WJCC nonprofit unfurls red carpet for kids in need


The 147 kids in the W-JCC Community Action Agency’s Head Start program know their fair share of struggle, be it homelessness, the loss of a parent or otherwise. But they got the red carpet treatment with a fashion show and dance luncheon exclusively for them on May 18.

“For these kids, I don’t think they get a chance to feel so special that often and go to something fancy like that,” said Liz Callan, the agency’s director of fund development. “Their faces were glowing. They really felt pampered.”

Head Start offers pre-kindergarten education for families living in poverty. Callan said their goal is to ensure each child enters kindergarten on par with his or her peers, intellectually, emotionally and socially.

“We want to give them all kind of different experiences so they can be enriched,” she said.

Agency staff transformed the Historic Triangle Community Services Center on Waller Mill Road into a bona fide ballroom, with a red carpet cascading through the center of the room and a DJ providing ambience. The kids were able to strut down the runway wearing whatever attire they felt comfortable in, while their family members enjoyed the show.

“My goal was to make them feel special for the day, just to make sure they feel loved,” said Michelle Bethea, the Head Start disability and mental health coordinator who spearheaded the event.

After the fashion show, the kinds let loose dancing. Agency staff got involved too. Bethea wrote a dance skit revolving around a modernized Cinderella, finance consultant Mary Miller and IT coordinator Rich Cotter danced the Shag and Callan performed Irish step dancing with her daughter, Ruby Aufderheide.

The families also enjoyed a buffet, much of it cooked by staff, with the opportunity to eat at tables dressed in white linen.

“They all felt so special. You could see it when they were coming down the red carpet,” Bethea said. “I felt like my work was not in vain.”


For more information on the W-JCC Community Action Agency, including enrollment in the 2018-19 Head Start program, visit wjcc-caa.org.

Birkenmeyer can be reached by email at sbirkenmeyer@vagazette.com, by phone at 757-790-3029 or on Twitter @sethbirkenmeyer.

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