"Now I Know I Have Worth!"

My name is Leslie.

I’m 43 years old, from Ardmore, Tennessee, and Hope Smiles replaced my six front teeth three years ago. Prior to that, I had not left my house in over four years. You see, I was in an abusive relationship. My ex-husband was often violent. I would have him arrested, but when you live in a rural area in the South, they don’t always take domestic violence seriously. They would arrest him and then drop him back off at my house.

One night he punched me in the face, knocking my teeth completely out of my mouth. This happened on a Wednesday; I didn’t go to work the next day. Out of complete and utter shame, I never returned to work at all. I’d had a really good job, but I could not bring myself to face anyone. So I just never went back.


When I lost my teeth, I hit that southern stereotype: toothless redneck hillbilly. That hit me hard. I’ve always been big, so I never thought I had anything tied to my looks. But when you don’t have teeth, people think you’re not taking care of yourself, that you’re a dirty person. I was so ashamed. So I just stayed in my house. It got to the point that I wouldn’t even leave my bedroom. This went on for four years.

After seeing a news interview featuring our Founder, Leslie wrote a letter to Hope Smiles, asking if we could help. Moved by her story, we were more than willing to provide assistance! Over the course of several visits, Leslie’s remaining damaged teeth were extracted and she was fitted with a custom set of high-quality dentures. Her beautiful smile was back!

Hope Smiles changed my life! I have confidence again and believe I have value. Now I want to do something more with my life. I’ve gone back to school for my Master’s in Teaching, I volunteer, and I started going to the gym again — all things I never would have done if I was still missing six teeth. Never.


Now I know I have worth, and I want everyone to have the feeling I have. I’ve taken four other people to the Hope Smiles clinic because it was such a benefit to me. When somebody helps you, you want to help everybody else. You’ll never be able to repay that person for what they’ve done for you, but you really want to pay it forward.

Gradi Ellis