When men meet at Champions Barbershop on Saturday, Jan. 31, it won't just be to get a haircut, but also to reach out to youth in the community and recruit volunteer mentors to be Big Brothers.
To date, traditional volunteer recruitment efforts directed towards African American men have been unsuccessful. In 2008, Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest served over 317 African American children but only 16 percent of these children were matched with an African American Big Brother or Big Sister. Of the volunteers in the agency's programs, fewer than 2 percent are African American men.
In order to reverse this trend, Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest and fraternities Alpha Phi Alpha and Kappa Alpha Psi are partnering to take a fresh approach at recruiting African American men at Champions Barbershop to be positive adult role models for African American boys.
Since the early 1990s, fraternity brothers have reached out to young men by sharing activities and experiences that have a lasting impact.
"We are excited about this partnership with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., and Champions Barbershop," said Pamela Weatherspoon, African American Mentoring programs director with Big Brothers Big Sisters. "With our collective efforts, we can really have a lasting difference on the youth in our community."
Alpha Phi Alpha and Kappa Alpha Psi began using barbershops as venues for recruiting men to become Big Brothers four years ago with positive results. This is the first year that fraternity brothers have participated in barbershop recruitment in Portland.
"Big Brothers Big Sisters has continuously worked hard to improve the lives of children," said Phillip Rogers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. "It doesn't take a lot to be a Big Brother, and it really does a lot to improve the futures of young African American men."
Anybody who signs up to be a Big Brother will receive gifts and a Champion-level haircut, but improving the lives of neighborhood children will be the real reward.
Big Brothers Big Sisters helps children through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with mentors that have a measurable impact.
Founded in 2002, Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest has in six years become the largest one-to-one mentoring program in Oregon, the largest Big Brothers Big Sisters agency on the West Coast and the eighth largest in the United States. For more information about volunteering or supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest visit www.bbbsnorthwest.org.
Champions is at 3827 NE MLK, open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and the shop phone number is 971-255-1288. The high-end barbers feature free wi-fi, a coffee bar and years of styling Portland's top professional athletes.