Grow a beard…for books!

Lance Klemple, Contributing Writer

The air is electrifying; chit-chat bounces off the walls. Razors buzz to life as two barbers prepare men with slick, black capes sporting burly beards. This isn’t just any barbershop, though. United Way of the Lakeshore recently partnered with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program for their event, Beards for Books. Beards for Books is a fundraiser where individuals are invited to grow their beards out and raise money that goes directly to the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library where kids age 5 and below receive free books in the mail.

By the end of Beards for Books at United Way of Lakeshore, as the whiskers fell off and baby faces were revealed, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library received a total of $47,000 with the help of matching contributions. These funds cover 23,500 books or 1,888 children out of the 5,000 children enrolled in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program! A total of 15 men grew their beards, collected donations, and donor-matched donations.

Norton Shores Mayor Gary Nelund kicked off the event by being one of the first to sit on the barber’s chair. “I have more hair on my chin than on my head!” Nelund said with a hearty chuckle, smile wide and inviting. His bench partner was Ryan Bennett, who raised $1,830 for the event, went on to say, “Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a great opportunity to foster young readers and get books in their hands to make sure they are life-long learners.” Brad Hilleary at Webb Chemical supports Beards for Books because he has personally come into contact with the children who received the books, and he loves the smile on their faces. Robert Ross, director of Upward Bound at MCC, had also participated in bettering our community’s children by donating and shaving off his beard. Childhood literacy continues to be an important value to our community. Below are the names of all of the men who participated this year and who they represent in the Beards for Books event.

  • Michael Ramsey (Muskegon County Commissioner / Mercy Health / Community enCompass)
  • Jerry Prell (Herman Miller)
  • Ryan Bryker (BDO USA)
  • Don Kalisz (Kindred Marketing)
  • D.J. Hilson (Muskegon County Prosecutor)
  • Walter Christophersen (West Michigan Building & Construction Trades Council)
  • Scott Janiga (Retired Electrician)
  • Ryan Bennett (UA #174)
  • Erik De La Rosa (Dolly Parent)
  • Matthew Cortez (Muskegon Public Schools)
  • Jason Finch (UA #174)
  • Robert G. Ross (Muskegon Community College)
  • Brad Hilleary (Webb Chemical)
  • Rich Houtteman (Consumers’ Energy)
  • Mayor Gary Nelund (Norton Shores)