Earlier this week News 5 Anchor Dianne Derby traveled with News 5 Jefferson Award winner Michelle Vacha during Vacha's all-expense paid trip to New York City. Vacha and 24 other people from across the nation were nominated for a national Jefferson Award for their selfless service to their communities.
A community of kindness. That's what the 25 nominees for the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Outstanding Public Service Benefitting Local Communities are creating across the country.
On Thursday night, five of them took home that national award. One of them was from Colorado Springs. She is Michelle Vacha, the founder of Community Dental Health in Colorado Springs and Pueblo. Community Dental Health | Basic dental care for the low-income in Colorado.
"This prestigious award is presented to a remarkable woman whose exceptional contributions to elder care have made a profound impact on her community," said Susan Scott as she announced Vacha as one of the winners. Scott is the President of Public Television Major Market Group.
"Oh my God, oh my God," said Vacha as she heard her name called.
The inspiring story we shared back in 2022 about her selfless service was shown to the crowd at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City filled with the nation's top leaders in community service.
WATCH: DENTAL HYGIENIST WINS NEWS5 JEFFERSON AWARD
Vacha created Senior Mobile Dental in southern Colorado to get care to people who could not afford it or could not access it. It expanded into two permanent dental offices in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, now called Community Dental Health. The non-profit offers affordable dental care to anyone in need at a fraction of the cost.
"We are healthcare providers, and a lot of people don't realize how important dental hygienists are in the role of health care," Vacha said.
It's a critical and sometimes life-saving role she acknowledges would not be possible without the team behind her.
"I'm representing my staff tonight," Vacha said. "I had the vision but I'm only as good as the staff and the team that are surrounding us and that are taking care of our people. It's a community effort and that's the amazing thing. The (staff) that we have, they are the face of Community Dental Health. Our patients appreciate and love my staff and they are well taken care of."
Patient Richard Clark told us back in 2022 that Vacha and her team were a godsend to him.
"It's more than a wonderful resource," Clark said. "The staff is phenomenal, they are courteous and kind. It doesn’t matter who they are, they’re not looking at status. They see someone who needs help, and they are here to guide."
Vacha's work has been improving lives and helping her community. Now her work has been recognized on a national level with an award created in part by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis more than 50 years ago.
"It's amazing," Vacha said. "I was just honored to be a part of all these amazing people and what they're doing. Wow! Be a solution to a problem. Anyone can multiply Good. Anybody can. If I can, anybody can, that's for sure."
To read the inspiring stories of the other nominees click here. About the Jefferson Awards | Multiplying Good
Remember if you or someone you know is deserving of the News 5 Jefferson award, we want to know about it. Click here for the nomination form. KOAA News5 Colorado Springs-Pueblo: Jefferson Awards
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