Generating $18,516, Rob Hankinson and Tara Scoggins captured the People's Choice Award Saturday at Cartersville Dances With the Stars.
In its sixth year, the fundraiser netted $151,233 for its beneficiaries — the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter and the Cartersville/Bartow County school systems’ homeless education program.
"Tara Scoggins carried me like a baby through the entire dancing experience, from our first practice before Christmas till Saturday evening," said Hankinson, who performed a dance medley, featuring Motown and disco, to The Jackson 5's "I Want U Back/ABC" with his partner. "So that made things a lot easier to do, because I'm not a natural dancer — never danced formally before in my life. So two left feet, can't skip rope, but yet she brought me to where we were. So No. 1, super appreciative of her professionalism, and we've become friends through doing this. But beyond the shock, [winning the People's Choice Award] was obviously a very pleasant surprise.
"The reason [I participated] … is quite simple. I have five healthy, beautiful grandchildren. [I am] so blessed with that. I've already [been] on the board for Advocates for Children for eight years now, and I just joined [Jessica Mitcham's] homeless shelter board this last Christmas. So I'm very much towards [helping] children, serving those less fortunate than my grandchildren. If we can help in any way to make their lives a little better, I'm all for it."
During the benefit, 10 teams — comprised of a local “celebrity” and an experienced dancer, like Scoggins — showcased their talents at the Clarence Brown Conference Center in Cartersville.
"We're thrilled and feel like the event and night was incredibly successful,” said Mitcham, Good Neighbor's executive director, extending thanks to the event's presenting sponsor, Harbin Clinic, and co-chairs Lori Albea and Julie Edwards. “Every year, we continue to be amazed by how hard the celebrities that are involved work — not only how hard they get ready for the dance routines, but also how diligently so many of them work for fundraising. The winners of the dance competition who won the Judges' Choice Award this year were Beth Archer and Jeff Tindall. They got a perfect score of 30 from the judges.
"… Cartersville Dances With the Stars is a partnership of Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter and the homeless programs for both our city and county schools. Folks are most familiar with Backpack Buddies as one of the programs that homeless liaisons in our schools carry out to send food home with kids on the weekends that are at risk [of] not having anything to eat while they're away from school."
In addition to Hankinson and Scoggins and Archer and Tindall, this year’s celebrity dancers and their experienced partners included Kristie Varner and Stephen Webb; Gay Miller and JaredLance Huston; Leslie Johnson and Chuck Nida; Brad Stephens and Tiffany Tindall; Matt Gibson and Jill Mroczko; Rick Kollhoff and Anna Woods; Sandy Watts and Nifty Williams; and Todd Bailey and Tiffany Wood.
"We were super excited to get out there," Jeff Tindall said, referring to his team winning the Judges' Choice Award. "We felt that we had a strong performance.
"Tiffany was the choreographer," he said, referring to his wife, who also competed in the event and won the People's Choice Award with John Howard last year. "I'm a professional only because I'm married to her. She put together a strong dance. I love the fact that I had an athletic partner who was excited about doing the lifts and doing an acrobatic show. There's a lot of good competitors out there, and ultimately it was for a good cause."
Since forming in 1996, Good Neighbor has served more than 7,100 people. On average, its 4,600-square-foot shelter — located at 110 Porter St. in Cartersville — that was built in 2001 assists about 700 individuals per year. While they are housed, Good Neighbor’s guests are required to find a job within four weeks, and the shelter’s staff helps them establish savings, focus on problem-solving skills and chart out future housing options.
The nonprofit also launched a transitional housing component in July 2013. While receiving shelter, one adult in each household works a minimum of 20 hours per week and attends a post-secondary school nine hours each week, enabling them to later attain higher-paying jobs.
Currently serving 13 families, the transitional housing program is comprised of nine properties — one rental and eight homes that are owned by Good Neighbor — on Johnson Cove in Cartersville, as well as four additional residences.
"Our transitional housing program exists only because of Cartersville Dances With the Stars," Mitcham said. "When we started this event six years ago, it was with the hope to build a transitional housing program and now there are 13 families, including 25 kids in that program. … We have many goals for families that are in transitional housing, but our biggest goal is that it would be the opportunity for families, particularly single mothers, to be able to make more money. So many of them come into that program making minimum wage or maybe slightly more than that, generally $8 or $9 an hour. It is challenging, if not impossible, to take care of multiple children when that's the kind of income you're bringing into your home.
"So with 17 families graduated, families are making on average a little more than an increase of $7 per hour when they exit that program, which means they're coming in around [$]8, and they're exiting making better than [$]15. At that number, then families can actually become self-sufficient and really break out of poverty and homelessness that have trapped them for many, many years and finally be able to take care of the things their children need and provide stable housing for them."