Goodwill Manasota Provides Free Dance Space for Children with Disabilities

Local community member Deanna Williams had enough on her plate. Her husband — who recently passed away — was under hospice care, and she, her daughter and her 6-year-old granddaughter all have disabilities. Amid her own struggles, she organized and is contributing her own money to support weekly dance classes for children ages 6-12 who have disabilities.

Williams’ granddaughter loves to dance and had developed some basic skills, but the family could not afford to attend any established local programs, so Williams decided to offer free classes for children like her granddaughter. Williams engaged a volunteer instructor who is currently teaching ballet and ballroom dance. While she has been happy to cover most of the costs related to the class — including clothing, toys and dance items such as a balance beam and barre (both of which she found at area Goodwill stores) — she wasn’t confident she could take on room rentals as well. So she reached out to Margie Genter, vice president of mission services at Goodwill Manasota, with a heartfelt request for assistance.

“I just want children to feel the healing power of the arts and give those who are suffering a chance,” Williams wrote. “The dance class will encourage them to have fellowship and enjoy moving their bodies.”

Goodwill worked with her to determine which day, time and location might work best for current and future participants. The first class began on October 27, 2021. Currently, there are several children enjoying dance classes at the Goodwill’s Honore location on Wednesday afternoons, but more are welcome to join.

“For more than two decades, Goodwill Manasota has been pleased to provide free community meeting places to meet the needs of specific areas and the residents who live there,” said Genter. “As an employer of and advocate for individuals with disabilities, we know they don’t always have the same access to recreational activities like this one. We hope this program will grow and thrive as more community members learn about it!”

By providing comfortable spaces and offering free educational, cultural and social activities designed to meet the needs of local residents, Goodwill hopes to help to create a stronger, safer, more vibrant and better-connected community. Additionally, Goodwill Manasota has expanded offerings over the years to include classes and seminars through strategic alliances between the Goodwill and other organizations and businesses.

The dance classes are free and open to the public. To learn more or get a child involved, call Williams at (941) 313-0892 or email [email protected]

This post originally appeared in the Goodwill Manasota newsroom. Read more.