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Event Raises Funds, Awareness, Through Dancing

Close to a hundred people gathered in Chapel Hill Friday evening to raise money for a local community health center by dancing.

By Rose Hoban

In a event that looked more like an enormous line-dancing party than an exercise class, dozens of people showed up Friday night in Chapel Hill to perform the latest exercise craze, Zumba, and raise money for a local community health center.

Dozens danced to raise money for Piedmont Health Services at the Chapel Hill Commuinty Center Friday night.

Dozens danced to raise money for Piedmont Health Services at the Chapel Hill Community Center Friday night.

Children ran around on the edges of the crowd, while about 90 people ranging from gray-haired women to muscular young men went through dance moves set to Latin music, all to support Piedmont Health Services, a community health center based in Carrboro.

“We wanted to do something different, something creative, something fun,” said Stephanie Triantafillou, chair of Piedmont’s board of directors. “it’s different from what people usually do for fundraisers, but it’s consistent with our message.”

Triantafillou said Piedmont’s health care providers have been trying to stress to patients the idea of getting more exercise to stay healthy.

“The nice thing about Zumba is that it’s cheap. For the most part, it doesn’t require special equipment and it’s something you can do at any age,” she said.

Party atmosphere helped by Supreme Court ruling

Debra Markley, the special projects coordinator from Piedmont, said the atmosphere at the Zumba event was buoyed by the previous day’s Supreme Court ruling upholding President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Piedmont pharmacist Renee Cooper brought her boyfriend, 17-year-old daughter and her daughter's friend to the event Friday night.

Piedmont pharmacist Renee Cooper brought her boyfriend, 17-year-old daughter and her daughter’s friend to the event Friday night.

Piedmont has seven clinic locations in Alamance, Chatham, Caswell and Orange counties, where they see more than 40,000 patients from those and surrounding counties, both urban and rural. At several of the clinic sites, the majority of patients are uninsured.

“The past couple of years have been trying times, not knowing the future of funding on the federal, state, local levels. At three of our sites, we’ve had to stop taking any new patients because we’re at capacity,” said Markley, who was pleased at the high court’s decision, which will mean that the ACA’s expansion of insurance will go forward.

“Down the road, if we’re able to have people who have insurance, we’ll be able to serve more patients overall,” she said.

Triantafillou said her pleasure at the court decision was tempered the reality that money promised to community health centers in the ACA has been slow in coming. However, she said she heard some new federal funding is coming to North Carolina to support the development of new community health centers in the Triad, Winston-Salem, and the Ashe/ Avery County area.

“Until now, the Triad was the largest metropolitan area in the country without a community health center,” Triantafillou said.

Retired nurse Janet Dumont (l) brought her friend Mary Craft to the Piedmont fundraising Friday night.

Retired nurse Janet Dumont (l) brought her friend Mary Craft (r) to the Piedmont fundraising event Friday night. “It’s been terrific, I should have started this a long time ago,” she said. “But I’m going to be sore tomorrow.”

Both women said raising awareness and support for community health centers was part of the strategy behind the fundraiser, which they anticipated would raise only a couple thousand dollars to add to the organization’s $32 million budget.

“A lot of people don’t know about community health centers and we want to get people exposed to them,” said Markley.

It seems that part of the event was successful.

“When (they) approached us and explained what it was for, we couldn’t say no,”  said Eric Zeigler, who was drenched with sweat. He lead the two hours of dancing with his wife, Valine.

One of those people hearing about Piedmont for the first time was Natasha Kazlouskaya, 23, who drove up from Raleigh to attend.

“I took a class with the teachers here and they announced the event,” Kazlouskaya said. “It’s like a party, everybody is bringing something to it, and it’s helping people too.”

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