc.com or call 952-9564.
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 383-0492.