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The Original Rhondels perform Aug. 9 from 7-1 p.m. in the “Hold Back the Night” dance sponsored by the East Fairmont High Class of 1969 to benefit Operation Welcome Home West Virginia, which helps veterans find jobs after service. Organizers want the community to know it’s not just for East Fairmont grads.

FAIRMONT – After 50 years, members of the East Fairmont High School Class of 1969 still like to keep in touch, meet up and especially, dance.

That’s why for their 50th high school reunion, the planning committee decided a musical dance event open to anyone and everyone would be a fun way to reconvene as a class.

“Most of us growing up in Fairmont loved going to dances, loved music,” said Ben Polis, a member of the Class of 1969 planning committee. “We sponsored two other dances before and they were called ‘Valley Dance Reunions,’ and we decided that we’re going to open this one up to the public.”

According to Polis, the class members have planned reunions for previous anniversary milestones, most recently their 40th reunion. For their 50th, however, they wanted to go all out, and do something that could make a difference.

Polis said they added a fundraising element to the dance to further involve the community, and put their attendance to a good cause – Operation Welcome Home.

“We decided to find a charity that we could hold a benefit dance for,” Polis said. “We wanted to make sure for the charity that the money stays home, and not goes to some national office or anything.”

Operation Welcome Home assists military veterans with job placement and life management skills when they return from the service.

“Operation Welcome Home is an employment resource center,” said Brett Simpson, CEO of the Morgantown-based nonprofit. “We provide classes, job fairs, resume writing classes, mock interviewing classes, budgeting classes; we help align veterans with careers that best suit their needs and also see what they want to do.”

As a nonprofit, Operation Welcome Home relies on fundraising events and grant money to maintain its operations. According to Simpson, the organization has put more than 470 veterans or family members back to full-time employment since it began operation in 2012. Simpson said every week, they work with at least three to five veterans for employment opportunities.

Simpson said its events like the Classs of 1969’s that can also help spread the organization’s mission.

“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without them,” Simpson said of community fundraisers. “As a nonprofit, it’s really important to us that we have people who appreciate the mission that we do and really believe in our heroes, our mission and our organization because we rely fully on grants, fundraisers and donations to pay our bills and keep our building in operation.”

Simpson said some staffers and potentially himself will attend the dance to disseminate information for anyone interested, and also partake in the fun. Polis said that although it is a reunion planned by people who were in high school 50 years ago, the dance will be fun for all ages.

He said the class booked Virginia Beach, Virginia band the Original Rhondels to entertain, who despite having hit songs in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Polis believes they provide a sound anyone can enjoy.

“This is for all ages,” Polis said. “People can come to this Friday night event and enjoy great music and dancing, and it’ll just be a fun event raising money for a worthy cause.”

Polis said that even after 50 years, the class members of East Fairmont High School enjoy getting together to both plan and partake in these reunions. He is also excited to get back to Fairmont from North Carolina to see everyone again.

“We have a lot of participating members that have worked over the years in planning our reunions,” Polis said. “Our class has remained very close, very tight. I believe we’re very unique in the way that we maintained our friendships over the years.”

The Hold Back the Night class reunion fundraiser takes place at 6 p.m. Aug. 9 in Colebank Hall on Fairmont State University’s campus. Tickets are available at Rider Pharmacy, Craft Connection and Noteworthy Sweets in Fairmont as well as online at https://east-fairmont-class-of-69-owh.square.site/ for a cost of $25 each.

Polis said all proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Operation Welcome Home.

Email Eddie Trizzino at etrizzino@timeswv.com and follow him on Twitter at @eddietimeswv.

News Reporter

Eddie Trizzino has been a reporter with the Times West Virginian since August of 2017, covering the entertainment, business and health beats. He spends most of his time listening to records, going to the movies and strolling through the town.