WEIRTON - An upcoming dinner-dance will serve as both a fundraiser for a local group home for girls and a celebration of its 35th anniversary.
Proceeds from There's No Place Like Home, a dinner-dance featuring steak supplied by Undo's, will help to make the residents of Brooke Place a little more comfortable during their stay, said officials with Family Connections, which operates it.
The event will be held April 30 at the Weirton Holiday Inn and include dancing to music by disc jockey Bobby LaRosa. The cost is $20 per person, and a cash bar will be available.
Reservations are encouraged and may be made by contacting Rose LaRosa, the group home's director, at (304) 527-3303 or www.familyconnectionsinc.org.
Rose LaRosa said the annual fundraiser was suggested by her late mother, Rosemarie Bragg. After retiring as an administrative assistant at Weirton Medical Center, Bragg gave her time to the Brooke County West Virginia University Extension Service and to the group home until leukemia cut short her life in 2009.
LaRosa said her mother chose the theme because she wanted the community to know the staff's approach to the girls who come to the group home following troubles at their homes or schools.
Girls at the group home are encouraged to think of their stay at Brooke Place as a journey. Inspired by L. Frank Baum's classic, "The Wizard of Oz," LaRosa and her staff encourage the girls to use their hearts to learn compassion for others and form positive relationships; their brains to consider the consequences of their actions and make good decisions; and courage to change their behavior when they return to their homes.
LaRosa said it's customary for each girl, as she prepares to leave Brooke Place, to share, as much as they desire, any changes they have undergone, and to be presented a necklace with a pendant in the shape of Dorothy's famous ruby slippers.
She said girls come to the home from various parts of the state. Sometimes it's because of their negative behavior at home or school, LaRosa said.
But she added that very often they are removed from their homes for their protection while their parents undergo counseling to correct attitudes that led to the situation.
She said Brooke Place receives funding to provide basic living accommodations for up to 12 temporary residents, who attend local schools while there.
LaRosa said the fundraiser provides for additional materials that help the girls to feel more at home, chaperoned outings that take them away from the home for a while, or supervised visits from family members that help the girls to reconnect with parents, siblings and other family members.
She said the dinner-dance isn't the only way the community has supported Brooke Place. The group home has accepted donations of various toiletries, beauty products and school supplies for the girls.
The group home originated as the Brooke-Hancock Group Home, a co-ed facility in Newell, in 1976.
Later it moved to Wellsburg and finally to the current home in Colliers designed by Jon Meriwether of Wellsburg and built with funds secured by former Congressman Alan Mollohan.
In recent years, the men of Colliers United Methodist Church and other community members built a large picnic shelter outside the home using funds donated by Evelyn Rapp of Alabama, who is the aunt of Joanne Dobrzanski, executive director of Family Connections.
Last year students at West Virginia University collected input from the girls about recreational opportunities, such as a basketball court, that might be established near the home.
Peter Butler, their professor, is working to combine elements of designs proposed by 30 students into a concept that best meets the home's needs.