'Celebrities' kick up heels to benefit seniors

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Anyone can watch a TV program populated with tabloid-created stars, but local residents will have a chance to watch their own luminaries and help a charity to boot at "Dancing with Celebrities of Greater Greensburg" from 7 to 11 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Water Works in South Greensburg.

The event, held for a new program that supports local elderly residents in need, will begin with a celebrity dance competition staged by Luanne O'Brien, founder of Integral Ballroom dance studio of Murrysville. A free foxtrot lesson will follow, led by Ms. O'Brien, who will also give a professional dance performance. Social dancing for attendees will close out the evening.

Music will be a mix of social dancing music, Ms. O'Brien said, spun by DJ Jennifer Stokes.

The celebrity dancers are Marti Bailey, Kennametal; Jim Bendel, Community Foundation of Westmoreland County; Ted Kopas, Westmoreland County Board of Commissioners; Allen Kukovich, retired state senator; Steve Limani, Pennsylvania State Police; Barbara Marin, Hempfield Area School District; Michael Quatrini, Quatrini Rafferty, P.C.; Ruth Tolbert, community volunteer; Anne-Marie Welty, Standard Bank; and Sharon Wise, FirstEnergy Corp.

Commissioner Charles Anderson will be master of ceremonies.

Partners who are experienced ballroom dancers will be provided by Integral Ballroom.

Ms. O'Brien said that the dancers are "doing great," and have logged 52 hours of lessons over the past three weeks. She provided the basic choreography but "all the couples brought their personal creativity to each of their dances."

She said that people preparing for such competitions go through stages. "The first is the honeymoon phase. Then they enter the 'Oh my God, what did I get myself into?' stage. Then the fierce, competitive stage. And then the event, which is a whole lot of fun."

Tickets, $50 for individuals or $90 for a couple, include hors d'oeuvres. Attendees may purchase other food on site and there will be a cash bar. Tickets are limited and the deadline for reservations is Friday. To purchase, call Rhonda Campbell at 724-205-6282.

Ms. Campbell is program director for the event's beneficiary, Greater Greensburg Faith in Action, which matches volunteers with elderly residents who need assistance or companionship. The program was launched by United Way of Westmoreland County in April with support from its Women's Leadership Council and from Westmoreland County Area Agency on Aging, in partnership with local businesses and interfaith communities.

This is the fifth elder support program site they've opened, said Bobbi Watt Geer, president and CEO of United Way of Westmoreland County. Typically each has served 50 to 100 residents in the first year, and the numbers have continued to grow.

"Dancing with Celebrities is a great way to attract energy and attention to this new program," Ms. Watt Geer said. "We're launching a new service and letting folks know what we're doing, and doing it in a fun way."

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Mary Thomas: mthomas@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1925.


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