Back to school in style

Samuel Mull, 4, of Milton, and Ashley Burlew, an Empire Beauty School student, smiled as she wrapped up giving Mull a free haircut Monday at the Bridge of Hope.

MILTON — By mid-afternoon Monday, more than 50 local children had received free haircuts with an additional 25 receiving complimentary back-to-school items during an event which is becoming an annual tradition in Milton.

Janette Berge, director of the Bridge of Hope, said this marked the third year the outreach center — operated by Crossroads Church of the Nazarene — has provided free back-to-school haircuts and school supplies to the community. Families were also able to receive shoes, hooded sweatshirts and diapers for their children.

While she was impressed with the number who had attended as of mid afternoon, Berge expected even more participants to take part in the event throughout the remainder of the afternoon.

“We’ve had a lot more community input, people willing to help out (this year),” Berge said. “We’ve had some barbers and stylists that this is their first year coming.

“This is about helping the community, not only getting to know the Bridge of Hope and what we do here.”

Throughout the school year, the center — operated out of a former church building on King Street — provides after-school tutoring two days per week to students in fourth through sixth grade. A thrift shop, which supports the program, also operates out of the building.

Berge said about 25 children typically attend the tutoring sessions.

Steve Vaughn, the lead pastor at Crossroads Church of the Nazarene, said the program is having an impact on those who participate.

“The kids who entered the tutoring program, it has by far helped in their studies,” he said.

Berge and Vaughn expressed thanks to the approximately 25 volunteers who were giving of their time to help with Monday’s event.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” Berge said. “I’m glad we get to be a part of that.”

“It’s important to be in the community that you want to live in,” Vaughn said. “Part of that is building relationships.”

Janette Zellers, executive director of Empire Beauty School in Shamokin Dam, said that’s exactly why her school became involved in the event for the first time this year. Empire students were among those giving haircuts to the children who turned out for the event.

“(Our students) need to know it starts with them giving back to the community,” Zellers said. “This is a good opportunity to see that first hand.”

She also noted the event presented a good opportunity for Empire students to practice cutting children’s hair.

Through their schooling, Empire Salon Educator Morgan Nelling said students don’t often have the opportunity to practice cutting a child’s hair.

“A child is not always still,” Nelling said. “That creates an issue with evenness… Sometimes, a child doesn’t always want to get a haircut.”

She added that Monday’s event provided a positive experience for Empire’s students for many reasons.

“I’m glad they get this experience to help with the kids in the community,” Nelling said. “It’s nice to be here and to help.”

Frank Rodriguez, owner of the Against the Grain barbershop in Milton, said his business closed its doors Monday to allow six of his employees to give their time providing free haircuts at the event.

“This is to give back to the community,” he said. “I know, with having kids, it gets expensive, school time.

“The community supports our business,” Rodriguez continued. “We want to return the favor.”

As he helped distribute free shoes and sweatshirts to those in attendance, Vaughn noted how thankful the attendees were.

“The people that come to this are really grateful,” he said. “This is an opportunity for them to get some school supplies and new shoes.”

Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email kevin@standard-journal.com.

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