June 9, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 47°F


Hillel service project trades locks for money

In a matter of seconds, several of senior Katherine Fields’ years were snipped away. She knows the cut was for a wonderful cause, and after all, it is only hair.

From left, volunteer hairstylist Nancy Steinway cuts then-freshman Agata Kubik’s hair for Locks of Love last November. Though Kubik volunteered to donate her hair three years ago, she said the haircut was still emotional. file photo/the ithacan

For the many people who participate in Hillel’s annual Shoshana Rudnick Inch-a-Thon, getting a new haircut is uplifting and inspiring.

Originally, the traditional hair donations went to Locks of Love, a group providing wigs for children with disease-related hair loss, and a similar Israeli group called Zichron Menachem. But this year, monetary donations raised from the price of haircuts will also be donated to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.

As in the past, those donating 10 inches of hair or more will receive free haircuts by professional barbers, and their hair will go to Locks of Love. People seeking to participate without 10 inches to donate will be charged $10 for a haircut, which will provide money for the food bank.

Fields said she had considered donating her hair for some time and finally did so last year.

“I had seen them doing it the previous two years, and I had always wanted to donate ever since I was in high school,” Fields said. “I saw flyers around, so I decided that I would just do it.”

Michael Faber, Jewish chaplain and director of Hillel, said the Jewish student organization decided to support a food bank that would benefit the community.

“The main beneficiary of any charitable funds we raise from anything we do all year long would go to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier,” Faber said. “It should be something local, and this is an actual, real need.”

Junior Molly Wernick, this year’s Inch-a-Thon organizer, said finding an organization to give back to in the area was vital in the decision process.

“People threw out names of different organizations; some were in Israel, some were in the States,” Wernick said. “Food Bank of the Southern Tier was the only organization that came from Tompkins County. It made sense for us to give back directly to the community that was supporting us.”

Faber said the event was the brainchild of Shoshana Rudnick ’05. The program was a hit from the start and only grew in support, according to Faber.

“The first year [there were] 523 inches collected for Locks of Love, that means both hair and dollars,” he said. “A dollar [equals] an inch. Last year’s [total donations were] well over 1,200 inches. Something like 700 plus or minus was hair and the rest was money.”

Senior Katie Venetsky, the communication intern for Hillel, said she plans to donate her hair Monday.

“It’s a new way for me to give back,” she said. “I am really excited about it. I like the idea of helping other people.”

Wernick said she thinks the Inch-a-Thon is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the company of others while doing something for both Locks of Love and the local community.

“It’s a great event — tons of people show up for it,” she said. “It’s a really fun day. I’m a big extrovert, so days where I can just sit and hang out with people, even if I don’t know them — it’s so fun.”

Wernick said the Inch-a-Thon is meant to show Hillel’s dedication to the community and the core message of the Jewish faith.

“We couldn’t call ourselves a Jewish organization without having that element of charitable work — of giving back,” Wernick said. “It’s ingrained in Jewish value. We know we’re impacting our community in a really positive way.”

Wernick said supporting the Food Bank of the Southern Tier and Locks of Love is a great way for people across campus to take a small amount of time and make a difference locally and nationally. And in return, Fields said you also get a great new “do.”

“It was the best haircut I ever had,” she said.

The Inch-a-Thon will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday in the North Foyer of Campus Center.