Local performance group hosting shoe drive to raise money for trip

DOWAGIAC — A local performance group is raising money for an upcoming trip, one pair of shoes at a time.

Positively Dance, a performance group made up of dancers from Green Dance Academy’s Dowagiac, Niles and Decatur studios, is collecting gently used shoes for the group’s trip to Los Angeles this summer.

The performance group is hosting a drive-up drop-off from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16 in the parking lot behind Green Dance Academy’s Dowagiac location, 141 S. Front St., Dowagiac.

Drop-offs will also be hosted from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23 at Green Dance Academy’s Niles location, 410 N. Second St., Niles, and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30 at Green Dance Academy’s Decatur studio, 317 E. Delaware St., Decatur.

“People can just pop their trunks and we will take them,” said program director Jodi Rosenthal. “No contact is necessary.”

The shoes will be sent to Funds2orgs, an organization that sends gently used shoes and clothing to entrepreneurs in developing countries, giving them the ability to start small businesses and break free from the cycle of poverty.

According to Rosenthal, the group is aiming to collect 2,500 pairs of shoes, for which they will be paid by the pound.

“When we found the opportunity, we were excited,” Rosenthal said. “It doesn’t cost people anything, and they can clean their closets. You’re not spending money you don’t have, and it helps us.”

Rosenthal said the shoe drive will also help the environment by keeping shoes out of landfills. If the shoes cannot be resold, they will be broken down and their textiles will be repurposed for roofing materials, car seat materials, furniture fillings and more.

“They use shoes and give them to developing countries,” she said. “They clean shoes and get them out of landfills. People don’t know how long it takes for shoes and shoe materials to decompose. We’re trying to be mindful of the environment and also help microentrepreneurs to start businesses and stimulate the economy.”

Hale’s Hardware, 56216 M-51 S., Dowagiac, and Family Fare, 56151 M-51, Dowagiac, will have shoe collection boxes located in their stores. Rosenthal hopes to get more businesses in Dowagiac, Niles, Cassopolis and Decatur involved.

“We’re still working those things out,” she said. “The studios are not able to be open yet, so we aren’t allowed to be able to collect in the studio. We’re scrambling to get businesses on board.”

Founded in 2001, Positively Dance features dancers ranging from first to twelfth grade who perform traditions including ballet, tap, jazz, acrobatics, modern, hip hop, lyrical and more. Positively Dance traditionally takes a trip every four years, with Los Angeles being the next stop. The group will have an opportunity to take classes at famous studios including Millenium Dance Complex and Debbie Allen Dance Academy, among others.

Students will also attend a workshop with a Broadway cast, perform on Santa Monica Pier and spend a day at Disneyland.

“It’s going to be a fun time,” Rosenthal said. “It will be a great opportunity for the girls to broaden their horizons with dance.”

In addition to its shoe drive, the group has also been collecting pop bottles and cans to raise money. The ongoing pandemic has limited the ways in which the group traditionally fundraises.

“Normally, we try to do fundraisers around community festivals,” she said. “We have had a harder time reaching the community. We’ve tried to look at doing things that don’t cost people money.”

That being said, Rosenthal is impressed with the way her students have adapted to the changes brought about by the pandemic.

“It was confusing at first, explaining the shoe drive to them,” she said. “A lot of dance families have started cleaning their closets looking for shoes. I think a lot of our families are very receptive to our fundraising efforts. It’s been hard not having events. Our kids miss performing. I think this is an exciting thing for them. We’re raising funds for something they’re looking forward to.”

After months of Zoom practice sessions, Rosenthal and her students are looking forward to spending time together in person on what could be a life-changing trip.

“They give a lot of their time and focus,” Rosenthal said. “They work very hard during the week. It’s been a unique year because they’ve had to work at home on their own. They’ve missed the parades and festivals. It has stretched some of them thin but has also brought them together. They appreciate their time together that much more.”

Those looking to donate shoes, pop cans and bottles or businesses open to hosting a shoe collection box are asked to call Positively Dance at (269) 262-9434 or email @pdboosters@yahoo.com.

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