After three years of not cutting his hair, EAST facilitator Bill Mills handed his hair clippers to Paul Griep to give him a haircut students were thrilled about. In November, EAST students kickstarted the Shearing for Santa food drive. The food drive consisted of raising donations of canned food items as well as monetary donations. Each pound of food and every dollar represented one vote. Mills thought it would be a good idea to incorporate something fun alongside the food drive. Students had the opportunity to vote for which haircut Mills received from Griep.
“I wanted to do something fun and so I’ve been threatening for a few years to cut my hair and so aside from the catchy name Shearing for Santa, we combined the food drive with me cutting my hair and that’s how it came about,” Mills said.
Students had the option to choose from four different hairstyles, a mohawk, a mullet, a Shaolin braid, or to keep it the same. In order for this food drive to run smoothly, senior Edwin Orellana and his team helped organize the event by advertising and communicating with the school’s social worker in order to understand what is in need.
“My role in Shearing for Santa was basically making sure that we did all we could to get several donations for our food pantry,” Orellana said. “My team and I tried to remind students every day during lunch to make donations and I think the fact that Mills’ hair was involved brought a lot of attention to it.”
Wooten’s Helping Hands food pantry has been a major part of the EAST program. From the start of the food pantry, EAST has teamed up with community partners to provide food for families. EAST students also make bi-weekly trips to talk to the school’s social worker, where they communicate and brainstorm ideas on how to improve the food pantry and what items are in need.
“Mrs. Keeling, our social worker does a great job of really being able to identify families that need that extra support, work with them,” Griep said. “Food insecurity may be only one of many needs that a family has, and so she’s able to do it in a way that really honors the family and provides the dignity needed and the confidentiality needed so she’s really an important part of it.”
With the help of the school’s social worker, EAST students were able to run a successful food drive that is able to provide meals for students and their families. With COVID-19 restrictions, giving away the food this year is unlike years past when more people in the community had access to it.
“This is the time of the year that people typically give away food for families that are in need and because of that, it’s the right time of year to do a fundraiser or a food drive,” Mills said. “Because of COVID, we had to change how we’re distributing food this year and for the most part it is going to individual students and so we will be using the funds and the food for them to turn around and be distributed.”
After a successful month of hosting the fundraiser, it was determined that Mills will receive a mohawk haircut. On Friday, December 11, students gathered around in the courtyard during lunch to watch the haircut take place.
“I thought that the students would appreciate or enjoy seeing Dr. Griep cut my hair. It’s kind of fun and festive and it’s a good time to celebrate before the holidays,” Mills said. “I wanted to do it this week because I know that some of the students won’t be coming back due to trips or whatever next week, and so I wanted to get it done this week so people could watch, have fun and a good giggle before they went on to Christmas break.”
As Griep nervously shaved off the remaining hair, Mills reminisces about what the meaning behind the food drive was. Mills explained how this year has been a difficult one for many students and their families, but with the support of the school and community, many families will be grateful for the donations.
“Mr. Mills loves his students and that’s just who he is, he’s willing to do whatever he can to have fun and create an awareness to help others,” Griep said. “This year has been really crazy with the pandemic and everything like that but to still see our students step up and help others, it just provides reassurance of the goodness of humans and the willingness to help each other.”