Monthly Archives: March 2017

Chicago Dental Group Offering Membership Program to Cut Costs

dentist-1639683_960_720Most companies must use social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter in order to increase brand awareness, generate web traffic, get new customers, convert leads, nurture prospects, and increase sales, but Chicago-based dental company, DecisionOne Dental Group, is taking an alternative approach — they’re offering membership plans.

While various studies have shown that adult dental care has hit a slump, not many dental firms have taken action to combat it. The main cause for this initiative is rising dental costs — as of now, almost 7 million adults are at risk of losing their dental insurance if the Affordable Care Act is replaced. Those who do still have the luxury of dental insurance often don’t use it — patients have become three times as likely to skip appointments, even though virtually all adults (99.7%) surveyed believe a healthy smile is socially important, according to an AACD survey.

DecisionOne Dental Group CEO Dr. AJ Acierno explained why his business has decided to enforce such an initiative:

“I see it all the time at my practice: people come in thinking they have insurance, only to find out that maybe half of their services are covered. This happens with employer-provided insurance, but especially with coverage under the ACA. Oftentimes, patients don’t come back because of either the lack of insurance or poor insurance coverage. If dentists don’t start to fight back against rising insurance premiums and limited coverage, patients will suffer. That’s why we created a monthly membership plan.”

With the help of DecisionOne Dental’s membership service, patients will be able to enroll in a monthly discount plan for as low as $19.99 per month. These plans include two free cleanings, x-rays, exams, and other discounts on restorative services. The program does not have annual limits, so members can receive care anytime they need it. The program also includes discounts on cosmetic procedures like veneers, invisalign, and whitening. That’s a pretty steep discount, considering the fact that Americans spend $1.4 billion on teeth whitening products each year.

“Dental care is not a luxury; it is a necessity,” said Dr. Acierno. “We want our patients to receive consistent quality dental care because we know that aside from dental issues like tooth decay and gum disease, poor oral health can contribute to a host of other issues including heart disease and diabetes. The Complete One Dental plan provides better coverage than most insurance options available today, especially when you look at the numbers and see that for an adult the national average for the cost of a cleaning and x rays is $165.”

Glitter and Drive Throughs: Chicago Churches Break Tradition on Ash Wednesday

glitter ash Wednesday chicagoThere are millions of practicing Catholics in the United States today, and many of them don’t have time to attend mass on the many Holy Days celebrated during Lent.

So an Indiana church decided to change that.

Ash Wednesday was celebrated on Wednesday, March 1, and it marked the start of the 40-day Catholic Lenten season that leads up to the celebration of Easter Sunday each year. As a tradition, the palms used in the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebration are burned and turned into ashes. On Ash Wednesday, members of the church come together and have a cross of ashes applied to their foreheads.

But Catholics aren’t the only Christian denomination that celebrate this Holy Day.

Reverend Roger Bower of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Valparaiso, Indiana realized that many of his parishioners were too busy to come to church in the middle of the work week. He came up with an unusual alternative instead — donning a bright orange safety vest over his clerical robe and observing Ash Wednesday out in the parking lot. Bower stood outside the church and created a sort of drive-through Ash Wednesday service. He would say a small prayer and give each driver their own set of ashes from the comforts of their own car.

Neglecting vehicle maintenance costs the U.S. economy an estimated $2 billion a year, but hopefully these parishioners’ vehicles will be blessed thanks to the holy drive through. This was Bower’s fourth year doing a mobile Ash Wednesday service. He said the idea came from parishioners who had noticed a church in Minnesota doing something similar. And it seems that this simple act of kindness that, which gives parishioners the option to bow out of the traditional service but still get blessed, went a long way.

Mike Bodnar, a retired machinist and member of the church, explained to the Chicago Tribune what this convenience means to him.

“I was just driving by and saw the woman in the safety vest. “This is to remind us: ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust.'” We’re just here renting our bodies. Then it’s time to go,” he said.

For many practicing Catholics, the Lenten season is a time for renewal. In the same way that 53% of adults come back feeling refreshed after a vacation, it is a time for penance, charity, and giving back. And St. Andrew’s church isn’t the only congregation trying to give back for Lent.

In Chicago, another parish is trying to make the religious LGBTQ community feel welcome with their uniquely inclusive Ash Wednesday service.

And, naturally, they did it with glitter.

Berry United Methodist Church in Lincoln Square, Unity Lutheran Church in Edgewater, and Holy Covenant Metropolitan Community Church in suburban Brookfield all mixed their traditionally dark black ashes with purple glitter as a festive way to show support for Chicago’s LGBTQ community.

