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Salons aim to help children in need look and feel good

By Courtney Llewellyn Reminder Assistant Editor Back to school time is a busy time for both kids and adults. There are new clothes and myriad school supplies to buy, schedules to arrange and sunny summer days to enjoy to the fullest before students are back behind their desks. One thing that cannot be overlooked, though, is the back to school haircut. A new haircut can mean a lot to a child, whether he or she is six or 16. The Hair Cuttery, a salon chain with 900 locations across the country, knows how important it is to look good at school. That's why they will be donating haircuts to needy children this fall through their Share A Haircut program. Running from Aug. 1 through 15, the Share A Haircut program donates one haircut to a child in need for every regular child's haircut paid for at a salon. Now in its ninth year, the program has already donated more than 380,000 haircuts nationwide. This is the first year the Greater Springfield area Hair Cuttery salons are participating in the program. Michelle Massa, the salon leader at the Springfield location at 1718 Boston Rd., said this is an especially good time of year for the salons to host this program. "Vacationers are coming back and going back to school. They see the sign [for the donation program] and come in," she said. Haircuts are given on a walk-in basis at the Hair Cuttery salons, and the cost for children up to age eight is $11; for those up to age 18, the cost is $15. Massa said the Springfield location gives an average of 40 to 50 childrens' haircuts a week, while a stylist from the West Springfield location, at 343 Memorial Ave., said they do between 75 and 100 childrens' cuts a week. Other area locations include one in Westfield at 459 East Main St. and one in Chicopee at 1410 Memorial Drive. "We have always as a company done things in the communities in which we operate," Diane Daly, director of public relations for Ratner Companies, the parent company of the Hair Cuttery salons, said. "We wanted to figure out what we could do to help kids and back to school seemed like a perfect time. Our job is to make people look good." Daly explained that Ratner Companies partnered with social service agencies a few months ago for the Share A Haircut program. Once the salons tally up the number of childrens' haircuts they give during the program's two-week period, that number of coupons is given to the social service agencies, which distribute the free haircut coupons to children in foster care, who are homeless or who reside in shelters. In this area, Ratner Companies have partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Social Services in Springfield. Which children receive the free haircut coupons is based first on need, Giselle Maloney, assistant area administrative manager for the Department of Children and Families in Springfield, said. "Any time we receive a donation, an e-mail goes out to our case workers, who each handle between 18 and 22 different cases," Maloney said. "They determine who needs that donation the most." The Springfield Department of Children and Families has close to 800 children in foster care, according to Maloney. She said she thought participating in the Share A Haircut program was "a good idea." "It's really important for kids to have a good image. It raises their self-esteem," she noted. In Daly's opinion, the program is of great import for everyone involved. "It's very important for stylists to feel they have an effect on people in their communities," she said. "We're committed to this. It's not the only thing we do in the community, but it's the biggest. We care about where we work and live." The Share A Haircut program will continue through Aug. 15. To learn more about the Hair Cuttery salons and the other community programs they are involved with, visit www.haircuttery.com.

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