By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE February 4, 2003 For Beth Bernitt, cutting hair is a labor of love Locks of Love, that is.
With the help of the Sullivan County Deputy Sheriffs Association, the Jeffersonville salon owner held a hair-raiser Saturday, garnering 112 inches of local womens tresses to benefit children suffering from cancer or alopecia (an auto-immune disease which causes severe hair loss).
Bernitt has been a longtime proponent of the nonprofit program which uses donated hair to make wigs for children whose families cant afford to purchase them.
Traditionally, she gives a free haircut to anyone who can pony up at least 10 inches of hair for the cause.
And Saturday, with the help of the Deputy Sheriffs Association which took care of advertising the event, provided refreshments and even offered to pay her Bernitt provided six people with a new do.
Its an easy way to do something for someone in need, she explained.
In the past four years, Bernitt said, shes chopped off the locks of at least 25 people men, women and children and sent their tresses down to the Lake Worth, Fla. organization.
Some have come in with a little less than the requisite 10 inches, but Bernitt makes the offer to collect hair thats at least 6 inches long and send it to the agency which sells the shorter strands to support their administrative costs.
Saturdays hair-raising event brought folks from as far as Middletown to plop down in Bernitts chair and submit to her scissors.
Karyn Malamas wandered out of the cold that morning after searching all over the county for the Jeffersonville shop.
A call to the Sheriffs Department dispatcher sent her to the site of Bernitts old shop on Main Street in Jeffersonville (which now houses a haircutting shop for animals), but she persevered.
Ive been looking all over the place, Malamas said. I came all the way from Middletown this morning.
The Bloomingburg resident found out about Locks of Love on a television program years ago so long ago she cant even remember which channel or what show.
But shes been tending her hair ever since, hoping to help out the children.
When Bernitt started sectioning off Malamas brown locks, she realized there was at least 20 inches double the amount needed to qualify for the program and the longest strands of any donation all day.
I really didnt think I had that much hair, Malamas said with a laugh.
But, she added, The only reason I would grow it long is to do it again.
Lynn McDonald of Forestburgh showed up with 16 inches of hair to be chopped off, and a tummy full of nerves.
She wore her hair short for 10 years and was looking forward to cutting the long locks, but as of last week, she was still a little nervous about her first major haircut in two years.
But last Sunday she announced during services at the First Presbyterian Church in Monticello that she was going to bite the bullet, and invited other women with long hair to stop by.
That sort of sealed it for me, McDonald revealed. I didnt dare go back to church tomorrow with long hair.
One of Bernitts favorite things about the project is the ease of donation. Although people have to spend a long time waiting for hair to grow out, when they finally sit down and say chop it, it takes mere seconds to collect the hair for wigs.
Its even easier, she said, than giving blood.
And it helps almost as many people.
The Deputy Sheriffs Association traditionally tries to help out people in the community. Theyre the folks you see at the local Wal-Mart or street fair fingerprinting area children.
And funds are handed out regularly to help area families in need. In fact, the money the association offered to Bernitt to open up Saturday will be going to the family of Evan Reimer, a North Branch husband and father of three who was paralyzed after a motocross accident last year.
Hope Brey, president of the association, was one of the many people who sat down in Bernitts chair to donate their hair. She donated 11 inches of her brown locks to the cause, leaving with a chin-length look.
The Deputy Sheriffs Association worked to make sure other people knew about the program.
We just wanted to get as many people as possible, said Vinny Ascolese, treasurer of the association.
By the end of the day, the hair-raising was a success. The 112 inches will be sent off to Florida to be made into wigs.
To donate to the program, call Beth Bernitt at 482-4210. Hair can be permed as long as it was not damaged in the process, and coloring to cover gray is allowed. However, hair that has been frosted or highlighted will not qualify for the program.