Known as the “Glitter Ash Wednesday” initiative, the event was spearheaded by Parity, a New York City organization that fights for the rights of the LGBTQ community. The goal is to have the church provide a message that represents both the traditional symbol of repentance that Ash Wednesday brings, but mixed in with a dash of solidarity.

April Gutierrez, pastor at Berry United Methodist, says that for her, the idea behind Glitter Ash Wednesday means much more than mixing glitter. It is a moment for Catholics and Christians everywhere to remember their religious values of inclusivity and acceptance.

“We want to make sure the Christian message is one of love and inclusivity, of empowering people to be who they are,” Gutierrez explained to the Chicago Tribune.

Pastors like Gutierrez believe that when looking at the deeper meaning of what Lent stands for, Glitter Ash Wednesday can prove to be something quite powerful indeed.

“Right now there are people in this country that feel threatened that their very presence should not be in public spaces. We are called to ensure that people know our Gospel teaches a gospel of love,” Gutierrez said. “Our visible sign should be a sign of solidarity of love and not one that excludes and condemns people.”

Engineers Give Illinois Infrastructure a C-, But That Might Be Good News

International delivering goods trailerUsually, a C- grade is nothing to celebrate. That’s the letter grade The American Society of Civil Engineers just gave Illinois for its state infrastructure.

So what’s the good news?

In 2010, the last time The American Society of Civil Engineers released an infrastructure report card, Illinois was given a D+. Unfortunately, D+ is also the score given to the country’s infrastructure as a whole this year. Overall, it’s a bleak assessment of the country’s roads, bridges, railways, airports, dams, and more.

“Today’s rating from the American Society of Civil Engineers validates what we already knew: The condition of America’s infrastructure is unacceptable,” wrote U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Chicago, in a statement. “Investing in our connected infrastructure system is the key to improving quality of life, strengthening our economic competitiveness and securing our leadership in a changing world.”

In packed urban centers like Chicago, mass transit systems and highways were designed to accommodate far less people, and public infrastructure is breaking down as a result. According to Greg DiLoreto, the former president of the ASCE, crumbling infrastructure has a direct impact on Americans’ quality of life.

“More than 2 out of every 5 miles of America’s urban interstates are congested, and traffic delays cost this country $160 billion in wasted fuel and time,” DiLoreto told NPR. On top of that, “on average, Americans waste 43 hours a year stuck in traffic. Or in other words, one in your two weeks’ vacation, gone.”

Plus, roads in poor condition put more stress on cars, which leads to increased auto repair costs and even accidents. So while modern cars are generally much safer — features like anti-lock brakes have been shown to reduce nonfatal crashes by 14% — the nation’s roadways are not.

Fortunately, Illinois does fare better than the nation as a whole in the infrastructure report. Whereas the national report card rated U.S. airports as a D, Illinois was rated C+. Even though state roads and public transit systems were rated as D and D-, the state still outranked the national average.

In the wake of the report, many politicians are calling on President Donald J. Trump to make good on his campaign promise to invest $1 trillion in the nation’s infrastructure.

United Fresh Expo Recognized For Fresh Approach, High Attendance

If there’s a niche market, there’s probably a trade show that caters to it. All across the nation, expos focused on virtually every industry take place on a near-daily basis. And while the average U.S. trade show visitor spends around 9.5 hours viewing exhibits, there are some expos that simply have higher attendance rates than others. Recently, one trade show was recognized for its popularity, hard work, and fresh approach, and was named as one of the 50 fastest-growing expos in the nation.

As its name might suggest, the United Fresh expo focuses on highlighting fresh produce and connecting those in the food industry. Their mission is to showcase new trends and relevant tools and technology, as well as connecting businesses and promoting education. From growers to retailers, United Fresh wants to bring the entire produce supply chain together for the annual Chicago-based event.

It seems their efforts are working, as last year’s attendance rates were high enough to catapult the expo onto the 50 fastest growing list. Those trade shows recognized were deemed worthy based on their net square footage, number of exhibitors, and number of attendees.

United Fresh is also eligible to receive the Fast 50 Grant Award, which is bestowed upon one of those 50 companies initially recognized. The winner will be announced in mid-April.

United Fresh VP of Convention and Industry Collaboration, John Toner, said in a statement:

“We’re elated and honored to receive this recognition. Being named one of the 50 fastest growing shows validates the work we do throughout the year to ensure that all parties in the industry are in attendance in Chicago each June. It’s imperative to the success of the industry and the event that the right exhibitors, buyers and influencers come together annually. Steady positive growth means we’re attracting the right people — and a lot of them.”

The 2017 United Fresh Expo will take place June 13 to 15 in Chicago. For more information, visit the United Fresh website.