Barber Students Lend a Helping Hand (and haircut) to Veterans

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Tucked in the back of the Coffee Bunker is a recreational room, where the students from the Barber program at Clary Sage College are setting up clippers, shears, and combs, anticipating a busy, rewarding day providing haircuts to veterans and service members. 

Paula Matthews, Department Head of the Barber program, said her students began this service a couple months ago and have committed to providing free haircuts every four to five weeks through 2016. Matthews has known the Director of the Coffee Bunker, Scott Blackburn, for over ten years. Together, Blackburn and Matthews created this program. “After lots of conversation,” Matthews says, “we decided this would be an awesome thing our students could do for our veterans.”

Throughout the year, the Barber students provide their services in the Tulsa community through a variety of programs and organizations, like Cuts For Kids, Laura Dester Shelter, Morton Comprehensive Health Services, the Tulsa Stand Down, and now the Coffee Bunker.

“I’ve been coming to the Coffee Bunker for two months,” a veteran says. “It’s a great place to come to when you have nowhere else to go.” While he utilizes many of the services offered at the Coffee Bunker, he says his favorite is the free haircuts offered each month.

As Clary Sage College students begin their first haircuts of the morning, one of the Coffee Bunker staff members switches the popcorn machine on; the sizzle of the popcorn and steady buzz of clippers creates a cozy, happy hum throughout the recreational room.

“We have veterans trying to find jobs, and everyone needs to look clean for their interview,” says Clary Sage College Barber student, Boone. “It’s good to help out, to be able to offer this service. It’s a nice change from the classroom, too.”

Matthews, proudly observing her students, chimes in: “A new haircut gives you confidence. It’s a great boost; it makes you walk a little taller, smile a little bigger.”

Raye Mahlberg, Campus Director at Clary Sage College, explains the role the Coffee Bunker plays in the Tulsa community, saying it’s a place for veterans and their family members to find connection, support, resources, and renewal. “Our students are honoring and serving our veterans by providing free haircuts at the Coffee Bunker,” Mahlberg says. “The students enjoy the opportunity to refine their skills while giving back to the community.”

As one of the Barber students, Melissa, finishes up a haircut, she holds out a mirror for her client to see and tells him, “You look sharp!” Melissa snaps a quick picture of her client for her portfolio, and they shake hands.

“It’s a great feeling giving back to the community,” Matthews says, “especially for our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country.”

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