Pirouetting to stop hunger, and keep food pantries thriving in Muskegon

Posted at 11:26 PM, Feb 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-20 23:36:09-05

MUSKEGON, Mich. -- They're moving their feet to move meals, and feed the hundreds that are hungry all around Muskegon County. The women's division of the Chamber of Commerce in Muskegon is putting on the seventh annual “Dancing With The Local Stars.” It’s where professional dancers and locals who may have never danced before in their lives are moving and grooving to feed more people.

The fundraiser will raise money for nearly 40 different food pantries. Last year they raised nearly $98,000, helping not only to feed more mouths but keep some food pantries’ doors open and they do it while getting foot loose.

The event takes place on Feb. 27 filled with dance performances and a panel of judges who will announce the winner. The event was founded seven years ago by Mary Kendall. She got the idea from her favorite show, “Dancing with the Stars.” Now she turned it into a way to raise funds for the hungry.

“Our town has been hit very hard by the recession. A lot of factories have closed, but people remain,” said Kendall.

She is a part of the Women’s Division of the Chamber of Commerce, the organization that puts on the event. Kendall says the people who remain without jobs have no way to feed their families.

“One out of six go to bed hungry and we can't have that here in our town,” said Kendall.

They are hoping to help nearly 40 food pantries in their county stay open, and flourishing. One of them is Meals on Wheels, which has received $30,000 from the fundraiser in the last seven years.

“We don’t get enough funding. We need way more,” said Rhonda Fischer, associate director for Age Well Services.

The event has helped Meals on Wheels keep its doors open and increase the number of people it helps.

“A few years ago with sequestration we had a waiting list for meals, so it helped us get seniors off that list last June,” said Fischer.

Local doctors, lawyers, police, firefighters and business owners who dare to learn these professional dancers’ moves know it isn’t for the faint of heart. People like Patrick Johnson, who has danced professionally for 36 years for prestigious companies like Alvin and Ailey or Broadway Dance Center, are loaded with talent and skill.

Johnson has performed all over the world for people such as Princess Diana and Nelson Mandela.

Teachers like Johnson make it easy for everyone to learn. All of them, jazz squaring or spinning toward something much bigger than themselves.

In the past seven years they have raised almost half a million dollars for food pantries in West Michigan. If you are interested in attending the event or donating to the cause, you can do that by clicking here.