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Local barber gives back with free haircuts

December 26, 2018

The hair salon is a special place for many people, where they can be made to look their best and have friendly conversation — this feeling is what Michael Torres wants to provide the residents at Sienna Nursing & Rehabilitation.

A few times a month, Torres will come to the nursing home to provide free haircuts to their residents, at least 10 or 15 line up every time he shows up, both to get their hair cuts and have casual conversation.

“These guys, they like to look sharp,” Torres said. “As soon as they see me coming, they race over here because they want to be first.”

Torres, 52, has a number of large tattoos — including one on his neck, a rose on his forearm and a spider on the back of his hand — but greets each of the residents with warmth, giving them a haircut and then sending them off with a hug and an I-love-you, helping hold onto them while they get out of their chair.

Normally cutting hair at Hair Fantastic, 1601 E. Eighth St., Torres said he started cutting hair at Sienna about a year ago, after his pastor at his church called him one day to ask if he could cut her aunt’s hair, who lives at the nursing home.

This woman, Betty Palomino — or as the regulars call her, “Betty Boo” — is the reason Torres is here, he said. Torres had started cutting hair at Sienna while his older sister, who was also in a nursing home, was on dialysis. Palomino was his first client. His sister, Maria Hill, died some months later, but he’s still cutting hair.

“Maybe that will ease my pain a little bit,” he said he thought at the time. “Sometimes I just feel like she’s gonna roll in any minute.”

David Runyon is one of the many residents who has had his hair cut by Torres multiple times.

“He’s pretty good,” Runyon said. “He’s a friendly guy, he likes to talk.”

Patricia Tennie, Sienna Nursing & Rehabilitation Activity Director, said the residents always look forward to Torres coming to cut their hair, and that they like the way he treats them.

“A lot of them don’t get so much a month,” Tennie said. “It’s a blessing.”

Torres said for a lot of them, it can be a break in the day-in, day-out routine at the nursing home when he comes to cut their hair.

“Sometimes you make their day,” Torres said. “I’m like a big ol’ lemon meringue pie for them.”

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