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AMVETS invite San Mar girls over for holiday dance

December 12, 2004|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

HAGERSTOWN

Washington County AMVETS Post 10 helped 26 girls who reside at San Mar Children's Home check one item off their Christmas wish list Saturday afternoon - a dance party.

June Eggleton, program manager of Findlay Large Group Home, one of San Mar's four residences in Boonsboro, said Jean Shinbur, a former post commander of AMVETS Post 10, initiated a relationship with San Mar Children's Home several years ago.

Eggleton said the girls who reside at San Mar come from throughout Maryland and have backgrounds of physical and/or emotional abuse. The programs at San Mar aim to help the girls return to their families, secure foster care or enter independent living situations.

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Eggleton said Shinbur was familiar with the 13- to 18-year-old female population at the home and wanted to do something positive for the girls.

"Jean wanted to do something geared to that population, for kids that age, so she thought - dancing!" Eggleton said.

Shinbur organized a Christmas party in the AMVETS ballroom on Frederick Street, complete with a disc jockey and teen-friendly lunch fare including hot dogs, steamers, french fries and soda. The party tradition has carried on each year since.

The ballroom rafters shimmered with tinsel and Christmas lights, and popular music blared as the girls requested their favorite tunes, took turns singing with the microphone and showed off their moves.

"I'm having a good time," said one 17-year-old resident of San Mar. "It's fun just enjoying the music, dancing and hanging out with my friends."

Jennifer Rose, a direct-care worker at San Mar, said a dance party seemed to be the ideal outlet for the girls, as they love music and listen to it every chance they get.

"A lot of other functions are quiet and they can't express their energy," Rose said. "Here, they get to unwind and get out their energy."

Anita Folk, a residential counselor at San Mar, agreed.

"Singing and dancing is good for them," Folk said. "They need it and they love it. They're wooed by music."

It wasn't just the girls getting down. San Mar staff hit the dance floor, too, teaching the girls older moves, learning some new ones and sharing in some party standards such as "The Electric Slide" and "The Chicken Dance."

Eggleton said she was happy to see the girls having fun and building relationships with staff.

"It goes toward teaching them how to make good choices for themselves and how to have a good time in appropriate ways," Eggleton said.

As the party came to a close, the San Mar residents expressed their appreciation to the AMVETS members, singing a spirited chorus of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

Rusty Baker, 55, of Hagerstown, post commander of AMVETS Post 10, passed out treats to the girls as they left, including oranges, candy and $10 bills.

"It's really a blessing that the AMVETS do this," Eggleton said. "It proves to the girls that people care for them, and that's very much needed at Christmastime."

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