People began lining up outside the downtown Nanaimo library well before 10 a.m. Saturday as families looked to ease the financial pain of their children returning to school next week.
Barber Dave Lawrence who owns That 50’s Barbershop started the Fresh Start back to school program offering free haircuts in 2014.
“The first year we did 75. It was just me, only one person, and I did 75 haircuts,” Lawrence told CHEK News. “It was a lot, it was busy. It was tiring.”
Now he has a team of six barbers and stylists, and they expected to cut as many as 300 free haircuts Saturday all with the goal of giving school kids and their families a fresh start heading back to the classroom.
“It’s an awesome event. It saves parents right now a lot of money, especially with inflation and everything,” said parent Kendra Cunningham.
“It kind of came about when one of my customers was volunteering at the 7-10 Club where you can go and get a free breakfast, and he started telling me about child poverty and how many kids were going there and getting free breakfast and it was just heartbreaking,” said Lawrence, explaining how the event began.
Lawrence himself is a parent of three children and knows how expensive it can be sending them all back to school.
“Going back to school is very expensive and the price of everything has gone up, even from last year to this year,” he said.
But it wasn’t just free haircuts Saturday.
Lawrence put out a call on Facebook and the community responded with free clothing, shoes, backpacks and even tickets to NightOwls baseball games.
“This gives them clothes, a backpack, haircut, all sorts of things,” Lawrence added.
Karly has been helping Lawrence for eight of the nine years and has seen it grow every year.
“Am I surprised? No, because word of mouth and our community is growing. The need in our community is there,” she said.
For the parents, ultimately it can save them at least $20 a child for the haircut alone.
“It’s very helpful and beneficial to a lot of families, especially in the times we’re in right now,” said parent Samantha Chartrand.
Another parent, Alice Kong, added, “I think they’re helping the community out a lot and I appreciate it a lot.”
Back to school will be a little easier for many Nanaimo families on Tuesday thanks to Lawrence.