By GABRIEL RAMOS
It’s not new that one of the biggest obstacles in running a nonprofit is raising enough funds to keep programs running and employees paid; JV Outreach is no exception.
Even still, Vergez feels strongly about the organization she singlehandedly started. Ballroom dance is a hobby she took up after going through a divorce in 1998, which quickly became a passion. This passion carries on through JV Outreach.
Moving feet, changing lives
JV Outreach was originally started as a simple program to give children free dance lessons out of Roswell’s Waller Park Recreation Center, which is surrounded by low-income housing. After a few years of annual programs, Vergez decided to expand the program and register as a 501c3 nonprofit in 2004.
For Vergez, the opportunity to combine the hobby she’s so passionate about, with an opportunity to get involved in the lives of kids was too good to pass up. She felt it gave kids a substitute or complementary activity to sports.
“Dancing provides a lot – social skills, teamwork, leadership, self-confidence, self-esteem, and that’s what we’re really about. As I tell everybody, it’s like our programs, yeah, we’re teaching dance steps, but it’s really about building the kids’ self-esteem and confidence so they feel good about themselves so they’ll make the right choices and go after their dreams and steer away hopefully anything negative,” she says.
An unexpected start
Vergez states that the inspiration started with a community service project, which coincided with an accident her daughter, Claudine, had endured. After Claudine’s time in the hospital, Vergez got creative and with the help of her daughter, decided to try to raise gift cards for kids staying in Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital.
The fundraiser wasn’t without its obstacles.
“I had called all restaurants, recreation centers, hotels, in the Alpharetta/Roswell location, and I got a lot of ‘no’s. And they kept asking me what my budget was. When I told them it was zero, they were like, ‘I can’t help you.’”
Eventually, though, her persistence paid off. The Hilton Garden Inn in Alpharetta contacted her and allowed her to use their ballroom space for free, which led to a snowball of sponsorships and aid from friends and family. The event proved successful, and Vergez was motivated to do more.
Dancing toward a better future for children
After seven years, JV Outreach continues its mission to get kids dancing, offering classes in salsa, bachata, hip hop, and ballroom. The programs are typically held as a physical education session for schools involved, but the interest has grown at a quicker rate than the available funds.
Fortunately, Vergez has managed to round up a strong staff, which includes four other board members in addition to herself and an evolving roster of teachers available. She hopes to eventually build the program toward all schools in Georgia, and provide scholarships for the kids involved.
The funds themselves come from a wide variety of partnerships, including through Fulton County itself.
“Funding for our programs is provided by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners,” Vergez states.
Corinne Smith provides for JV Outreach’s ballroom method
Corrine Smith is one of the many teachers employed by JV Outreach to provide dance lessons for various schools in Fulton County. Today, she’s teaching at Ridgeview Charter School, where kids from grade 6 to 8 will learn such dance styles as the Cha Cha and the Tango.
“These two styles complement each other well, because one is fast and has a lot of hip action, and the other is smoother but sharp,” she explains.
Smith believes that learning should be fun and energetic for children; otherwise they’ll quickly lose attention. The nice part about dance, she says, is that it keeps them moving and active.
She brings a solid background as a 10-Dance and American Rhythm Pro/Am Champion under the National Dance Council of America banner to the table. This experience helps her to explain things as a student would understand them, but her personality is what drives the lessons home.
“She’s such a joy to have, and she works really well with kids,” says Jacqueline Vergez, CEO of JV Outreach.
It’s easy to see the effects of her lessons. Within minutes the children are learning something new and are enthusiastic about the process, especially at an age where hormones dominate their personalities. Even with a gym full of more than 60 children, Smith still has them in relative order.
“I love this job,” she says with a laugh. “I wouldn’t be doing anything else.”