Mayra Barragan, 6, sat in a dental chair last week at the new Russian River Health Center, just five blocks from her Guerneville home.
All smiles and no complaints, Mayra and dental hygienist Jaime Dahl discussed proper flossing and the need to keep one’s mouth clear of both visible food and invisible germs.
“They’re actually not invisible,” says Mayra, clearly acknowledging the dangers microscopic organisms pose to oral health
A year ago, the general cleaning Mayra and two of her siblings received the day before Thanksgiving would have taken place at the West County Health Centers’ dental clinic in Sebastopol, requiring a 40-minute bus ride on Sonoma County Transit.
An arson fire in 2015 destroyed the original Russian River Health Center just a few blocks away from the newly constructed, state-of-the-art community clinic at 16387 First Street. After the blaze, dental offices were eventually moved to the Sebastopol clinic site.
The convenience of now having a brand new, full-service medical facility in Guerneville is not lost on Mayra’s mother, Maria Isabel Ruiz.
The new First Street structure sits next to the Guerneville Safeway and appears more like a Russian River lodge than a community clinic. The design offers views from outdoor patios, conference rooms and even patient exam rooms.
One of the key components of the clinic is a separate building called the Resiliency Center, a sort of community gathering place that was built on the same footprint as the former natural foods and organic produce market in the same location.
The building has two large spaces where local groups and residents can have community and in-house meetings. The Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods held a staff meeting there on Nov. 19, a gathering that would have otherwise taken place in the local library or Guerneville School on Armstrong Woods Road.
After the 2017 North Bay wildfires, construction prices skyrocketed, even as most charitable giving was funneled into the county’s historic rebuild efforts. The final cost of the clinic project came to $15 million, Cunningham said.
Significant donations have been received, but Bauer said the organization is trying to raise $9 million to pay off the remainder of the cost. Cunningham and Bauer said the west county residents, many of them among the most vulnerable in the county, have long deserved such a facility.
“My hope is that the community feels like this isn’t just a building, that this is something that they can feel proud of and feel like they’re using,” Cunningham said.