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An Antioch, Tennessee, woman has been giving back to her community by braiding children’s hair for free so students can feel confident going back to school and parents have one less thing to worry about.
After her children were gifted with supplies and clothing to start the school year off right, Brittany Starks wanted to utilize one of her talents to help families in her community as well.
“One of the friends of the family gave my kids a book bag full of school supplies, and two outfits, and a pair of shoes. So, I was extremely grateful and I’m like, ‘How can I give back?’ Well, I can braid,” the single mother of two recalled on how she was inspired with her idea, reports News Channel 5 Nashville.
She ended up posting her offer to braid returning students’ hair on the “Hip Antioch” Facebook page in early August and received dozens of replies. So much so that she’s even had to enlist the help of other local braiders who are also willing to donate their time and talent to help their community.
“I thought it was going to be five to seven kids, but it ended up being 35 kids,” Starks told NPR about the initial response to the post.
Despite her other responsibilities and the three jobs she works, Starks — and her fleet of braiders — work evenings and weekends in churches and braiding shops to get as many kids braided as possible. Sometimes they even make house calls.
“It’s been very hard. I haven’t gotten any sleep. I’ve been extremely tired, but it’s very worth it,” the busy mother of two said. “I feel like I’m doing it for a good cause.”
In Starks’s opinion, the real value in what she does for the community lies in the confidence it gives students returning to school.
“It boosts confidence,” she explained. “Some kids, they came in, they weren’t smiling, they weren’t talking, and then, you know, as they get their hair braided, they start opening up a little more and then when they’re done, they’re just smiling and so happy. It’s a great thing to see.”
“When your hair is cute, I just feel like you feel so much better about everything,” she added. “[If] your hair is done, you feel confident, you go into school with a fresh start — even though COVID-19’s bringing everybody down.”
She expressed how her free hair braiding service sheds light on a piece of the Black experience that some on the outside looking in might not understand.
“It takes time. 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,” Starks said on the usual toll getting one’s hair braided — an often costly act — takes on the kids she services. “They get happy after that but sitting, getting your hair combed, especially if you have coarse hair. That hurts.”
Since she’s been homeless before, Starks hopes that what she’s doing in Antioch will inspire others to do community service in whatever way they can.
“I hope that they will learn to give back also. Community service, you know, feeding someone homeless,” she told her local news outlet. “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.”
To help support Starks’ cause and learn more, donate to her GoFundMe.
If you’re an Antioch local with some hair braiding skills that would like to volunteer, reach out directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.