Setting the stage: Local organizations donate thousands to MMC Dance Team’s ‘A Hometown Christmas’ event

Published 8:46 am Friday, November 18, 2022

DOWAGIAC — It may not be Christmas Day, but the MMC Dance Team received a gift that was in the spirit of the holiday season.

Honor Credit Union’s community assistant vice president Janie Reifenberg and Lyons Industries President Lance Lyons each presented the MMC Dance Team with checks for $1,000 and Michigan Community Gateway Foundation President Michael Rowland presented a $3,200 grant Wednesday at the MMC Dance Team studio, 212 S. Front St.

“We’ve been in the community for almost 55 years,” Lyons said. “The community supports us and we love supporting the community. These are great businesses to support, especially helping kids and giving kids something to do in sports, coordination and dance.”

The funds will offset costs associated with the MMC Dance Team’s A Hometown Christmas event, which takes place at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center, 57072 Riverside Dr., Dowagiac. This event will be free and open to the public, with the only fee being a non-perishable food item which will be donated to its local food pantry and the SMC food pantry.

In addition to the dance team’s performance, the team invited local organizations to share the stage with them, including the Miss Michele & Co. studio dancers, Southwestern Michigan College Ladybirds dance team as well as local dance studios, choirs, bands and surprise guests.

“It’s very expensive to put on a production in general, so to be able to get donations to offset the costs so that we can offer a free event is great,” said MMC Dance Team Treasurer Stephanie Lyons. “Our community does so much to support us and come out and watch us and buy our fundraisers so to do something that we can give back to them as a gift and include the whole community is awesome.”

The MMC Dance Team is a nonprofit organization associated with the Miss Michele & Co. Studio. The team is comprised of 35 dancers from the surrounding communities of Dowagiac, Decatur, Niles, Cassopolis, Eau Claire, South Bend, Ind. and Marcellus. 

“As the holidays approach, everyone might just be looking for a little extra inspiration to get them into the Christmas Spirit. Miss Michele’s Dance team ‘Hometown Christmas’ show is the perfect way to get you right into that spirit,” Reifenberg said. “When I learned from Sam Ausra that they needed sponsors to pull off the FREE Community event, Honor Credit Union jumped right on board. Community, youth, entertainment, it doesn’t get any better than that and spreading a little extra Christmas Spirit fills our cup. I personally am looking forward to enjoying the free event as I know it will be typical Miss Michele amazing. 

“A very special thank you to the board of directors of the MMC dance team for taking on this huge project, bringing our community together for a hometown Christmas.”

Founded in 1977, Michigan Gateway Community Foundation serves southern Berrien County and Cass County Michigan. The foundation was established with gifts from many citizens in amounts ranging from a few dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Only the income generated by the investment of these gifts is used in grant making. 

“At Michigan Gateway Community Foundation, we focus on three areas: health care, education and culture,” Rowland said. “What’s great about this is that it kind of fills all those buckets and in one way or another we try to focus on youth as much as possible. This is something that is near and dear to our hearts and hopefully brings a lot of smiles to people’s faces this holiday season.”

MMC Dance Team choreographers include Madelynne Winchester, Eileen Bartee, Audrey Maxey, Grace Clark, Myra Kirtdoll and Michele Winchester. The dance team board consists of Megan Johnson, Beth Klug, Katie Charles, Melissa Stanger, Tasha Marshall, Stephanie Lyons and Sam Ausra.

A list of donors includes: Michigan Gateway Community Youth Advisory Council, Lyons Industries, Honor Credit Union, Joe and Laura Odenwald, Walmart, Miss Michhele & Co., United Federal Credit Union.