Cutting hair to help people

Published 10:20 pm Wednesday, August 15, 2018

More than a dozen people stopped by Main Street Physicians in downtown Suffolk on Wednesday for a free haircut and plenty of refreshments.

Two local barbers brought their buzzers for “Haircuts for the Homeless.” The event was part of National Health Center Week, an annual celebration to raise awareness of the hard work of American health centers in support of their communities.

Main Street Physicians and other health centers in the Southeastern Virginia Health System have scheduled services throughout the week for a wide range of people in need.

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According to Tanyika Silver, a case manager for the Healthcare for the Homeless program, there were no precise rules for who could get a haircut on Wednesday. Any low-income person or other individual in need could get one, especially children.

“It’s a great opportunity, because haircuts are expensive,” Angelle White said as her son Maddan, 5, got a trim.

This was the second consecutive year that Main Street Physicians offered free haircuts during National Health Center Week. Silver explained how important it is to offer this service along with the refreshments.

“When you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you want to do good,” she said.

Local barbers Datwan Artis and Quamane Lassiter helped people one haircut at a time in the conference room. They listened to music by Charlie Wilson and other artists on a Bluetooth speaker as they worked.

Artis chatted with David Wilson, 52, as he gave Wilson a close head trim and a sharp-looking beard. Silver told Wilson about the event, and he walked more than a mile for a makeover, and also to talk about comedians that he’s seen live on Broadway.

“I keep my hair cut low, because I’m like Steve Harvey. I’m getting old,” he said with a chuckle. “I saw him when he had a ‘fro.”

It had been about a year since Trent Warren paid for a barbershop haircut. He said he had just been cutting his hair himself, and that he was grateful for Artis and his clippers.

“It feels like some people actually care,” he said.

He felt even better with his choice of snacks and beverages from the conference room tables, including sweet tea donated by the Chick-fil-A on North Main Street to wash down Subway sandwiches and cookies donated by the 165 N. Main St. restaurant.

Artis is a police officer for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Police Department who enjoys cutting hair in his spare time, both from his Suffolk residence and at events. He said he cut hair at Main Street Physicians last year and was excited to bring his essentials for a second round.

“We go through life looking to receive, but I personally think life is about giving. I think that if more people thought that way, the world would be a better place,” he said.

Lassiter, who cuts hair at the Chop Shop on West Washington Street, drove around and rounded up roughly a half-dozen locals he knew with just the offer of a free haircut.

“Our motto is ‘it’s just a blessing to be a blessing.’ It’s our opportunity to give back to the community using our talents, what God blessed us with,” he said.

Wendell Harris, 46, was especially appreciative of those talents. Harris said it was his first barber visit in about three and a half years.

“A barbershop is expensive,” he said. “The last time I went, they were still giving haircuts for $6.”

He admired the striking difference when he looked into the mirror afterwards. He said he was going to tell people to stop by that afternoon before the haircutting stopped at 2 p.m.

“It feels good to be cleaned up again,” he said.

The staff of Main Street Physicians will keep up with the goodie bags and other good tidings throughout National Health Center Week. Silver also said that planning for next year’s haircuts will start as early as next week.

“We want to a bigger event all the way around,” she said. “More space, more barbers, and more donations. We’re just going to try and make it grander.”