While learning how to dance takes discipline and dedication, a local dance school has worked for years to teach students much more than just how to perform.
Dance Storm International, located on the Franklin Township side of Route 27, recently held its fourth annual give back event, which has raised thousands of dollars and hundreds of pounds of food for the South Brunswick Food Pantry.
"This is something that's ongoing and we'll be doing it next year and the year after that and so on," said owner Ed Cronk. "We're not just about teaching children about dance. We're also about teaching kids to give back to their community. Even though we have kids from different areas, we like to support the South Brunswick Food Pantry."
Dance Storm's annual give back event was held last month at the South Brunswick Senior Center, with a showcase that included tap, jazz, gymnastics, and other disciplines. The dance school's long time support for the township's less fortunate has for many years provided a boost to those who need it most.
South Brunswick's Social Services Department experienced one of the busiest years in their history during 2012. During the holidays alone, Social Services aided over 200 families during Thanksgiving with food boxes, and helped about 230 families during Christmas.
"Dance Storm is just wonderful, as they've done this four years in a row for us," said Social Services Director LouAnne Wolf. "Each year their showcase gets bigger and better. We're proud to be a recipient of their give back day."
As countless residents in the area have been affected by the recession, Cronk said Dance Storm tries to work with families by offering them aid wherever they can to help as many kids as possible realize their dancing dreams.
"We give away a lot of scholarships and we never turn a child away because of their family's inability to pay tuition," he said. "The food pantry is something that helps a lot of people in need and that's something that's dear to our hearts. I grew up with very little, and now I'm in a position to help out a little bit."
In addition to aiding the pantry, Dance Storm performs each year at South Brunswick's National Night Out event and holds an annual giving tree that helps provide winter clothing for residents in need. Dance Storm also raises money for which has sheltered over 200 abused women and children in their Safe House, provided over 24,000 meals and assisted more than 1,000 clients with legal advocacy.
"Our students realize that there is so much more out there," said Dance Director Lysette Coraggio. "I've been teaching here a long time, and a lot of our students go into fields where they help others, be it social work, nursing, doctors or teachers. We're not just about dance. We teach kids to reach out to other human beings."
Teaching in the South Brunswick area for nearly two decades, Coraggio said students are taught the importance of realizing how a small act of kindness can make all the difference for someone else.
"We instill in them that giving back is what you do, so you go out and try to make the world a better place, whether through large acts or small acts, and that does get into our students' heads," she noted. "With our younger students, we don't want to scare them, but we explain that this is real life for some people and you can help another child by bringing in gloves or a stuffed animal to donate."
For more information call Dance Storm at 732-940-1313. The South Brunswick Food Pantry is currently in need of gas cards to help its clients with the high cost of fuel. Anyone interested in donating should call 732-329-4000 ext. 7674.