Creating a Sense of Community Throughout The Appalachian Highlands

Frank Waldo

Co-Owner, Tele-optics, Inc.
Appalachian Miles for Smiles

Frank Waldo has a heart for giving back and a heart for the Tri-Cities area. His mother is from Kingsport and his father is from California, but growing up in the military, they were always on the move. After Frank finished serving in Vietnam, he had a goal to stay settled in one place for three years. He came back to Kingsport, where he fell in love with the woman he’s been married to for over 50 years, and has stayed here ever since.

Frank was working in the construction industry, while his brother worked in the telephone industry. Then in 1984, Frank and his brother saw an opportunity to start a fiberoptic splicing company, and Tele-Optics, Inc. began. Tele- Optics, Inc. was the first privately owned fiber-optic splicing company in the country. After traveling and working in telecommunications across the country, they decided to bring their expertise back to Kingsport. They hadn’t even worked in Tennessee yet, but after invitations from other industries in Kingsport, they started the local company. Tele-Optics, Inc. started to concentrate on the local industry and began to handle local telecommunication needs. Through the company’s quality service and great customer satisfaction, Tele-Optics, Inc. has grown into the premier telecommunications company with the best communications solutions in the Tri-Cities region.

For someone just starting out and hoping to be successful in the Tri-Cities, Frank keeps his advice short. “Get involved with the community, volunteer, and really get to know the people in the community.” He has volunteered his time with the Santa Train for the past 18 years. The Santa Train delivers over $300,000 worth of items to thousands of people in Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee around the holiday season, and the Santa Train Scholarship is awarded to a graduating high school senior in the surrounding area. Frank loves to work on this project all year long, leading up to his favorite part – seeing all the excited children receive presents.

Frank also volunteers with Remote Area Medical. Remote Area Medical operates mobile medical clinics that deliver free vision, dental, and medical care to those who do not have access to healthcare. These two-day healthcare events are ran by volunteers. Frank was alarmed at the number of people without access to dental care after finding out that applied to 18,000 people in Sullivan County alone. After recognizing the need for assistance in the area, he helped start Appalachian Miles for Smiles to better assist those in need of dental work that may not have the insurance to cover it. Appalachian Miles for Smiles is a mobile unit that is a five treatment bay dental clinic that sets up in different areas around East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and offers dental services to uninsured patients. Based on the number of volunteers and service providers available, they are able to see around 50 patients each day. Patients must call to make an appointment and are seen on a first come, first serve basis.

Since starting Appalachian Miles for Smiles in April of 2016, over 800 people have been able to receive free dental work that they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. They’ve provided over $250,000 worth of dental services. This next year is set to be just as successful with 25 clinics scheduled. This means the community will have the opportunity to receive free dental work every other week this year. Appalachian Miles for Smiles is operated on a volunteer basis and would not be possible without the dentist, the dental hygienist, and the dental assistant volunteers. If you are interested in being a volunteer, please visit

Frank finds the Tri-Cities area a wonderful and friendly place to work. He believes the atmosphere in the Tri-Cities is different than any other, with a productive environment and demand for quality work. With Tele-Optics, Inc., he loves being able to provide the Tri-Cities with great employment opportunities and wonderful, quality services. “Working in an area that is on the cutting edge of technology and that has such a well-educated and well-trained workforce pushes us to deliver quality service,” he says. Tele-Optics, Inc. strives to reach the community’s high expectations of excellence in the workforce with their exceptional products and a variety of communication services.

Frank also believes in the bright future of the region. With the great leadership in place and plans for growth based on education and the creation of more jobs, he says, “The Tri-Cities will continue to be a wonderful, safe, and healthy environment to live and work in.” Everything that Frank does is based on his faith in God. In his day to day life, both personal and professional, he goes by the golden rule – treat others the way you want to be treated. With his work, he strives to help improve people’s quality of life by helping alleviate their pain and suffering. Volunteering with Appalachian Miles for Smiles, his greatest joy is being able to help those in need, end their pain and suffering, and give people the opportunity to have a pretty smile once again.

Volunteering and giving back is a cause close to Frank’s heart. In addition to his philanthropy right here in the Tri-Cities, he has also completed mission work in other countries, mostly in Central America. He uses his work to follow the commandment – Love your neighbor as yourself.

“God gives us a giving heart, and a giving spirit is God’s spirit of kindness and doing what you can to help in the positions He puts you in,” Frank says.

His faith in God and his desire to follow His word is what drives Frank to work so hard. He strives to help those that are in need, and he is able to accomplish that through his work.

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