His Free Cuts Lift Needy Kids' Spirits


Odenton, Md.

A TRIM ON THE HOUSE: Robert Cradle had run his Baltimore-area barber shop for 10 years when, one day in 2001, a single mom walked in with her two foster sons. Noticing the boys’ unkempt hair and figuring she had little money, Cradle waived his $12 fee—and was elated as he watched the boys admire their close-cropped cuts. “I felt,” he recalls, “that I was giving them care and security.”

HAIRCUTS FOR THE HOMELESS: He was so moved that within a few months, Cradle founded Rob’s Barbershop Community Foundation (www.rbcf.com), in which he visited shelters to give free trims to homeless kids and adults. Since selling his shop in 2003, he has raised $500,000 in cash and in-kind contributions from individuals and foundations, enabling him to pay backup barbers and install seven salon-grade chairs at two city shelters and a children’s home. To date, his nonprofit has provided some 2,500 cuts and styles—from fades and flat-tops to braids and gel twists.

A NEW LOOK: At St. Vincent’s Center group home in Timonium, Md., “kids’ self-worth has been put through the wringer,” says development director Ellen Torres. “The haircuts make them feel good.” Among the satisfied customers is Faith, 11, who had her hair pressed and curled. “Before, I looked a mess,” she says. “Now I feel beautiful.” Cradle, who lives in a condo with his wife and 5-year-old daughter and works at a friend’s shop 20 hours a week, couldn’t be more pleased: “I want more children to feel this way.”

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