VICKSBURG – Delores Coomes is a busy woman. The mother of 12, grandmother of 26 and soon-to-be great-grandmother of 19, exercises several times a week, heads up the respect for life committee at Vicksburg St. Michael parish and volunteers for several other ministries. She drives for meals-on-wheels and helps new mothers and grieving families. She’s also a competition dancer of sorts.
The 83-year-old widow has competed in the United Way’s Dancing with the Vicksburg Stars fundraiser for the last three years. Last year she won third place.
“I’d like to have won, but more than that, I wanted to send a message that just because you get old, your life is not over,” said Coomes. Dancing with the Vicksburg Stars is a competition based on the popular television show, but with a fundraising twist.
Teams of dancers recruit fans to vote by donating prior to the event. Each dollar equals one vote. Those votes count for a third of the total score. During the competition a team of five judges gives a score for talent and, again, the audience votes with their money. Those elements make up the other two-thirds of the score.
“We got all 10s from the judges the first year!” said Coomes.
“We designate a different program every year,” explained Kristen Meehan, marketing director for United Way in Vicksburg. “It could be to pay for prescriptions for seniors or to help with rent and utilities for families who are working, but have experienced an unforeseen emergency or books for our early literacy program,” she added. This year the money went both to early literacy and a workforce development program to help people with job training and placement.
“I have always loved to dance,” said Coomes. “I said I would never marry a man who could not dance, but I did – I taught him to dance and I think he got better than I was,” she said. Her husband died 30 years ago. Coomes partner, Vic Goodwin, works with her son. He said he has been dancing since he was five or six-years-old. “My wife and I took lessons for about a year, mostly two-step and waltz,” said Goodwin. I have never done anything like that before,” he said, but he enjoyed the experience. “It was fun — we had a real good time,” he added.
“He didn’t know how to polka, so I taught him, but he really came in and threw some things into it,” she said. She and Goodwin have also danced the jitterbug for the competition. Coomes does have something of a competitive spirit, but that’s not the real reason she dances. “I hope I inspire people to listen to my message,” she said. Coomes said she always keeps God first in her life and hopes this experience can be a way of evangelizing.
“She’s an amazing woman,” said Father P.J. Curley, pastor of St. Michael. “She is a great Catholic, very faithful, and she is a hard worker for the cause of pro-life,” he added. Coomes and her husband sent 11 children to St. Aloysius School. Now her grandchildren attend the school.
Coomes will continue to be involved with the competition, but this time she’s turning the tables. Next year, she will be one of the five judges. “We really want her to stay a part of the competition,” said Meehan. “She has a great eye for talent and we want her to be one of the judges next year,” she said.