By Josette Keelor
WINCHESTER -- Visitors to Winchester and local West Virginia on Saturday can expect to see some shaking and some moving going on.
The flash mob performances will be fun for dancers and audience members, but they also have a larger purpose.
Part of the fourth annual International Shimmy Mob in 162 cities worldwide, the first-ever Winchester area day of events will raise awareness for domestic and sexual violence and funds for The Laurel Center.
Area team leader Esther Z. Albright of Cross Junction is known to her belly-dancing students Miramar Starr, and with 21 participants signed up to dance on Saturday, she expects to put on a good show.
Beginning at 11 a.m. with a presentation of early donations at The Laurel Center's new building on Cameron and Baker streets in Winchester, events will continue at noon in front of the old courthouse on the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall, when Shimmy Mob participants of all ages will dance for awareness.
They will perform again at 12:45 p.m. in front of the Children's Splash Pond, at 2 p.m. at the JC Penney Court at the Apple Blossom Mall and at 4 p.m. at the Morgan County Courthouse in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.
If it rains that day, all outdoor performances will be moved to the Apple Blossom Mall.
"It can be a little tough performing in public the first time," Albright said, but "We're excited to be doing this."
The youngest dancer is about 8 years old and the oldest about 60, Albright said.
"All ages can participate as long as they can perform the routine," she said.
A survivor of domestic violence from a previous marriage, Albright has volunteered with The Laurel Center for about five years and advocated for the education of violence against both genders.
"Even men get raped," she said. She said the center also teaches awareness about incest, violence against children and that "no" really does mean "no."
The International Shimmy Mob has events across the U.S., Canada, Chile, Australia and Brazil, and teams can choose their organization to support, Albright said. Money raised locally on Saturday will add to The Laurel Center's Capital Campaign, which she said has experienced economical difficulties in opening a second Winchester location.
"They needed to expand because typically there's just not enough room at the shelter for all the families that need the sheltering," she said.
After raising its first $2 million, the new building broke ground in 2012, but she said it's still empty until the nonprofit can raise the remaining $1,766,700.
Much of what they raise in normal fundraising efforts goes to ongoing operations.
But she said if every man and woman 18 or older in The Laurel Center's service area of Winchester, the counties of Frederick and Clarke and local West Virginia were to contribute $25, the center would reach its goal.
Those who wish to contribute should designated "Shimmy Mob" on checks made out to The Laurel Center or under "special instructions" online at www.thelaurelcenter.org. Send checks to The Laurel Center, P.O. Box 14, Winchester, VA 22604.
For more information, visit ShimmyMob.com, visit www.bellydancewithmiramar or call The Laurel Center at 540-667-6160.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org