- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 28, 2020

Coronavirus closures of barbershops and hair salons have inspired some residents to test their tonsorial skills — a test Evan Winston failed in April with electric clippers, as evidenced by his 12-year-old son’s “haircut.”

“I goofed and didn’t have the guard on right,” said Mr. Winston, president of Hercules Fence. “He had this ridiculous skinhead haircut. My wife was so mad at me.”

As payback, he allowed his son, Tyler, to shave his head. Just before the boy started trimming, Mr. Winston realized that many other families must be having hair problems similar to his own. And in that light-bulb moment, the Hercules COVID-19 Charity Haircut Challenge was born.

Mr. Winston committed his regional fencing company to donating $100 to a local food bank for every Hercules employee who cut their hair at home. For every friend or family member who chopped off some hair, he would donate $50.

In just over a month, more than $13,000 has been raised, and the goal is to raise a total of $25,000. The proceeds will be divided among the Capital Area Food Bank, Feed More, the Maryland Food Bank and a food bank at Virginia Beach.

“Regardless of exactly how many participants we get, we are going to give [at least $18,000] because it’s important to us,” Mr. Winston said.

Mr. Winston said the challenge has boosted morale among staffers, given their families something to do together and raised awareness about hunger in the region.

He chose this cause because he had received emails from the local school district about how it was delivering meals to families and had seen news reports about the work food banks were doing to support their communities, as many have been laid off during the pandemic.

“It was a heightened sense of awareness about people living paycheck to paycheck,” Mr. Winston said, adding that he also wanted to provide a role model for his three kids on the importance of being charitable.

Kris Antonis, a facility security officer with Hercules Fence, said that although her 9-year-old daughter needed an extra incentive to cut her hair for the challenge, the cause was meaningful.

Ms. Antonis said she used to help deliver food with her grandmother to people experiencing homelessness, so when her daughter Presley found out the proceeds were going to food banks, she was extra excited to participate. Also her mom said she could dye her hair purple if she did it.

“She’s ready to do it again if it means we can do a different color,” Ms. Antonis said.

Adam McFadden, a production manager at Hercules Custom Iron in Walkersville, Maryland, said there were a couple of people in his office who “claimed they knew how to cut hair” so they set up a “pseudo-barbershop” and cut the hair of about 20 employees.

“From my standpoint, you see people go hungry every day,” Mr. McFadden said. “We were fortunate enough to keep working through this pandemic.”

Adam Isaacson, a friend of Mr. Winston’s, said his dad had been growing out his beard since the stay-at-home order started and thought the Hercules challenge was a funny opportunity for his children to take a buzzer to it.

Mr. Isaacson’s three kids and his sister’s two children “each took a turn with the beard trimmer and cut it off and made it look a little ridiculous,” he said. “They were hysterically laughing.”

“This time when things are so messed up and everyone is looking to help,” Mr. Isaacson said. “All of my family was pretty excited to get involved.”

Because the fencing business was deemed essential and his staff was able to keep working through the pandemic, Mr. Winston said he felt compelled to give now.

However, as hair salons start to open up under phase one of reopening, Mr. Winston said they are giving it about one more week to meet their goal.

• Sophie Kaplan can be reached at skaplan@washingtontimes.com.

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