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VCS offers ‘Evening with the Arts’
ARLINGTON — Once a month, on the second Thursday of each month, the lower level of the Immaculate Conception Church in Arlington comes alive with song during Village Community Services’ “Evening with the Arts” dances for adults with developmental disabilities.
As John Dalgarn leads the 27-member Voices of the Village band through enthusiastic musical performances, guests are welcome to take up spare instruments and contribute to the sound, or else just groove along to the beat, either with dance partners or by themselves.
Cindy Somers’ 33-year-old son, Brandon King, is a Marysville resident with Williams Syndrome, which can produce musical savants. After King graduated from high school at the age of 21, he lost the musical outlet of his school band, but Somers’ chance meeting with Dalgarn through a Developmental Disabilities Administration luncheon led to King taking his place as one of the keyboard players for Voices of the Village.
“This has been a godsend,” Somers said. “How many people are out there like John, who can provide a place for people like Brandon to utilize their unique talents?”
Dalgarn has since become King’s vocational coach and his musical performing partner in sideline gigs that they take about once a month.
“Music really is a universal language,” Somers said. “It’s another means of communication and a social outlet as well because they’re getting together with friends and sharing a fellowship. I never would have dreamt that we would find a place for Brandon that would allow him to use his talents to contribute to the community, because by providing them with music, he knows he’s making a contribution.”
VCS caregiver Jeanette Winter and former Board member Christie Christianson volunteer regularly at the monthly dances, whose influence they both credited with nurturing the growth of the band members and the guest dancers alike.
“A lot of them wouldn’t have set foot in this room if music was playing at first,” Winter said. “But now, they practically live for it. They’re always asking, ‘Is it music night yet?’”
“They have a great time, especially during our June gala prom dance,” said Christianson, who noted that each month’s dance has a seasonal theme, as attendees of the March 13 dance sported green attire for St. Patrick’s Day. “It’s nice to see them dress up and greet each other. Really, these folks are just like anyone else, but with a little bit more that they have to deal with. This is a place where they can come and not feel invisible.”
“They just want the same things out of life that we all do,” Winter said. “They want to go places and do things, and not be shunned by those around them in the process. They also enjoy holding down jobs,” she added, alluding to VCS’s vocational programs for adults with developmental disabilities. “A lot of these folks have volunteer jobs, and that makes them feel important.”
Vicki Adams, who has had two adopted adult sons with developmental disabilities, also acts as a booking manager for Voices of the Village, and she noted that the “Evening with the Arts” dances and Friday music jam sessions require considerable resources to put together.
“The Immaculate Conception Church graciously hosts us for $50 a month, while the Arlington United Methodist Church lets us pay them $20 each week to host our Friday music jam sessions,” Adams said. “The Village Music and Arts programs cost about $30,000 a year, since it costs us $75 an hour for each gig, and a lot of venues aren’t able to actually pay us.”
While Adams’ 40-year-old son Jim is still among the 60-80 attendees of each monthly dance, her other son Sean passed away at the age of 36, and she praised VCS for making both of them feel at home.
“Voices of the Village is a huge deal for all these people because John makes them feel like shining stars,” said Adams, who was touched when the band performed at Sean’s funeral. “It really does take a village to make this happen.”
The “Evening with the Arts” dances include arts and crafts activities, and caregivers do not need to pay the $5 admission fee. This event takes place on the second Thursday of each month, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the Immaculate Conception Church, located at 1200 E. Fifth St. in Arlington.
Youths and adults of all abilities are invited to the Friday music jam sessions, from 1-3 p.m. at 338 N. MacLeod Ave. in Arlington. Guests can bring their own musical instruments, or use the ones shared by the band. Children younger than 16 years must be accompanied by a parent or caregiver.
Contact Michelle Dietz by phone at 360-653-7752, ext. 14, for more information or to sign up.