By Donna Thornton/News Editor
A couple of years ago the people of First United Methodist Church of Gadsden were looking for a need to fill when it comes to getting local children ready to go back to school.
Associate Pastor Tammy Jackson said they knew that for most parents the list of things needed for back-to-school is long and costly, and they knew other agencies in the area were collecting school supplies for students.
“We looked at what might be left over after parents buy school supplies and school uniforms – what they might not have money left for. We were looking for a gap that needed to be filled, and a brand new haircut was it,” Jackson said.
And so began a partnership with a number of local salons that send their beauticians to the church for one late summer afternoon to offer children free haircuts so they can get a well-groomed start to the school year. This year, the church opened its doors to the community Aug. 9 in what has become an annual assistance effort.
“Some of the salons close their doors so all their stylists can help,” Jackson said.
Church members also collect school supplies and make those available for children, she said. When organizers learned socks and underwear were another often neglected need, they began the “Sock it to ‘Em” drive to collect socks and underwear to make available for children in need.
And as part of giving haircuts, children needed to be checked for head lice, which led organizers to incorporate dental and eye exams into their back-to-school effort.
‘We’re looking for problems that might interfere with children’s learning,” Jackson said.
Between people who’ve helped organize and participate in this annual effort, she estimated between 25 and 50 people work on this drive each year. Many more church members support the drive by donating items or money.