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Zumbathon to benefit Salvation Army
Yesenia Hernandez leads a Zumba class at the Turlock Salvation Army on Friday. A Zumbathon to benefit the Salvation Army will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. March 23. - photo by CANDY PADILLA/The Journal

The RAIZ Promotora Program at Aspiranet’s Turlock Family Resource Center strengthens the well-being of the local Latino community through family-friendly activities – one of which is made possible thanks to the Turlock Salvation Army. Next week, the center will raise funds for the army through dancing in an effort to give back to the organization for their generosity.

The RAIZ Promotora Program is part of Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services’ Prevention & Early Intervention program which focuses on reducing mental health stigma in the Latino community through classes and activities, such as Zumba.

The program is able to host eight Zumba classes a week for Latina mothers at the Salvation Army gymnasium, free of charge, where Turlock Family Resource Center program manager Pamela Huntley believes participants are able to learn skills needed in order to become leaders in society.

“It’s not only an exercise – it develops a support system in your community,” Huntley said, adding that social ties can lead to overall better mental health.

The Zumba class is always packed according to Beverly Spielman of the Salvation Army, with as many as 20 dancing in a class at a time.

“Every family that’s come and interacted in the class loves it and continues to come,” Spielman said. “Some mothers as young as 17 come all the way up to grandmothers that come.”

Not only do participants in the Zumba class continue to come back for more, it typically leads them to attend other classes, Huntley said. The free activity has led the group to meet in other classes that provide access to mental health services, as well as other classes that teach new parents about early literacy, healthy birth outcomes, reading programs and even support groups.

“We’re able to teach them how to gain access to services in their community so that they’re able to build healthy families,” she said.

In order to give back to the Salvation Army for all that they’ve done, the Turlock Family Resource Center is hosting a Zumbathon fundraiser, with all proceeds going back to the Salvation Army.

A Zumbathon is a fundraiser that uses Zumba, truly making every move count. Dancers at the resource center’s fundraiser will be “sponsored” by monetary donations, with a minimum donation of $5.

“The Promotora Program focuses on promoting leadership in the Latino community, and they start out with Zumba. A big part of being part of the community is to give back, and Salvation Army has partnered with us for that program so it’s time for us to give back to them,” Huntley said.

Participants in the Zumbathon will receive a water, granola bar and a ticket for a raffle prize along with the $5 entry fee, and the two-hour dancing fest will feature a 30-minute break to learn about mental health.

“All of these moms that come in to exercise, the staff and volunteers here have built a bond with them,” Spielman said. “We would never charge them to use this building, and now this is their way of giving back.”

The Zumbathon will take place from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Salvation Army gymnasium, located at 893 Lander Ave. in Turlock. The Turlock Family Resource Center’s Zumba classes are held from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday, and from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the Salvation Army gymnasium.