They waited in line on Stonewall Street in Charlotte, some huddled in blankets against the cold or curled up in folding chairs they brought.
Others snacked on Bojangles’ food or played games with their young children. Some just waited, not doing much other than gripping the tickets that would get them into the Charlotte Convention Center for free dental care.
As many as 1,000 people waited late Thursday and Friday, many standing or sitting in the cold outside the Convention Center.
The clinic – which provides free dental services to people who can’t afford it – opened at 6 a.m. Friday.
By 6:30 Friday night, event organizers had to close the doors, turn away people still waiting outside and focus on those already in the building.
“We are at capacity,” said Evan Miller, event co-chair and local dentist. Even so, he estimated that the clinic will serve around 2,000 people this year. Volunteer turn-out has also been strong, Miller said.
Charlotte resident Anita Reid, 55, said she heard through word of mouth that she should show up Thursday if she wanted a chance to be seen by a dentist Friday.
Reid also needed a few of her upper-teeth extracted. They’ve been bothering her for a year, and she hasn’t had dental insurance since she was laid off in December 2011 from her job as a loan reviewer at Wells Fargo.
“Financially, it’s been frustrating,” said Reid, who showed up outside the convention center at 2:30 p.m. to wait with a folding chair, blanket, hat and gloves.
During last year’s clinic, the N.C. Missions of Mercy, the event sponsor, provided $1.1 million worth of free dental services to more than 2,100 adults.
The clinic will continue until 6 p.m. Saturday. Dental professionals from across the region have volunteered. Inside the Convention Center, nearly 100 dental chairs have been set up, with patients able to get services such as fillings, extractions, teeth-cleaning, and even partial dentures in some cases.