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Gouverneur church offers pupils haircuts and underwear

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GOUVERNEUR — Kindergarten through sixth-grade pupils who go to First United Methodist Church on Aug. 26 will leave prepared and looking sharp for the beginning of school.

In addition to backpacks and classroom supplies, the church is offering the youngsters underwear and professional haircuts for the second year in a row.

“It was just an eye-opener for me,” the Rev. Beth O. Denham said. “I never knew a fresh pair of underwear could mean so much to a little girl.”

The program got its start last year because the Rev. Ms. Denham was new to Gouverneur and she had discussions with church members about the needs of the community. Someone who had seen the idea elsewhere suggested the haircuts.

“That was something different,” the Rev. Ms. Denham said. “It got people’s attention.”

The underwear was almost an afterthought, but what few pairs the church had last year were popular.

“They went so quick we put them on the list,” said Sheri D. Holmes, church secretary.

Half a dozen beauticians donated their time to give every child a haircut.

“They really treated them with respect,” the Rev. Ms. Denham said. “It blew the kids’ minds.”

About half of the 120 children who came to last year’s giveaway had never had a professional cut, Mrs. Holmes said.

The event is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. at the church, 34 Grove St., but it will run longer if need be.

Mrs. Holmes and the Rev. Ms. Denham made a cardboard bus that congregation members have been filling with backpacks, glue, pencils, markers, scissors, notebooks and erasers. In addition to donations, the church has used a grant it received from its annual conference to buy some supplies.

There are no income guidelines to participate; children need not belong to the congregation.

“We did not turn anyone away,” the Rev. Ms. Denham said.

After last year’s success, the church decided it had to do it again.

“You wouldn’t have believed the kids’s faces,” Mrs. Holmes said. “It was very humbling.”

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