- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—By Stephanie Creech

Times Managing Editor

Eleven-year-old Damion Harris sat still as Christopher Batts, owner of Kings and Queens barber shop, clipped his hair.

Damion’s not too excited about this being his last week of summer vacation. But Damion and his mother, Cynthia Harris, took advantage of the opportunity for Damion to get a free haircut just in time for the start of a new school year. Damion was one of 60 students at Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Education offered free haircuts by Batts and other barbers working in Batts’ shop on Herring Avenue.

The six men moved their barber chairs and equipment out of the shop early Monday morning and set up in the band room at the school. Shortly after 9 a.m., hair started falling to the floor.

The school was a hub of activity Monday. Teachers and staff reported for professional development and training. In between sessions, teachers worked in their classrooms. Maintenance staff cleaned hallways. Parents dropped by to pick up their children’s school uniforms.

Students report to class next Monday morning.

Harris said they are as “ready as they are going to be” for the start of school. She watched as Batts worked on Damion’s hair. Harris, who is also in the hair industry, said when she can she gives out free haircuts. So the help Batts and his team offered was a nice change for Harris. Plus, she said Damion had a chance to mingle with friends while they waited for his turn in the chair.

Vanessa Daughtridge-Hickman, the parent outreach and discipline coordinator at Sallie B. Howard, decided this week was the best time to do this project. Overall, she said Monday morning had gone smoothly.

A total of 60 children were selected by means of a lottery to receive the free haircuts. Daughtridge-Hickman estimated that by the time the men finished, 45 to 50 children will have been served. Some families are out of town on vacation or simply couldn’t make it for the session.

Other barbers helping with the project were Brenton Batts, James Tyson, Leevaris Woodard, Domnique Lindesey and Dennis Wilkins. These barbers rent space in Batts’ shop, which is located at 1305 Building G., Herring Avenue.

Batts said they were all doing basic cuts and putting in parts but basic parts because they didn’t want to give students haircuts that would prove to be disruptive at school.

Batts opened his shop five years ago. He works nights at Bridgestone Americas in Wilson. He’s been with the tire manufacturing company for 22 years now. Batts said he decided to open a barber shop because he saw a real need for an additional shop in Wilson. Now, he’s focused on trying to help make a difference for the children and the community.

Batts said he strongly believes appearance plays a big role in a kid’s life. He pointed out how some children are bullied because of their appearance. And he pointed out how a good appearance builds a child’s confidence and helps them do well in school.

The men just recently opened a kid’s corner at the shop. It’s an area where children can sit and read books. Batts and his team also give away school supplies to children in need in the community.

Batts wants to challenge other barbers in the community to give back to the community as well.

As Daughtridge-Hickman watched the men work she could hardly contain her excitement. She points to the barbers as an example of how closely the school and community work together. Daughtridge-Hickman said Batts jumped at the chance to help. This was not the first time Batts has offered students there a free haircut.

“This has been an awesome opportunity,” Daughtridge-Hickman said.

[email protected] — 265-7822


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