"I was sitting in the lounge one night. You know, watching tv, and some soldiers walked by and said, ‘What are you doing?’”
'Watching TV,' I said. And they said, 'No you're not. You're coming with us.'
We ended up going out to a country line dancing bar. They showed me how to 2 step and all that... I started going out more and more,” said Gregory JaJo Sr.
Jajo, a veteran, served his country for 22 years, 7 months, and 23 days.
First, he joined the Navy. He served in active duty in the Coast Guard, in the Reserves and the National Guard before he joined the Army. Wounded during his second tour overseas in Iraq in 2007, Jajo spent his last two years in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where an invitation to go out dancing would change his life forever.
In 2010, Jajo moved back to his roots here in the Great Lakes Bay Region where he served in the Honor Guard for the state of Michigan and began working in the Veteran Services Department at Delta College and taking classes.
One night in 2011, he was watching a local band play country music at Northern Lanes in Sanford.
“Everybody was just standing on the floor, so I kinda got it started. I jumped up to ‘Copperhead Road’. Next thing I know, people started asking how do you do that? So I started teaching people in bars.”
Today, hundreds of people across the Great Lakes Bay Region line up in bars, at festivals, and at fundraising events to dance, kick, and stomp with Dust Stompers, a local line-dancing organization created by Jajo. Much more than simple group of line-dancers, Dust Stompers dance and volunteer around the region to bring joy to the community.
“It's about being able to take care of the people. Just to be able to go and enjoy themselves for a fun night out. Talk with people, network, and build friendships,” said Jajo.
Stomping Moves the Soul
“Lots of people reduce the amount of medication they take, or go off it completely. People lose weight, have less stress and anxiety,” said Jajo.
“The group really becomes a large extension of your family,” said Brandy Seiggreen, a member who has been dancing with Dust Stompers since the beginning.
“Being a Dust Stomper has brought me out of my shell, and I am no longer the nervous and shy girl I once was before. I have made many lifelong friends through this group and I could not imagine my life without them.” said Lynzee Marcoux, who has been dancing with Dust Stompers with her mother for about four years.
Bonnie Dombrowski Poppe has been a member for over 6 years and dances to relieve stress. “I lost 35 lbs doing it...not to mention learning the steps keeps your mind sharp!”
“I have become more active, fit, and have found a whole new family of friends. We’re proud members of a 3 generation family who dance regularly together and have a healthy blast doing it!” Denise Rankin added.
“I was always intrigued by line dancers, but felt I was too clumsy to participate..." JoLynn Lippie continued, “Being a member of the Dust Stomper family has been such a beautiful gift. I have participated in dancing at public events like the Loons Game, The Mall, and for residents at nursing homes.”
Dust Stompers Give Back
Dust Stompers dance at fundraisers, parades, and in dance halls year round. From animal rescue to food-drives, Dust Stompers are happy to be part of community events across Michigan.
Every dollar raised by Dust Stompers is donated or goes directly back to the organization.
“It's not about us. It's about making the night more enjoyable for somebody else,” said Jajo. He continued, “When we go to senior centers and places like that they give us a donation, but not to us directly. We hand them a postcard with our information on it and the organization we would like have the donated money go to. So it goes right to them.”
Jajo is currently looking for sponsors in order to continue the Dust Stompers’ growth across Mid-Michigan.
“We make an impact in people's lives that goes beyond what I can say here.”
Dust Stompers meet weekly in Bay City, Saginaw, Midland, Birch Run, Owosso, Clio, and beginning on April 4th, Frankenmuth.
Anyone interested in participating in a class, or joining the Dust Stompers for a fun night out, can learn more by visiting the group's Facebook page
or by contacting Gregory Jajo at firstname.lastname@example.org