Volunteer barbers help take the stress out of the first day of school

Finer Cut’s shop owner Cameron Cook gives a high top to soon-to-be 5th grader Lezavier Woodard.


On the Sunday before the first day of school in Minneapolis, four barbers at Fresh Cuts Barber Shop made sure that 62 kids would look sharp as they walked through their school doors. The annual event gives free-of-charge haircuts to students, kindergarten through 8th grade, before school starts.
“We’ve been doing this a long time,” said Fresh Cut’s owner Cameron Cook. “It’s a way to give back to the community.” The shop gave 42 free cuts at last year’s event. “This year we put it on social media and everyone heard about it.” Juan Collier, who traveled from his own shop, the Barber Lounge in Columbia Heights, joined Cook and barbers Chris Oliver and Unji Williams to spend their day off volunteering at the shop.
“It’s been rewarding,” said Williams. “It makes me feel good to give back. I know what it’s like. I’m a single mom and now these kids can go to school with confidence. I’ve been a barber for eight years and have been here for four years. Every year this event gets better and better.”
The small shop at 38th Street and 4th Avenue was crowded at mid-afternoon with kids and their parents, each waiting their turn. There were no quickie cuts. Each barber took their time, giving each child the cut they wanted. Lezavier Woodard, who lives nearby and is now in the fifth grade, showed off his high-top hair style, short on the sides but a couple of inches on the top. A few barber chairs down, Chris Oliver carefully styled the hair of a soon-to-be kindergartener named Lieum, who sat nervously. “I like it,” Lieum said of his haircut.


Chris Oliver, who came in from his barber shop the Executive Lounge in Northeast Minneapolis, joined Juan Collier in donating their time so kids could start school looking sharp. Customer Lieuam is now attending kindergarten.

Families who brought their children also enjoyed burgers, grilled on a Weber on the sidewalk outside the front door. There were snack chips and cookies as well, and students could take what they needed from boxes of backpacks and school supplies, donated by local businesses, including the nearby Seward Co-op, the Smoke in the Pit barbeque and the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder newspaper. “It was all donated, and on short notice, too. There were no questions asked. People wanted to help the community,” said Cook.
Cook said that events like this can be an example to others in the community to do the right thing and to help bring neighbors together. “Sunday is our day off, but it’s necessary to do things like this. If we don’t show that we care, who will?”

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