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Hoodie’s House of Hope for Youth charity dinner keeps hope alive

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

Sitting beneath the barber’s cape, Kevin Duffy told the man with the clippers that he wanted a typical businessman’s haircut – tapered on the sides and back, a little off the top. He’s starting a new job on Thursday and wanted to look his best.

“Our appearance is the No. 1 thing that people look at,” he said. “When I’m standing out there, I want someone to say, ‘You look real nice. You really don’t look homeless.’ 

Duffy was one of hundreds of people who showed up at the Greenville Neighborhood Center near uptown Sunday for a post-holiday dinner.

Organizers at Hoodie’s House of Hope for Youth said the event wasn’t a typical charity dinner. People sleeping on the streets or at shelters, or families just down on their luck were invited for food, but they also were treated to free haircuts and gently used clothes. Some just sat around and watched the Carolina Panthers game on a Sunday afternoon.

The event four days after Christmas filled what organizer Jeff Hood called an “untapped niche” after events for the poor during the holiday season.

“There’s a lot of feeding events that go on prior to the holidays,” Hood said. “(People in need are) going to be hungry after the holidays. They’re going to have some of the same needs after the holidays.”

Hood said one of those needs was a simple respite from the struggles of everyday life. That’s why Sunday’s event featured amenities such as a deejay and an impromptu dance-off.

Organizers didn’t know on Sunday how many people showed up during the four-hour event, but Hood said they plan to do it all again next year. “This is going to be a blessing for many, many years to come,” he said.

Duffy, whom Hood asked to stand and wave to the crowd before everyone lined up for dinner, said the food, shave and haircut were a boost before he starts the new year. “We don’t get this all the time,” he said.

Organizers approached him and other homeless men while they were eating breakfast on “The Wall,” an uptown location where people donate food.

The meal sounded good, but Duffy said he was one of the first in line for a haircut for reasons both aesthetic and practical. His job is seasonal – he’ll wear a costume to advertise a local tax service, he said.

“I want my hair to be short,” he said. “It gets hot in that costume.”

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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