The Nicest Place in Alabama: Owens Cross Roads

NICEST PLACES IN AMERICA 2020 FINALIST
"Dancing for Charity"

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Two young dancers use their talents to fill food pantries and spread the love.

MaKennah Morring isn’t used to sitting around. So when the studio where she taught dance lessons closed because of the pandemic, the 24-year-old decided to deliver homemade cards to the residents and staff at the nursing homes in her small Appalachian town of Owens Cross Roads in northern Alabama. First, she made up a flyer asking people for help.

Pretty soon came a knock on the door. Eleven-year-old Aimee Ives had come to drop off some cards. The girl shared that she loved to dance and was bummed that her upcoming recital had been canceled. Morring offered her a private lesson. Within about a week, the pair had perfected a dance routine and an idea for choreographing a little hope around town.

They began driving around in Morring’s truck, with a big wooden cross in the back and a bin for collecting food, and performing. Choreographed by Morring, the shows are mixture of lyrical dance and sign language imparting the song’s words. Anyone who donated got to designate a person they thought could use a pick-me-up to receive a “Hope Gram”—a visit from the dancing pair.

Courtesy Carol Morring
MaKennah and Aimee deliver a Hope Gram with a carefully choreographed dance number.

“We are Aimme and MaKennah,” they told each recipient. “We are your Hope Gram. Someone donated food in your name. Donate if you can and send us to share the message.” The message caught on. Since mid-March, their Hope Grams have stocked local food pantries with five truckloads of groceries. Whatever appreciative residents could part with, they did: jars of peanut butter, cups of ramen noodles, cans of vegetables.

“I’ve learned that people want to help but don’t know what to do or can’t physically get out,” says Morring. “This has given people the opportunity to give back to their community without leaving the front door.”

When one neighbor learned she was the next stop on the tour, she invited her entire street to join to watch the performancemaintaining proper social distancing, of course. So many people came to see the show, their donations alone filled the truck with food.

They plan to keep delivering their Hope Grams. How could they stop, with reactions like this one, from a 93-year-old woman who hadn’t seen anyone besides her nurse in months? When the woman saw the dancers on her doorstep, she burst into tears. “I don’t think we got ten seconds into the song before she started crying again,” says Morring. “It really touched our hearts.”

The Nomination

Aimee and MaKennahCourtesy Carol Morring
MaKennah Morring (right) poses with her young dance partner, Aimee Ives.

My daughter is a professional dancer and dance instructor. She became unemployed due to the Coronavirus. From the beginning, our hearts were broken for those in the nursing homes. My family wanted to do something kind for the patients and the workers. My daughter baked cookies and printed a flyer explaining that we were collecting homemade cards for patients of the home and any money collected would go to purchase lunch for the staff. We went door to door handing out the cookies And the flyer. She also posted on her FB page what she was doing if anyone would like to help.

Over the next week, $180.00 and over 50 wonderful cards from my neighborhood had come in. Lunches from Chic-Fil-a, for 43 staff members and over 50 cards were delivered to the Nursing home.

Now all of this is great but the real story here is what came out of this….

The first family that brought cards to our house had a little girl with them. Through conversation we learned the little girl was a dancer and her studio had been closed. Immediately, my daughter offered to give her private Classes for free if she would like that. The next day the little girl came over for her first lesson.

From this, we got the idea to turn our garage into a makeshift dance studio.

Still having the desire to help people during this time. As dance lessons continued with the little girl, my daughter came up with an idea that her and the little girl could do to collect food for our local ministries that were giving out food to people in need.

My daughter taught the little girl a routine that they dance together in. They worked for many hours but at the end of only one week, they were ready to put their plan into action.

It started with them Putting two cans of food into a tub. They contacted one neighbor and told them they had a “hope gram” for them if they could just step outside and from a “social distance” they wanted to share something with them.

With a giant wooden cross in the back of a pock up truck, they headed out to their first house.

They set the cross ip in the driveway, begin the music and hold up signs telling the neighbor, “Hi, we are MaKennah and Aimee. We are your Hope Gram. Someone has donated food in your honor to the food pantry and Has sent us to you. For the donation of a non perishable item, we will go where you send us and share this message.”

They put the signs down, the music changes and they take their places. With the Big wooden cross between them, they begin a beautiful mixture of dance and sign language to bring a message of “hope” to people in this difficult time.

It never fails, when they are through, The spectators are in tears and rush into their house and come out with what items they could spare and give to the girls along with an address for them to be sent to.

The girls have performed over 50 times and collected three truckloads of food to be donated.

They are still being sent all over the city from people who donate and want to send a friend a message of “hope.” These two along with everyone that has donated food has done an amazing job of helping two of our local food ministries feed people in need.

Our own community is constantly advertising and promoting the local food trucks and restaurants. They bring them into our neighborhood and set them up and our entire neighborhood will order from them to help support them. We have an awesome community!

I would have described our community as, “Quiet.” I have definitely changed my opinion of my community in the last year. My community has become actively involved in helping others.

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