Dave Lawrence, owner of That 50’s Barber Shop in downtown Nanaimo, said the slow trickle of donations for his annual Fresh Start charity drive has him worried.
Fresh Start, the back-to-school fundraiser that provides vulnerable students with a haircut, books, clothes and school supplies, is seeing less than 50 per cent of the donations compared to this time last year.
“We never want to be short of anything,” Lawrence said, and added that during the first event in 2015, his team rushed to gather more supplies after they tallied the lineup and noticed they were short.
In 2020, when there were no haircuts due to COVID-19 physical distancing rules, the barber and his team still made home deliveries.
“Which was eye opening because, actually physically going to people’s places and to see how run down some of them were, it was heartbreaking. And it makes all of us and the volunteers understand why we do this … Child poverty is such a huge thing here and people don’t see it – they don’t know it exists.”
According to the 2021 B.C. Child Poverty Report Card, based on 2019 data, approximately 20 per cent of all children in Nanaimo were living in poverty. The report also noted that high child poverty rate census tracts were clustered in and around the city’s downtown core.
For the eighth Fresh Start this year, Lawrence said he and the other volunteers are looking to provide their 1,000th free haircut and still aim to help another 200 students during the main event day. Since donations are low, they’re not looking for anything specific but “just a little bit of everything,” including backpacks, school supplies, books, winter coats and boots. Donations, which can also be monetary, can be dropped off during business hours at his barber shop, 16A Victoria Cres., or the Vancouver Island Regional Library Harbourfront branch, 90 Commercial St. Lawrence can also be contacted via e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org, to arrange for alternative drop-off or pick-up.
The Fresh Start event will be held on Sept. 4 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Harbourfront library, where students can receive a haircut and school supplies in exchange for drawing a picture or reading a story out loud.
This coming Monday, Aug. 8, a kick-off event will be held at noon at Desire Tattoo Studio on Bowen Road, and donations are encouraged at that time. Lawrence will be there to get a tattoo based on a design submitted on the Fresh Start Facebook page for a ‘kid art contest’ which is still accepting artwork.