Walk into the Aurora Township Youth Center on a Tuesday or Thursday afternoon and you’ll find an energetic dance rehearsal.
You’ll hear it before you see it – African, Latin, and hip-hop songs bursting through a speaker, filling the room, as children and teens in matching t-shirts step, sway, and spin.
Elizabeth Loving, or “Miss Liz”, as her students call her, acts as both choreographer and mentor, calling out instructions and pausing to patiently guide individual dancers. Each song is punctuated by her words of encouragement, and as a song reaches its climax, she often joins in the dancing with a smile and a laugh.
Bucket of Love, a newer Aurora-based nonprofit, provides free dance classes and outreach programs to children ages 5-17. For many at-risk youth in the Aurora area, finding easily accessible extracurricular activities can be difficult. Keeping these offerings free of charge removes barriers to involvement that youth might otherwise experience.
Loving, Bucket of Love’s executive director, started the organization in 2018 with physical, social, and spiritual benefits in mind. As a child, she wanted to dance despite her family’s inability to cover the cost of a dance program; it was this experience that inspired her to create a program for youth in similar situations.
“Bucket of Love was formed to offer underserved children a safe, affordable, and comfortable space to express themselves, learn and perform dance techniques, form a personal relationship with God, and share with others the love of God,” Loving said.
Thanks to this holistic mindset, Bucket of Love’s outreach to the children it serves includes motivational workshops, empowerment galas, movie nights, field trips, and birthday celebrations. Family members, as well as other members of the community, are typically invited to attend.
In less than a year, Bucket of Love has hosted 11 events, and the Bucket of Love Dance (B.O.L.D.) Team has performed 15 times. As a new organization already exceeding its goals, the group applied for – and eventually received – a CFFRV capital grant to purchase a speaker and a set of ballet barres to improve rehearsals and performances.
Loving said the speaker offers a winning combination of high-quality sound, connectivity options, and portability – perfect for indoor and outdoor performances. As for the ballet barres, Loving says they are essential in helping her students stretch their muscles, improve their balance and posture, and strengthen their core.
Eventually, Loving hopes to raise funds for a team van or bus to help transport students and continue to share a mission that includes “messages, music, and moves”.
“We are an organization that truly serves the community openly and regularly; we don’t expect anything in return,” Loving said. “We believe our mission aligns with the mission of God, and that is to treat others as we would want to be treated by sharing love. If we all can embrace this idea, families can heal, and communities will band together.”