Local barbering program provides grooming at Mission

If you were to walk into our Opportunity Center on any Wednesday morning, you could be forgiven for thinking that you had accidentally walked into a barber college.

Every Wednesday, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., the Tennessee College of Applied Technology barbering program sets up shop at the Mission’s facility at 600 Poplar Ave. to provide free haircuts to anyone in need.

The free haircuts are part of a long-standing partnership between the school and Memphis Union Mission, one that began in 1999.

“The program itself began as part of the Convoy of Hope,” said Ernestine Peete, senior barber instructor. “A bunch of churches got together to make a difference, and we were asked to help by providing the haircuts.”

At about the same time, some students at the school were having a difficult time completing their course work because they didn’t have enough clients. 

Ernestine suggested that they walk along Poplar Avenue seeking clients. As the word got out, lines of people would form outside the school’s doors at 5 a.m. 

“That was overwhelming,” said Peete. So she talked with Memphis Union Mission and other local homeless service providers about setting up a remote barber shop at their locations.

At first, the school set up shop every other week at Memphis Union Mission’s shelter at 383 Poplar Ave. But now that the Mission has opened up the new Opportunity Center, and has more room in which to work, the school sets up shop there every Wednesday to provide the free haircuts.

For the school and for Memphis Union Mission, the partnership has been mutually beneficial by providing practical training for students and a real ministry opportunity for the Mission. 

“It’s a win-win for everyone; it’s now a part of our curriculum,” says Peete. “We’re helping the community and the community is helping us.”

Moreover, several Memphis Union Mission program clients have gone through the school’s barbering program.

“We look at the Mission as if they’re family,” she said.

Please join us in thanking Ernestine and her students at Tennessee Technology Center for providing such a meaningful service to our guests!

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