EXCHANGE: Police officer, barbers team up to help kids
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — What started out as an idea to offer free back-to-school haircuts morphed into a community party along Clear Lake Avenue in Springfield recently that included games, school supplies and free backpacks for nearly 300 kids.
One of the organizers was police Officer Lamar Moore, 26, who collected donations from other officers and emergency dispatchers. Moore, along with the two barbers who had the original free haircut idea, Dwy Rice, 37, and Seth Gregory, 33, said the event was such a success they want to organize future events so they can give back to the community. One idea they are working on is a Christmas toy drive.
“We don’t want this to be just a one-year event. If you were here, you would have seen the smiles on the kids’ faces. It was priceless,” Rice said. “We’re still brainstorming on future events. We just want to give back to our community. We feel like, especially on the east side, there aren’t too many positive role models.”
Rice is the owner of First Class Barbershop, and Gregory works at the barbershop. Moore, a Chicago native who started with the Springfield Police Department about two years ago, gets his hair cut at Rice’s shop.
Rice said the idea for the free haircuts came while he and Gregory were brainstorming ways they could help the community.
“We were trying to give back and help a lot of these single parents. There are a lot of single parents out there who have two or three kids and they need help,” Rice said. “With the cost of school supplies and $10 for one haircut, that’s kind of expensive for people with two or three kids.
When Moore heard about the idea, he jumped on board and started raising money.
Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow said the event was not a Springfield Police Department event, but an example of Moore going above and beyond.
“He asked members of the department to contribute. Nobody was obligated to do so,” Winslow said. “One of the things we in law enforcement care about is our kids and the community. Obviously, anything to do with kids tugs at our hearts. We want to be supportive of our community and we understand the needs that are out there. As officers, anytime we get a chance to give back and help out, we more than readily do so.”
Moore did not seek coverage of the event; the SJ-R first learned about Moore’s fundraising work from one of Moore’s lieutenants.
Winslow added the department is proud of Moore and his efforts to help the community.
“We’re proud of the person he is and the officer he is becoming. He’s doing a great job for us,” Winslow said.
Growing up in the Robert Taylor Homes, a public housing project on the South Side of Chicago, Moore didn’t have a positive image of Chicago police officers.
“When I was growing up, I did not like the police at all. I grew up in the inner city of Chicago. It was really hard to have a positive interaction with the police,” Moore said.
While Moore’s family struggled financially, he did have something many of his friends lacked: a mother who cared.
“When I was growing up, I had friends whose moms didn’t care about them,” Moore said. “No one had dads. ... We didn’t even know that we could have dads growing up. It was just our moms. ... My mom is an extremely wonderful person. She kept us in school and made sure I came home at 9 p.m. She had hope in me.”
Moore also believes that God had a plan for him and helped him get to where he is today. Gunshots were common where he grew up, and the housing project was plagued with gang and drug problems.
“Most of my friends (from childhood) are in jail or are dead. I wasn’t supposed to make it out,” Moore said.
Luckily, Moore did make it out. He became a student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and graduated with a degree in criminal justice and criminology. He was the first in his family to graduate from college.
“I was so sick of seeing my uncles and cousins going through the system and going to jail,” Moore said. “Now I have younger cousins wanting to go to college. I have younger cousins, nieces and nephews and they all want to be police officers. It has really changed the family curse, if you will.”
Moore also wants to be a role model for kids in Springfield.
“So many people in the neighborhoods I’m focusing on, they don’t think about college because they don’t have anybody around them who went to college. So, why would they even think about going to college? They have to focus on surviving, and that’s to get a job and take care of their families,” Moore said.
Moore was one of the first people to help out with the book bag and school supplies program at the barbershop. Eventually, the two barbers were able to fill one of their rooms with school supplies.
“It was pretty big,” Gregory said. “We had a lot of donations. Donations came from the Springfield Police Department, state representatives and a lot of local people.”
During the giveaway the day before school started in Springfield, Gregory and Rice performed 131 free haircuts. They had a hot dog machine, popcorn and children’s characters like Mickey Mouse to keep the kids entertained.
“It ended up being way bigger than we thought it would be. We definitely appreciate everybody who helped out,” Rice said.
Source: The (Springfield) State Journal-Register, https://bit.ly/2Ckm8Se
Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com