In the past year, Safe Haven provided a total of 24,120 nights of safe shelter utilizing all of its different housing programs and emergency shelters. The facility has taken 5,476 crisis calls, served 15,420 meals at its emergency shelter, and provided 12,067 different services to clients.
So deciding whether to host the annual Dancing with the Statesboro Stars in the midst of a pandemic was a no-brainer.
“When we began planning this event in 2019, pre-pandemic,” says Kim Billings, director for both Legal Services and Public Relations at Safe Haven, “We had a focus on this being our 10th anniversary and making this the biggest and best show yet. I can honestly say that our priorities have shifted.”
Billings says that the original focus was about the past 10 years of the event, and the support the community has given to it, as well as to Safe Haven and domestic violence victims.
But as 2020 unfolded and COVID-19 took center stage, Billings says they began to see and hear from the “other” pandemic victims — those men, women and children who were trapped with their abusers during the lockdown.
“We all, as a group, were convicted to put our heads together and figure out a way to see this event through and raise awareness for those voices who have struggled this year, probably more so than in all of the years that our event has been happening,” she said.
Billings says event organizers are hopeful that this year’s event will help to bring much-needed resources, funding and awareness to these victims.
“All of our participants this year share this mission, and I could not be prouder of their dedication to Safe Haven and our courageous survivors,” she said.
To celebrate 10 years of DWTSS, dancers from past years are returning to the stage with new partners. Those teams are Jacob Yarbrough and Marsha Moore, Mandy Fowler and Russ Lanier, Dr. Suketu Patel and Anna Freeman, Andrea Howard and Stephen Milner, Scottie Davis and Logan McElveen, Diana Ray and Rebekah Macker, Joey Fennell and Ellyn Duncan, Scott Moore and Allison Murphy, Sarah DeLoach and Bryan Realiza, and John Witherington and Katie Sconyers.
“There are some terrific routines in this year’s event that have never been done before,” Billings said. “The show will be amazing and the teams are incredibly eager for the community to see what they’ve come up with.”
Rehearsals began in the summer, and Billings says they have been going really well. But just like any other event these days, adjustments had to be made for both rehearsals and for the performances to accommodate social distancing and safety restrictions.
“The dancers and Safe Haven staff have been wonderful about adapting to the changes and we’re all committed to putting on a fantastic show, even if it looks a bit different than it has in the past,” Billings said.
In the past, the event was held at the Georgia Southern University Performing Arts Center. But this year, Connection Church will host it for a reduced audience. The guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and local public health officials will be adhered to, Billings says, for the safety of the audience, dancers and staff.
Fundraising this year also looked different, and Billings says the dancers have worked hard to come up with new and creative ways to make it happen.
“We’re so proud of the work they’ve done to support Safe Haven,” she said. “We are very appreciative of the many businesses and donors that have continued to support our cause.”
This year’s performances are presented by Statesboro Urgent Care. The Thursday performance, to be held on Nov. 19 at 6:30 p.m., is already sold out. But there are tickets, at a cost of $30 each, still available for the Sunday performance, set for Nov. 22 at 3 p.m. Call 912-259-9255 or 912-259-9261 for tickets.
For more information or to read more about the dancers, go online at www.dancingwiththestatesborostars.com.