AUBURN GRESHAM — School starts Monday for more than 400,000 Chicago Public Schools students, and several South Side barbers are offering free back-to-school haircuts.
For the second year, the Auburn Gresham Police District CAPS program is hosting a free haircut day for students up to age 17. Students 17 and 18 must present a school ID or be accompanied by a parent to receive a free haircut, said Officer Maurice Thigpen, who works with the CAPS program.
"We want all kids going back to school to look good on the first day," Thigpen said. "It's all about building their confidence up, and what better way to do that than to make sure they are looking presentable with a fresh haircut?"
On Sunday, 14 barbers, who work in shops in Auburn Gresham, Grand Crossing, Chatham and Englewood will donate their time and resources for the event, which runs from 8 a.m. to noon in the Community Room at the Gresham Police District headquarters, 7808 S. Halsted St., Thigpen added.
Free school supplies also will be handed out to kids receiving free haircuts, added Thigpen.
"The supplies were donated by the three currency exchanges. One at 79th and Cottage Grove, 79th and Vincennes and another one at 79th and Ashland," Thigpen said. "Last year 140 students got haircuts, and this year we are hoping to cut 250."
Hair linings are included, but haircuts are restricted to basic styles, such as bald fades and low cuts, said Jerry Matthews, a barber at Crucial Cuts in Chatham who is among the barbers participating in the event.
"The reason we limit haircut styles is to allow enough time to get to as many kids as possible," Matthews said. "I volunteered last year and cut about 20 kids myself. I enjoy cutting the shorties' hair. It is my way of giving back to the community and helping less fortunate kids out. I hate to see a kid go to school on the first day with nappy hair."
Other barbershops volunteering for the event are Ford Barbershop, Gordy's Barbershop, The Spot Beauty & Barbershop, Fuller Barbershop, Tom's Style World, Faithfulness Barbershop and Director's Kuts.
Clemon Clay is the owner of Gordy's in Grand Crossing, and he volunteered last year and will do so again this year.
"The African-American community has supported my barbershop, and I want to do something to support them. Giving free haircuts is my gift to the community," said Clay, who estimates he gave 25 free haircuts last year.
Some barbers are offering free haircuts for students at their shops, including Sunni Powell, owner of Powell's Barbershop, 1139 W. 63rd St. He will offer free haircuts for school-age students from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and again on Sept. 3 and 4.
"There is a need to help the youth in Englewood. I try to do my part by giving free haircuts and mentoring to them," Powell said. "There are not a lot of mentors available to kids in Englewood, and that could be why a lot of them are doing everything but the right thing."
For the seventh consecutive year Final Kutz, 1374 W. 79th St., also will offer free haircuts. This year's event will be from noon to 5 p.m. Sept. 8.
"Cutting hair is our business but so is giving back to the community. That's why we do this every year," said Kevin Smith, a barber at Final Kutz.
That generosity Final Kutz is one reason why Mitch Hargon, 41, travels from his Bronzeville home to Auburn Gresham every Thursday for a haircut.
"Yeah, I could go somewhere closer to my house but I like my barber here," said Hargon, who grew up in Englewood.
Another Auburn Gresham barbershop, Details A Style Bar, 2308 W. 79th St., is providing free haircuts for the first 50 students starting at 7 a.m. Saturday, said Maury Gresham, barbershop manager. After the first 50, all cuts will be $10 for students 18 and younger. School supplies will also be distributed to students receiving haircuts.
And the Rev. William Crowder Jr., pastor of Park Manor Christian Church, 600 E. 73rd St., is also sponsoring a free back-to-school haircut day from 4-6 p.m. Monday. Crowder had sponsored his first free haircut day in May for church members and the community.
"Doing God's work is what we do at Park Manor Christian Church. And blessing kids with a free haircut is an extension of our service to the community," Crowder said.