Free back-to-school haircuts mean a lot in Cleveland neighborhood

Local barbers volunteer time, expertise

CLEVELAND - Hundreds of families lined up at the Friendly Inn in Cleveland's Central neighborhood Monday for a back-to-school event that meant a lot.

Fresh haircuts, at no cost.

Dozens of barbers volunteered their time and expertise, including Urban Kutz Barbershop owner Waverly Willis. 

He knows better than most how much a haircut can mean to a young kid.

"My mom was a single mom, four kids, and she couldn't afford to take us to the barbershop," Willis said. "So my mom was my barbershop. And she used to do a really bad job at it."

So bad that Willis eventually picked up the clippers himself, at 8 years old, and asked mom if he could do it himself.

"I was doing a terrible job just like my mom. The kids would all laugh at me at school, but like with anything, if you practice you get better at it," he said.

For Willis and the other volunteer barbers, it is more than just a cut -- it is also conversation.

"Give these kids a positive message, see how they're doing," Willis explained. 

And for busy moms like Eboni Bolden, it is a relief -- a free haircut means another thing checked off her long back-to-school list.

"He looks so good. They did a good job," Bolden said of her 9-year-old son Marvier. "Cut my list down a whole lot, so yes, it helps."

The event was hosted by Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood, who has been organizing the back-to-school rally for more than five years. In addition to free haircuts, families were also given free school supplies and uniforms. Representatives from more than 20 Cleveland schools were in attendance. 

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