Part 3: The Angels Amongst Us
In this next article we highlight Robert W. Cradle, a licensed barber of 30 years and a fearless entrepreneurial spirit who saw a need but didn’t trust it. He went beyond and researched to figure out how he could help those in need. He says, “Don’t trust your lying eyes,” regarding what you think the problems are in your community. “Go do your research on the problem, ask diagnostic questions, see who already helping others in the same way that you are proposing, and get some training.” He is clearly an angel amongst us and one of the powerful sheroes and heroes in the beauty industry.
Robert Cradle, Baltimore’s Allstate Give Back Day hero, decided to put his barber skills to use and started Robs Barbershop Community Foundation (R.B.C.F), which provides grooming services for the homeless and children in need throughout Baltimore.
ROBERT W. CRADLE
Robert W. Cradle was raised in Baltimore, Maryland with his three siblings. Robert’s mother and father were not particularly religious during his formative years, but father in particular was an extremely dedicated and supportive person. He exclaimed that his parents have never even hurt his feelings! Therefore Robert developed a strong sense of security that nothing was impossible. Now age 49, achieving was never a concern for Robert.
“Becoming a barber was actually inspired by a lie that I told my 12th grade guidance counselor.”
At that time, he didn’t have any direction and was in danger of failing, so when asked of his plans at a meeting with his guidance counselor, he lied and said he was going to barber school. He originally had no intention of doing so. Over the summer his counselor sent him a brochure, so he decided to give it a try. In November of 1986, Robert received his license as a journey barber, and by the Spring of 1991 he open Rob’s Barbershop in Odenton, Maryland.
Around year 2000, Robert had a client who was a volunteer coordinator from the homeless shelter down the street from his barbershop. One day the client mentioned that the clients at the shelter didn’t have access to regular grooming services. Robert placed a collection box on the counter and began raising money for haircuts for the homeless. At first the homeless people from the shelter would come into his shop. His staff were predominantly young black male barbers, he wanted to pay his barbers for doing these cuts: “They need the work, too!”
For the first few years, his philanthropy was also mobile, and he sent barbers to different locations. However, by his fifth year he realized how he could serve more people int he cost effective manner. So his work has moved on to include full-service barber/beauty salon installations in public schools and homeless shelters. Robert acts as project manager between agencies, and the donors who underwrite the projects. First by measuring the grooming needs of the agencies’ target population.Then presents the problem to donors and tells them he can fix this problem with their help. Once he installs the barber/beauty salons, he then tracks how much the problem has been reduced, and gives the donor the credit.
Robert installs the barber/beauty salons in a manner that the population he is serving to groom one another in the shop, teaches the agency how to solicit barbers and stylists, and how to run the salon. The grooming salons are always exclusive to the clients of the respective shelter or public school. This step just takes the giving a step further and teaches self-sufficiency.
This coming March marks 17 years of operation. When I asked him about why he does it, and if he is still excited about his path, Robert says,
“I want to leave my two girls with the feeling my father left me, that they can become whatever they want to be. I want to give them strength when I am no longer around.”
Robert barbers a couple of days a week for his long time customers, and he recently participated in a live storytelling series with Martin Luther King’s personal barber. He recently completed his seventh full-service shop in a Southeast Baltimore family shelter that was underwritten by the Abell Foundation. He has also just launched a project with Wahl Clipper Cooperation, called Cuts for a Cause. This project provides free clippers for barber school students who volunteer their time to provide grooming services to the homeless. Check it out. Some of his other projects this year include:
Family Recovery Program Grooming Project
Phoenix Academy Grooming Project
The Woodlands Job Corps Grooming Project
Homeless Resource Day Grooming Project
Check out Robert’s website, read more about all of his projects at http://www.rbcf.com, and contribute to his operations. This is a man on a mission. His ultimate vision is to strictly become a fiscal intermediary so he can expand projects across the country – dream is to be able to write the checks himself for these projects one day – a worthy goal indeed. I found Robert’s mission compelling because of his entrepreneur spirit, and the idea of training the organization to manage these salons. When I asked, “Do you think you will run out of agencies to help?” “Oh, no.”
Divisions are wide. Let’s love each other. Hold your salon as a politics-free zone. People need to have a peaceful place to go, so be neutral if you can. Let the place of rest be your salon.
Check out this video called, “I Like Giving,” and be inspired.