West View firefighter cutting his hair for good cause
John Hollenberger — an information-security analyst for PPG Industries and a fourth-generation volunteer firefighter with West View Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 — doesn't split hairs when it comes to running distances or clocking times.
But add fundraising to the mix, and he gladly will split, chop and shave hairs.
On May 4, Hollenberger will participate in the 2014 UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon as a runner for Urban Impact — an outreach ministry providing programming for youths on Pittsburgh's North Side.
“Someone at work suggested I shave my head to raise money,” said Hollenberger, 27, of West View.
Instead, he promised to chop his shoulder-length strawberry-blond curls into a mohawk if he could collect $600 in donations.
He offered the two highest contributors the opportunity to shear his locks in a public place.
“I got $600 in two weeks,” he said.
His father and a fellow firefighter were the top givers. Each cropped one side of Hollenberger's head to peach fuzz in front of friends and patrons at the Fox and Hound Sports Tavern in Ross Township.
“My wife wasn't too enthusiastic about it,” Hollenberger said.
Still eager to earn more money for Urban Impact, Hollenberger offered to shave his legs if he could collect an additional $400 in donations.
He got the money — and more.
As of April 16, he had raised $1,280.
“I don't know if I have John's guts to shave my hair into a mohawk, but if it would raise money for our kids on the North Side whom I love dearly, I would definitely be willing to shave my legs,” said the Rev. Ed Glover, president and founder of Urban Impact.
Glover started the faith-based community-development organization 19 years ago.
Glover, 56, of the Deutschtown neighborhood, said the ministry has served tens of thousands of youths since it began. This year, it is ministering to 1,500 youth, he said.
Hollenberger chose to raise money for Urban Impact because it is partnered with his church, Allegheny Center Alliance Church on the North Side.
Hollenberger's efforts have inspired five fellow firefighters to raise money for Urban Impact, too. They registered as a relay team in the FedEx Ground Pittsburgh Marathon Relay. Their goal is to raise $2,500.
They spent one Saturday passing a fire boot among motorists stopped at red lights in West View and collected $1,400 in three hours.
Even Hollenberger's pregnant wife, Jennifer, is raising money for Urban Impact. She plans to run the 5K event.
“She's raising money the old-fashioned way. She's asking family and friends,” Hollenberger said.
Laurie Rees is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.