The following article, Woman Determined to Build Kids' Confidence Volunteers to Braid Hair at Beginning of School Year, was first published on Flag And Cross.
Starting up school in-person after a summer away — or for many modern kids, after a year away — is an exciting but stressful time. Many families hit the stores for back-to-school shopping and are met with an overwhelming selection of supplies, gear and clothing.
Plenty of kids carefully choose their outfit and styling for the first day back, but not everyone has the luxury of a new wardrobe or even the basics like hair care.
That’s where Brittany Starks from Nashville, Tennessee, comes in. Starks knows the value of a good hairstyle, and she has also experienced firsthand what it feels like to be part of the have-nots.
“I know when I was in school, having my hair done … even if I didn’t have the best clothes or anything, that made me feel better, you know, going to school, having my hair done, that made my confidence,” Starks told WTVF-TV.
A single mom of two, Starks made an astounding offer to her community that has bloomed into an entire movement — and it started with simple gratitude and a post on Facebook.
“Anyone know single parents who can’t afford to get their child’s hair done for school?” she posted on Aug. 4. “I will braid it for free! Please DM me.”
She made the offer in her local group, Hip Antioch, after being the recipient of an act of kindness herself.
“One of the friends and family gave my kids a book bag full of school supplies, and two outfits, and a pair of shoes,” she explained. “So, I was extremely grateful and I’m like, ‘how can I give back?’ Well, I can braid.
“I live in the Antioch community so I’m like, you know, let’s just, I’m just going to post it on Hip Antioch to see if anybody knows any kids or any parents that needs your kids’ hair done.”
The response she got was overwhelming. But with each child taking up to six hours to finish braiding (and up to a $300 value), she received more interest than she had time.
“Update: I have over 30 kids I need help braiding,” she added to the post.
She braided in all her spare time, and the requests still came pouring in.
“It was supposed to be probably like five to seven kids, but I didn’t think I was going to get such a big reaction than I did,” she said. “So, it’s been more, a lot more.”
“I had a lady, she had five kids, she was living in a hotel, and she needed her kids’ hair done. And I’m like, I kept getting stories like that and I’m like, ‘I can’t, I can’t stop’ and they’re like, my friends, like, if you can’t do it, why would you ever say, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t not, I can’t say no. Because obviously there’s some people that really needs it.”
As more parents contacted her, more do-gooders reached out as well, offering their own braiding skills to help with the undertaking. Starks updated her post again, asking if anyone had a space they could use to accommodate all of them.
Seeing all the positive responses she got and facing a mile-long list of kids who still needed care, Starks started a GoFundMe at the request of multiple good Samaritans who wanted to help fund her efforts.
So far, the GoFundMe has raised over $20,000 — money that Starks says will be used to secure supplies and a space for her and the other braiders so that she can continue to offer the service past the start of the school year for needy families.
“The reason I mostly did it is I’m a single mother,” Starks added. “I was a struggling single mother. I’ve been homeless before, it meant something to give back because giving someone who doesn’t have it, can’t, can’t afford it, makes, something to make their day. I’ll do it, even if I didn’t have the time. I didn’t even get to do my own child’s hair yet.”
“It takes time,” she added. “It takes materials. It takes patience. Sitting for four hours to get your hair braided that’s sometimes, especially for a child that’s … it’s a lot because some kids can’t sit 30 minutes, so to get your hair braided and to look nice I mean, the end result. So, they get happy after that but sitting, getting your hair combed, especially if you have coarse hair. That hurts.”
All Starks asks in return is that the families she assists will assist others when the opportunity arises.
“I hope that they will learn to give back also,” she said. “Community service, you know, feeding someone homeless. I mean, it goes a long way. A long way. Me being homeless before, it goes a long way.”
“Just being kind. It helps! Like, you never know what someone’s going through.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.