By Harley Nefe
COVID-19 has impacted everybody in some way, shape or form; however, during the pandemic, many people have been stepping up to support the community around them. Downtown Boone’s local salon, Haircut 101, is one business that is striving to make a positive difference.
The staff of Haircut 101 spent time asking for contributions, giving away haircuts and gift certificates in order to fundraise for Western Youth Network. Recently, Haircut 101 was able to present a donation check of $1,000 to the organization.
WYN has been in existence for 36 years now in the community. And the organization’s vision, according to its website, is to work to eliminate adverse childhood experiences and their consequences in the High Country of North Carolina by targeting the root causes of trauma and paving the way for collaborative community action to heal children who have experienced trauma.
“We are here for students who need a little extra support, such as kids who might need a mentor or a safe place to go after school,” said Jennifer Warren, Executive Director of WYN. “Our counselors and staff members are just extra supporters for children in the community, so they can grow up strong and grow to meet their full potential.”
About 60% of WYN’s funding comes from federal and state grants, and then the rest of the money comes from local corporations, businesses and donors that participate in fundraising events.
“If everybody does just a little bit, we can make a big impact,” said John Mena, Owner of Haircut 101. “It takes a village to raise a child, and the whole village is hurting right now, but I think the people who are hurting the most are the children. A lot of them don’t understand what’s going on and why it’s going on the way it is.”
Mena’s inspiration and motivation for donating to WYN was his strong support and belief in the organization’s mission.
“What I would like to see is more small businesses contributing to this worthwhile organization because especially now with the pandemic and the shut in, a lot of kids are in bad situations, and this has really devastated any kind of normalcy that they did have,” Mena said. “I think it’s really important to have organizations like this that are stepping in and trying to help out these young children.”
Warren said she’s been a client of Mena’s for a while and when he surprised her with the news that he was making a donation to WYN, she said it was really great.
“Thanks for thinking of us, and thanks for keeping us on your radar because lately I think businesses have been concentrating on survival, and so it’s really kind of cool when you see a business that’s not only trying to survive, but that is also trying to give back in such a generous degree too,” Warren said. “A thousand dollars is a big deal to us, and I’m sure it was a big deal to them.”
Haircut 101 has also been supportive of WYN in previous years by being sponsors for fundraising events.
“Donations just enable us to reach more children, so we’re always really honored and touched when a company like Haircut 101 recognizes our efforts and takes it upon themselves to make a donation,” Warren said. “We didn’t have to ask. John Mena and his staff were super forward thinking in that way, and they just decided they were going to reach out and support our efforts and make sure kids have somebody that cares about them.”
WYN is primarily based in Watauga County; although, they do offer services in Avery. They also expanded last fall into Ashe County.
“Expanding our program to Ashe County during a pandemic was kind of a surprising thing to happen for us,” Warren said. “We didn’t really expect to grow. We just kind of hoped to stay stable, but the opportunity presented itself, and we definitely had that in our strategic plan. We wanted to expand into the neighboring counties who needed us, so we were happy to be able to accept that opportunity.”
Donations given to WYN allows the organization to grow even more. WYN will soon be expanding into Alleghany County as well.
“Beginning this year, Alleghany reached out to us and said, ‘Hey, we’re also in need of an after school program. Would you guys consider being a provider for us?’” Warren said. “We’re working on that now — working on all the details and trying to see how to get going there when the new school year begins this fall.”
Warren further said, “Anytime anybody wants to support these efforts, it means so much. I think more and more research is coming out now about how the presence of at least one safe, stable, nurturing caregiver can really get you through the toughest of times. And so, WYN is trying very hard to provide those people to students, not only in Watauga, but also all the neighboring counties as well. We’re very flattered that people appreciate our model and trust us enough to be their service provider, so it’s an honor.”