‘Dancing with the Local Stars’ surpasses goal of raising $1 million for Muskegon food pantries and programs

Team Boys are Back in Town perform at this year’s Dancing with the Local Stars. Photo by Anna Gustafson

In Muskegon County, about 25,000 people face food insecurity—and the Women’s Division Chamber of Commerce [WDCC], a local nonprofit, is working hard to significantly curb the number of our neighbors who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Today, the WDCC announced its “Dancing with the Local Stars” event has now sent more than $1 million to area food pantries and food programs.

The 11th annual competition, which featured professional dancers and “community stars” during a weekend of performances held in February, raised $135,101. With this latest funding, the WDCC surpassed its goal of raising $1 million since the event’s inception; the dance competition has generated a total of $1,058,000.

Each year, the event raises money for food pantries and food programs throughout Muskegon, lower Oceana, and upper Ottawa counties. Organizations operating the pantries and programs are annually able to apply for financial support from the competition.

“Dancing with the Local Stars continues to be a remarkable event that brings together so many people—many of whom may not have otherwise met—to get outside their comfort zones for a great cause,” Dancing with the Local Stars Co-Chairwoman Mary Kendall said. “We are so thankful that this year’s donation helped us surpass our $1 million goal to continue our longstanding commitment of helping feed so many in our community who are hungry.”

This year’s cast of 20 community stars—including nonprofit leaders, business owners and others—joined 10 professional dancers to put on six sold-out performances on Feb. 21 through Feb. 23 at the Holiday Inn & Conference Center Downtown Muskegon.

Attended by hundreds of people each year, the event strives to address hunger throughout the region. In Muskegon County alone, 25,190 people are food insecure, according to Feeding America, a national hunger relief organization. That means close to 15 percent of the county is grappling with hunger.

Boys & Girls Club of the Muskegon Lakeshore CEO Dakota Crow, who donned a pirate costume as a member of Dancing with the Local Stars’ Team Renegade this year, previously spoke to the Muskegon Times about the role food insecurity plays in the lives of children living in our community. About 90 percent of the 1,000-plus youth served by the local Boys & Girls Club are eligible for free and reduced lunch, which means they are living at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level. This translates to a child living in a household where a family of two is making $1,784 a month—$21,408 annually; $2,252 a month for a family of three—$27,024 each year; and so on.

“Food insecurity is a very large reality, and a very large population, of Muskegon County,” Crow said in the previous interview. “Our [Boys and Girls Club] kids will miss several meals at a time and not have access to any food, or, if there is food, it’s not very healthy food.”

All of those involved stressed the importance of supporting area food pantries and programs. For example, members of Team Twilight, who won the Critic’s Choice, People’s Choice and Best of Show awards during the event’s opening night, selected three nonprofits to send their winning funds to, including Kids Food BasketMARS in Ravenna, and Mission for Area People in Muskegon Heights.

“It’s a blessing and an honor to do this,” Team Twilight member Bonnie Adamczak-Brown, a senior vice-president of investments with the Norden/Adamczak Investment Group of Raymond James, said in an interview during the Dancing with the Local Stars event. “We love the cause, helping the community.”

Dancing with the Local Stars Co-Chairwoman Marilyn Forton emphasized the dancers’ dedication to the event. Beginning in early December, the professional dancers and community stars began practicing for February’s contest—often hitting the dance floor as frequently as several times a week.

“The cast shared our enthusiasm for this year’s incredibly successful Winder Wonderland-themed event,” Dancing with the Local Stars Co-Chairwoman Marilyn Forton said. “Everyone put forth so much effort month after month to once again help us feed the hungry in our communities. And that is what truly makes them stars.”

During Wednesday’s luncheon, Kendall announced that the 12th annual Dancing with the Local Stars event will be held February 27-29, 2020 and will be themed “Movie Night.”

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