A total of $793.69 was donated to Books by Kids at City Cuts in Kutztown thanks to a joint effort by two Krumsville churches.

Mt. Zion Lutheran Church and New Jerusalem Zion UCC collected change for the Jingle Project prior to the pandemic. Social distancing restrictions and closures delayed their ability to deliver the donation to City Cuts until recently.

In person, wearing masks and practicing social distancing, they presented the doation on July 31 to Jon Escueta, City Cuts shop owner and the originator of the Books by Kids program. 

"My initial reaction for the donation was gratitude, as I was very excited that our barbershop was considered a recipient for the Jingle Project. It means a lot that the community views us as positive role models, as well as the younger generation that will essentially become men," said Escueta.

The donation will go directly toward the Books By Kids program, which also includes other barbershops adopting the program.

"Local barbershops and surrounding counties that inquire about the program, I make it a point to donate the first $50, as well as a full box of books to help jump start their program within their barbershop. We are striving to motivate the younger clientele to embrace the positive aspect of public speaking and reading out loud world wide."

Sharon Billger, chair of the Mt. Zion Local Shared Outreach group, explained that Mt. Zion Lutheran and New Jerusalem Zion UCC, both located in Krumsville, work together to do projects to help people and organizations in the area.

One of their ongoing projects is the Jingle Project.

“This idea was brought to us by our friends at New Jerusalem Zion UCC. They had their children take little metal buckets around the sanctuary each week to collect loose change from congregation members. The children then take their little buckets up front and dump them into a larger metal bucket, making a jingling sound, hence the name, Jingle Project,” said Billger in an email.

Mt. Zion decided to join in New Jerusalem’s efforts and had their Sunday School children decorate their own little buckets and collected change each week.

“We hope this instills in them the desire to help others,” said Billger. “Unfortunately, with the current virus situation we have put a hold on the children collecting the change.”

Since worship services resumed in June, the large metal Jingle bucket is available in the front of the sanctuary for members to deposit their change.

Each quarter the funds go to a different recipient. For the January to March quarter, they chose the Books by Kids program at City Cuts in Kutztown to receive the Jingle Project collection.

“We had to wait until the shop opened in the green phase for us to be able to present the check to Jon Escueta, City Cuts shop owner and the originator of the Books by Kids program,” she said.

Escueta explained that the program works as a confidence booster.

"For kids to be able to learn how to speak up in a crowd full of people, in addition to building the foundation of reading. We follow a step by step direction to get the kids to read to their barber, while rewarding their efforts with a $3 incentive for making the initiative in any shape or form," he said.

Escueta gave an example.

"A child sits with their parents, waiting for a hair cut. We ask this child if he would like to make some money by performing a simple task. If the child is seemingly interested, we ask him to read out loud to his barber, while sitting in the barber chair, during his haircut. If the child is hesitant about reading, then we ask questions regarding the book of choice."

Questions could include: What kind of colors do you see? What type of characters are there in the book? How many animals do you see? Describe the story being told about what you have read.

"As a barber, we try to structure some type of interaction to allow the child to engaged," said Escueta. "Once they become comfortable with us, they generally want to participate with the reading while we proceed with a haircut."

Escueta hopes that the program will achieve a couple of goals, which include children having the ability to speak up and read out loud in front of others, without the fear of being judged by peers and/or adults.

"Another goal, is for children who participated in the program, to build on this experience as a reflective opportunity for growth within their community, by doing something creative and positive, to pay it forward, for the next generation to follow," he said. "A common goal is to build a kid friendly barbershop that children find fun and inspiring. Finally we hope to decrease the use of electronics, by allowing children to successfully embrace reading from a book to occupy their time."

The Books by Kids program at City Cuts continues amid the pandemic, with a few changes in place.

"As of right now we are limited to what we can do, due to the pandemic, but our program has yet to completely stop. The kids who are willing to bring their own book from home, are encouraged to read in the chair, and will continue to be rewarded with a $3 incentive," said Escueta.

City Cuts' library had to be closed off until further notice, in order to follow state guidelines with regards to reopening non-essentials.

"We would never turn down a kid whose willing to read, but our new reality allows us to pick the book out for them, to prevent children from touching books in their selection process."

Escueta has big hopes for the Book by Kids program.

"My ultimate goal is for every barbershop across the globe to be able to have an positive impact in their community to make this world a better place for everyone to live in. We can only hope for others to follow what we are trying to do and pay it forward to the next generation."

For more information, visit the City Cuts website at https://www.citycutsbarbershop.com/.

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