Update: Since our story aired, even more families and single parents have reached out to Brittany Starks asking if she might have time to braid their child's hair, too.
A single mother of two donated her time to braid kids' hair for free at the start of the school year, a labor of love that takes four to six hours a child and would cost $200-$300, and the response was by the dozens.
During the summer of 2021, Brittany Starks received an unexpected surprise that inspired her time for the coming weeks.
"One of the friends and family gave my kids a book bag full of school supplies, and two outfits, and a pair of shoes. So, I was extremely grateful and I'm like, ‘how can I give back?’ Well, I can braid," she recounted. "I live in the Antioch community so I'm like, you know, let's just, I'm just going to post it on Hip Antioch [Facebook Page] to see if anybody knows any kids or any parents that needs your kids' hair done."
The response was immense as dozens reached out for help.
"It was supposed to be probably like five to seven kids, but I didn't think I was going to get such a big reaction than I did. So, it’s been more, a lot more," said Starks.
Brittany started braiding kids' hair after work, on the weekends; whenever she could manage the time.
"I had a lady, she had five kids, she was living in a hotel, and she needed her kids' hair done. And I'm like, I kept getting stories like that and I'm like, 'I can't, I can't stop' and they're like, my friends, like, if you can't do it, why would you ever say, 'I can't, I can't,' I can't not, I can't say no," Starks explained. "Because obviously there's some people that really needs it."
She ended up enlisting other braiders to help her with the project, and for several weeks straight, she braided.
"The reason I mostly did it is I'm a single mother. I was a struggling single mother. I've been homeless before," said Starks, "it meant something to give back because giving someone who doesn't have it, can't, can't afford it makes something to make their day. I’ll do it, even if I didn't have the time. I didn't even get to do my own child's hair yet."
Starks said for her, the project is also about building a child's confidence at the start of the school year.
"I know when I was in school, having my hair done... even if I didn't have the best clothes or anything, that made me feel better, you know, going to school, having my hair done, that made my confidence," explained Starks.
She explained getting one's hair done is part of the the Black experience that is not well-known.
"It takes time. It takes materials. It takes patience. Sitting for four hours to get your hair braided that's sometimes, especially for a child that's... it's a lot because some kids can't sit 30 minutes, so to get your hair braided and to look nice I mean, the end result," said Starks. "So, they get happy after that but sitting, getting your hair combed, especially if you have coarse hair. That hurts."
Starks said she plans to continue the project next year and hopes others will be inspired to pay it forward, too.
"I hope that they will learn to give back also. Community service, you know, feeding someone homeless," Starks stated. "I mean, it goes a long way. A long way. Me being homeless before, it goes a long way. Just being kind. It helps! Like, you never know what someone's going through."
If you want to help Starks by donating supplies, donate on her GoFundMe page by clicking here.
If you or someone you know can help braid, email Starks at email@example.com.