Rico Willis knows how much a haircut can change your life.
“A haircut can change the perspective of your day,” said Willis, a master barber from Untouchable Hair Studio in Gainesville. “You could wake up feeling like nothing and when you come see one of us, we’re going to try to motivate you. We’re going to try to be a positive vibe in your life.”
Willis was part of a trio from the Gainesville barber shop offering haircuts during an event Thursday, May 6, at The Way on Bradford Street to help the homeless and others in need.
By noon, about 30 to 40 people received haircuts.
“That haircut could bring your confidence level up,” Willis said. “You might have been down, but when you get out of that chair and you look at yourself … it’s going to bring your confidence up and it might change your day.”
Along with music and food, the event had booths for people seeking assistance with Medicaid/Medicare, disability, food stamps, housing, ministry and other help.
“These folks, each one of them has a different need,” said Ninth District Opportunity housing/program planner Michael Fisher, who helped organize the event. “But what if we had all the possible solutions in one place?”
Fisher said he would like to have these events on a quarterly basis moving forward.
Jerry Deyton, who provides weekly meals and other help to the needy through The Way, estimated more than 100 people were helped during Thursday’s events. Deyton said he saw much more than the regular visitors to the day center, adding there were people coming from other areas who typically aren’t on this side of Gainesville.
Fisher started getting the word out by visiting encampments around the city.
“We took fliers to the different shelters and different places like stores or gas stations that are near where some of the homeless encampments are and left them there,” Fisher said.
Ninth District Opportunity partnered with District 2 Public Health to offer the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at the event. District 2’s spokesman Dave Palmer said before the event they had enough vaccine to vaccinate at least 70 people, which was the pre-event estimate.
“We are also working with Community Organized Relief Effort to assist with vaccination,” Palmer wrote in an email. “CORE has contracted with the state of Georgia to assist the public health districts with vaccination events and mobile clinics. In Hall County the health department has held several clinics at churches and other neighborhood facilities to provide access for vulnerable and minority populations.”