A movie played on a small television mounted to the wall of Hair Trendz Barber Shop, but J’Don Myers, 6, had clambered onto a high reclining chair to watch his father’s hair get cut instead.
To get fathers looking their best for their national day of thanks, community service organizations Toledo Area Ministries and the Ridge Project partnered Saturday with Hair Trendz to give free haircuts to their members’ fathers and their children.
Both programs offer workshops and one-on-one assistance on employment, relationships, and fatherhood to low-income and formerly incarcerated men and their families.
Avis Files, Toledo Area Ministries’ program director, said barber shops are a popular meeting place for black men, many of whom come with their children.
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Hair cutting is a simple but significant weekend ritual, she said, and it gives the men confidence that can translate to greater efficacy in the family and workplace.
“They feel better, proud, and excited about life,” Ms. Files said. “They’re building a legacy that their children will follow.”
Jeff Myers, 39, and his son J’Don were next in line to have their hair cut.
With Ridge Project assistance, Mr. Myers received his commercial driver’s license, which allows him to drive a truck. He often attends the organization’s communication workshops and family events.
Willie Knighten, 42, a facilitator and case manager who has worked at the Ridge Project for three years, said he has relished the chance afforded by the Ridge Project to be an influence on other fathers like himself.
Mr. Knighten, a former gang member who has spent time in jail, has mentored many fathers through Ridge Project training. Following their graduation, the men are called “tyros,” which means “someone who is learning.”
“It [the Ridge Project] has taught me how to become a man,” said Mr. Myers, a father of three including J’Don. “Not having my own father there, I know now the importance of being present in the kids’ lives and being an active role model.”
Devon Hands, Sr., 29, has signed up to be part of the Ridge Project’s next graduating class. A barber at Hair Trendz, Mr. Hands said he had just cut the hair of a man going on a job interview.
Standing outside Hair Trendz was Javier Seals, 21, a member of Toledo Area Ministries, who smiled sheepishly for a Ministries volunteer’s camera in his pressed khakis and eggshell blue button-down shirt. For Mr. Seals’ interview at Family Dollar later that day — his first job interview ever, he said — Mr. Hands had given his hair a clean, neat taper fade.
Having absorbed a smattering of interview tips from his Ministries mentors, Mr. Seals now demonstrated how he planned to give his interviewer the right impression: Looking the person straight in the eye while speaking, and closing with a good, firm handshake. Most important, he said, was smiling and staying positive.
Mr. Seals said he hopes to celebrate Father’s Day with his 2-year-old daughter, Rayanna, who lives in Virginia.
“The best thing is going to be seeing her,” he said.
Contact Jennifer Gersten at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.