Hundreds of Zumba enthusiasts twisted their hips, shook their booties, and glistened with sweat to benefit the Family Resource Center on Saturday night at Yacht Haven Grande.
The Zumbathon – subtitled "Dance to Break the Silence; Help Families Heal” – was one of several fundraisers held Saturday for the nonprofit, which helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
The Center is facing a $130,000 deficit that it must fix by the end of the year to keep its shelter doors open, Executive Director Vivian St. Juste said.
Zumbathon participants made a minimum $10 donation to take the 90-minute class, which was organized by local instructor Cynthia Gómez Martín and taught by Cristiane Machado, a Brazilian dancer and Zumba circuit star who Martín said came from Puerto Rico for the event.
The investment was well worth it for three St. Thomas residents in the crowd:
“It was excellent!” 26-year-old Cosima Buckhalton enthused.
“I had a lot of fun,” 25-year-old Glen Echon added.
“It was very high energy,” piped in Cherrel Turner, a fit and trim 52-year-old Zumba devotee.
Next door, Fat Turtle hosted its own fund raiser for the Center: The Peace, Love and Motown Locomotion Party. Vintage soul tunes set the mood for the crowd, whose money was once again going to the Center.
Earlier in the day, the Center held a food drive at Cost-U-Less, with all items going toward families displaced by domestic violence.
The day of fundraising was boosted by Gov. John deJongh Jr.’s proclamation of Nov. 19, as Family Resource Center Day, St. Juste said.
“Our first and foremost need is to do whatever we can to maintain our shelter, so that our victims will always have some place to go in a time of crisis,” she added.
In recent years, the Center has operated on an annual budget of about $1 million, according to St. Juste, but this year, the local government cut its contribution to the Center by 25 percent. This local cut, coupled with expected decreases in federal funding and several prior-year grants not yet being renewed, have led to the current fiscal crisis, St. Juste said.
St. Juste explained that the Center’s staff of 26 therapists, social workers, and other professionals helps families that are facing situations such as rape, incest, and partner abuse. They work with the court system, which refers men and youth who are at risk of perpetrating violence to the Center’s anger-management programs. They work with clients whose first language is not English, and they host outreach programs in local schools.
While their primary focus is reducing the incidence of crimes of domestic violence and sexual assault, the Center’s staff members also help victims of other violent crimes, St. Juste also said.
After the Zumbathon ended, many participants stayed for a prize raffle, or headed over to Fat Turtle for a well-deserved drink.
Still in the crowd was Cherrel Turner, who beamed with a smile caused by more than exercise-induced bliss – she and her fellow Zumbathoners knew they were supporting a good cause.
“I know they’re having problems with keeping the Center open because of the lack of funding,” Turner said. “We want to help keep it open.”
To donate to the Family Resource Center, contact Director of Development Vernon Araujo at 340-513-9245 or 340-776-3966.