By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON HARBOR — As the music stopped inside the Drama Room, 11-year-old Sanehi Johnson kept dancing along with the other children.
Standing and sometimes dancing behind them in a single-file row, wearing matching blue T-shirts, were volunteers from Whirlpool Corp., Maytag and other appliance companies. About 30 of those volunteers spent a few hours at the Boys & Girls Club in Benton Harbor Tuesday evening.
It was part of the Maytag Day of Dependability, where volunteers visited Boys & Girls Clubs locations in communities across the U.S. where Whirlpool operates. In Benton Harbor, employees spent time participating in a variety of activities with the club kids. This included homework, reading books, arts and crafts, putt-putt golf and, of course, dancing.
While the music stopped momentarily for Johnson and company, the group of children lent a hand to their visitors by showing them the proper steps and moves to the hip-hop dance called “Hit the Quan.” Many Whirlpool employees smiled while others looked on in disbelief at the fluidity of the dance.
“It was fun. I was surprised,” Johnson said of the special visit. “Some of them have moves, but some of them need a little more work. It took me like a day to learn, but they should be able to get it.”
This marked the second time Maytag had its Day of Dependability, which first took place last year in November.
Maytag Brand Manager Laura Ginter said they are trying to do it a couple times a year, with the next one taking place Nov. 17.
In 2010, the Maytag brand teamed up with Boys & Girls Club of America as a commitment to youth and communities. The partnership was a way to recognize and promote dependability, Ginter said. To date, Maytag has donated more than $5.5 million to the nationwide organization.
“Dependability is about being there for people, being a reliable resource for the kids, it’s about showing them what dependability is all about. Being someone they can rely.”
In the Art and Science Room, kids and volunteers made costumes and made pictures with beads.
Ervin Wilson, 11, started going to the Boys & Girls Club last year and has enjoyed it ever since. On Tuesday, he spent some time creating a basketball jersey with Julia Vanderboegh, a senior manager at Whirlpool.
“We’re making a basketball costume. Right now, we’re working on the right sleeve,” Wilson said. “This is something I’m trying out for now, but I’ll probably wear this every other day.”
Vanderboegh, who was hard at work on one of the white sleeves that would accompany Wilson’s jersey, took part in the same event last year.
“I had so much fun that I wanted to come back again,” she said. “It’s nice to be a part of something like this. I was excited to see Whirlpool does this as a group.”
Liji Hanny, Boys & Girls Club director of operations, said he and the rest of the staff kept the planned visit a surprise for the kids.
Among the main things Hanny wanted was for the visiting employees to experience what an average day at their club was like.
“Anybody can get the kids all excited about a special event,” he said. “Our goal is to get kids excited about everyday. We wanted the Day of Dependability to be about the Maytag employees getting a slice of what we do everyday, because we believe everyday is special.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Sept. 30, 2015)