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Looking Sharp

Helping families start school year
Martha Swartzentruber, a student at La’James International College in Iowa City, puts the finishing touches on a mohawk for Rayjehem Jones Friday, Aug. 18, during Life Church’s Servolution event at Penn Meadows Park, in North Liberty. Several La’James students provided free back to school haircuts during the event which also distributed shoes and other items to help families during what can be a very expensive time of year (photo by Chris Umscheid).

NORTH LIBERTY– Servolution, a revolution of service, came to Penn Meadows Park, in North Liberty, Friday, Aug. 18, to help families in need with preparations for sending kids back to school.
The event, spearheaded by Life Church of Coralville (formerly of North Liberty), was the second of three. The first took place Thursday, Aug. 17, at Clear Creek Amana High School, in Tiffin, and the third on Monday, Aug. 21, at Kirkwood Elementary, in Coralville.
Families received some clothing, back to school supplies, and even a haircut, courtesy of the students and faculty of La’James International College, in Iowa City,.
“The whole goal of this is not only for us to serve those that may be under-resourced, it’s to serve one another,” said Senior Associate Pastor and director of Operations and Outreach for Life Church Chris Cary. “Tomorrow, you and I, something could happen, and we could be in need, in great need. So, we want to give tangibly something to those students, but bigger than that, we want them to have this confidence going into school.”
Cary said there’s a confidence boost in having a new pair of shoes a student otherwise wouldn’t have.
“A new haircut, just to make them feel great, and just knowing they’re somebody, that they’re worth it,” he added.
Over 200 were helped in Tiffin, while 300 or so were anticipated in North Liberty. Ultimately, Cary expected to help nearly 1,000 over the course of the three events. While the number helped is impressive, it is also sobering.
“The hope would be it (the number helped) would go down, but the need is getting greater, and the cost of supplies is going up, so there’s even more of a need for the families. It’s several hundred dollars, not including shoes.” Cary added, “We’re getting them groceries, we’re getting them underwear and socks, and all-new school supplies, backpacks, you name it, they’re getting it. We tried to think of what will make them feel the most successful, even with the parents, just to take that burden off, and these are the things we came up with.”
Donations for the project came from many sources and in different forms, he said, ranging from monetary donations, to purchasing items, to donating items (such as shoes) directly.
“We purchased all the larger sizes (of shoes) directly from Scheels, they partnered with us, gave us a large donation and a discount,” he said.
Cary added several area groups and organizations also helped out.
“Mostly, it is a lot of individuals that have donated one or many pair of shoes to this event.”
School supplies came from other non-profit organizations, and were also purchased by the church. Collection bins were also placed out in the public, which garnered some donations.
Students of La’James International College from Iowa City provided those haircuts under the watchful tutelage of instructors.
“They show up in great numbers, so it was great to be able to get those people,” Cary said. “They’re getting professional haircuts for free, and the students are getting great real world experience, maybe some challenges.”
Every haircut was inspected and signed-off by an instructor, he noted.
Making the event as easy as possible for the families was key, Cary added, and that included fun activities and diversions for the kids while waiting for shoes and a haircut.
“We don’t want to make it, ‘You stand in line because you’re getting something,’ we want it to be fun, so we’ve got the bounce houses and face painting,” he explained.
Standing in line on a summer day also calls for refreshments. “We run around with water and popsicles. We want to make sure they’re taken care of.”
“The idea is that if all of us are serving all of them, then maybe somebody will pay it forward and serve somebody else,” Pastor Cary summarized. “The whole idea is to pay it forward, pass it on, but for us, it’s just to serve those around us.”
While Life Church originated and led the event, its name did not appear on any signage nor anywhere else during the event.
“Is this a Life Church thing? Internally, yes it is, as we organize it,” Cary pointed out. “But we also knew we would be partnering with other organizations, so we could list all of those on the shirt or we could say to everyone that this is a community effort. Ultimately all of us have to be working together to do it.”