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Blessed to be a Blessing: Cartersville Dances With the Stars’ performers support homeless

RANDY PARKER/THE DAILY TRIBUNE NEWS
Experienced dancer Stephen Webb holds a position at the end of a dance routine during rehearsal for the Cartersville Dances With the Stars event March 3 at the Clarence Brown Conference Center.

With three awards under his belt, Stephen Webb is Cartersville Dances With the Stars’ most decorated performer.

 

Retiring from competitive dancing in his early 30s, the Euharlee resident is a fixture in the local benefit that generates funding and awareness for the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter and the Cartersville/Bartow County school systems’ homeless education programs. Webb is the only “experienced” dancer to participate in the event since its inception five years ago.

“In 2013, my partner Deanna Berry and I won the People’s Choice Award,” said the 45-year-old. “In 2015, my partner Bonnie Mullinax and I won the Judges’ Choice Award, and in 2017, my partner Veronica Frazier and I also won the Judges’ Choice Award. I am not going to lie, helping my partners win an award is an amazing feeling because you cannot help but be so proud of how they did and how much work they put into it. If you ask any of them, I work them hard and challenge them a lot.

“It’s way more than just learning some steps with me, because I teach them the dances, frame, posture and then hit them with some hard choreography. So, it’s tough, but rewarding all at the same time. I always want my partners to win, but when I am waiting for our turn to go on, I am in the ballroom cheering on all my new friends and want them all to do great as well, because that is what will keep this event growing and as it grows, so does the amount of money we all help raise. I have this event to thank for joining me with so many fantastic people I may never have met without it.”

During the benefit on March 3, 10 teams — comprised of a local “celebrity” and an experienced dancer, like Webb — will showcase their talents at the Clarence Brown Conference Center in Cartersville starting at 7 p.m.

“I started off as just a country line dancer back in 1995,” said Webb, who will be performing with his partner Kristie Varner during this year’s Cartersville Dances With the Stars. “[I] started hanging out with some other dancer friends who thought I would be great to learn partner dancing. I was hooked from the start. I went to a local competition called Peach State and saw so many dancers with so much talent. I was determined to be on the floor someday. I competed in my first competition in 1996 in the UCWDC [United Country Western Dance Council] circuit. ... I did well in country events and decided to tackle NASDE [National Association of Swing Dance Events] swing circuit, which is mainly West Coast swing.

“Competing was an amazing journey that took me across the United States to meet so many amazing people. I retired from competitive dancing in 2005. I can honestly say that dancing was a major impact on my life in so many ways, and it will always bring me joy. So naturally, when I was approached about being part of this event, I just couldn’t say no knowing that what brought me so much joy and happiness could do the same for so many others. Cartersville Dances With the Stars has amazed me every year with everyone’s dedication and generosity toward the local community and this event’s charities.”

Along with Varner and Webb, this year’s celebrity dancers and their experienced partners will include Beth Archer and Jeff Tindall; Gay Miller and JaredLance Huston; Leslie Johnson and Chuck Nida; Brad Stephens and Tiffany Tindall; Matt Gibson and Jill Mroczko; Rick Kollhoff and Anna Woods; Rob Hankinson and Tara Scoggins; Sandy Watts and Nifty Williams; and Todd Bailey and Tiffany Wood. In addition to entertaining the crowd with one dance, the participants will strive to capture the event’s two awards: the Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice.

“Each year, the committee starts meeting in late summer to plan the event and deciding the next star lineup,” said Lori Albea, co-chair of Cartersville Dances With the Stars. “We try to choose people that are involved in the community in some way, through their business, company they work for or boards and organizations they serve, as an example we have Brad who is [an] attorney, Gay is [an] insurance agent, Todd is employed with Shaw, Kristie is a mortgage lender, Rick a loan officer at Century Bank, Leslie is campus dean at Georgia Highlands College, Matt is employed with [the] county school system, Rob is a business owner, Beth is a busy mother of four and school volunteer, and Sandy ‘Sandman’ is a personal trainer/fitness instructor.

“These celebrities along with their experienced partner are asked to raise $5,000. By the night of the event, most of these have far exceeded that goal. They do this through fundraisers of different sorts, raffles, dinners, help through other businesses, letters asking for donations, text voting. … This is a wonderful opportunity to help these dancers reach their goal and meet the needs of the shelter and the Backpack Buddies. As one of our dancers said, ‘We have an opportunity. We are blessed to be
a blessing.’”

Fine-tuning their routines since December, the couples will highlight a wide range of dance styles, including East Coast swing, freestyle, hip-hop, jive, jazz, salsa, waltz and Western.

“Most of these dancers have no previous training and to see how they progress and watch their dance come together is amazing and uplifting,” Albea said. “It makes you smile and feel proud of them that night when they get out there in front of about 1,000 people and really put on a show. … When we first ask the dancers if they will participate, we usually get a quick ‘no’ or a quick ‘yes.’ I always tell them to please go talk to any of the previous dancers in the past years. All of their feedback is so positive and most will tell you it was the funnest thing they have ever done.

“… Most of the experienced/professional dancers have been involved for several years. They are always excited to come back, and they do a great job training and teaching the celebrity dancers. Steve Webb and Nifty Williams have both won the People’s Choice and the Judges’ Choice. Chuck Nida has won the Judges’ Choice. Tiffany Tindall has won the People’s Choice. They all do an exceptional job and put on a fun show for everyone and help make it all very entertaining.”

Raising more than $59,000 in its first year, Cartersville Dances With the Stars has turned into a “signature event” for its beneficiaries, said Good Neighbor’s executive director, Jessica Mitcham.

“Last year, the event raised $171,543. This money is shared by Good Neighbor — benefiting our shelter program and our Transitional Housing program — and the city and county schools’ homeless programs, which benefits Backpack Buddies and the Least of These programs,” Mitcham said. “We have not established a firm goal this year, but we know that the needs of the shelter, transitional housing programs and schools continue. Each day, 30 guests are at Good Neighbor and 35 are in Transitional Housing — this includes 30 children served every single day. The schools will provide services to more than 1,000 children this year with backpacks of weekend food or other services for children who are homeless.

“We are amazed year in and year out how diligently all of our celebrities work to raise money for these important causes. We are cautious to set a goal, because regardless how much is raised, it will be an enormous blessing to so many. We hope all of them will celebrate the night of March 3 that it continues to be possible to raise such an enormous amount of funds in our community to care for homeless children and families.”

Since forming in 1996, Good Neighbor has served more than 7,100 people. On average, its 4,600-square-foot shelter — located at 110 Porter St. in Cartersville — that was built in 2001 assists about 700 individuals per year. While they are housed, Good Neighbor’s guests are required to find a job within four weeks, and the shelter’s staff helps them establish savings, focus on problem-solving skills and chart out future housing options.

The nonprofit also launched a transitional housing component in July 2013. While receiving shelter, participants are required to work a minimum of 20 hours per week and attend a post-secondary school nine hours each week, enabling them to later attain higher-paying jobs.

For more information on Cartersville Dances With the Stars or to vote for a particular couple, visit www.goodneighborshelter.org or www.facebook.com/CartersvilleDancesWithTheStars. Tickets — costing $20 per person — can be purchased online at www.eventbrite.com/e/cartersville-dances-with-the-stars-tickets-41390743829.

Last modified onSaturday, 10 February 2018 21:28
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