On his toes

On the job and off, Todd Griffin is a hoofer.

The Attleboro, MA, letter carrier may drive an LLV on his route, but he gets plenty of exercise delivering packages to its 756 residences.

“I carry a lot of stuff up long driveways and do obstacle courses as I’m going through yards,” he said. “I still get a lot of walking every day.”

Off hours, his hardworking dogs take on a second shift at the dance studio, where Griffin hones his technique on everything from the waltz to the rumba to the country two-step.

The letter carrier comes by his gifts naturally: Both parents were square dancers, and as a child he followed in their footsteps.

He added tap in his teen years and kept at it until he was about 20. At that point, he realized his fellow students were getting younger and he was getting older and so he decided it was time to hang up his dancing shoes.

For two decades, he focused on other things, including his postal career and being an uncle to six nieces and a nephew. When he reached 40, it became clear that he would need to brush up on his rusty dancing skills — there were a possible seven weddings in his future, after all.

“That lit the fire under me,” he said.

He enrolled in the Paris Academy of Ballroom Dancing in Taunton, MA, and began his studies anew. At one point, his teacher asked if he’d consider entering a competition.

It hadn’t been on his radar, but Griffin thought, why not?

So began his busy second career on the dancing circuit. “I was decent at it and it made me want to do more,” he said.

“Decent” is putting it mildly. He has won several high-profile national and regional titles — including six New England Dance Festival titles — and has competed in about 15 states.

He is most proud of his 2020 United Country Western Dance Council couples world title because “world” competitions include dancers from 25 countries. He’s also pleased with his 2018 and 2019 titles from the American Country Dance Association because “winning them back to back proves that they were not a fluke,” he said.

The letter carrier spreads the joy whenever he wins a title, bringing dozens of Dunkin’ Donuts to the office for his co-workers: “They now request cinnamon spice and Bavarian cream, mostly,” he said.

Griffin clearly loves to dance but seems to love learning new dances — and perfecting those he has down pat — even more. You might say his artistic philosophy is one of continuous improvement.

“You have to realize it’s never-ending,” he said. “The whole idea is to always get better. I’m not the best dancer. I know plenty of people who are better than me. I just try to do better than I did before.”

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A world of want

The Combined Federal Campaign’s cause of the week aims high indeed: ending poverty.

The campaign quotes Martin Luther King Jr., who spent the last months of his life organizing the Poor People’s Campaign, uniting haves and have-nots from diverse backgrounds to fight the scourge.

“I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies; education and culture for their minds; and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits,” King said.

Low income and lack of resources hinder human development and limit access to proper health care, nutrition and education.

The Urban Institute projects a U.S. poverty rate of 13.7 percent for 2021, or 1 in 7 Americans, and more than 4 in 10 children live in a home struggling to meet basic needs, according to the Center for American Progress.

Outside the United States the situation is even more dire, with 734 million people living below the international poverty line, currently a mere $1.90 a day.

The campaign, also known as the CFC, lists an array of causes under the poverty umbrella, including economic development, infrastructure, human trafficking and clean water.

While there is no specific category for “poverty” or “ending poverty” on the website’s charity search tool, a broad search can be of help if you’re unsure where to focus your giving.

For example, the categories “Civil Rights, Social Action & Advocacy,” “Housing & Shelter” and “Public & Societal Benefit” are topic areas that are sure to include relevant charities.

The Combined Federal Campaign is the federal government’s workplace charity drive. The latest campaign began Sept. 1 and runs through Jan. 15.

Participation in the CFC is voluntary.

The GiveCFC.org website has more information.

This is the fourth in a series of articles spotlighting the Combined Federal Campaign’s cause of the week. Next week: arts and humanities.