By VINCE MEEHAN | Downtown News
Downtown resident Bob Leone has made his three-year dream come true. Leone raised enough money to refurbish an old intake area at Father Joe’s Villages into a brand new clean and modern barbershop. This means that anyone who cannot afford a haircut can now simply walk into Father Joe’s Villages’ main Joan Kroc Center building at 15th and Imperial Avenue, and walk away with a fresh new look. Father Joe’s Villages was so thankful for Leone’s efforts that they honored him by including his name below the official name of the barbershop now known as Village Clips. That’s a pretty big honor considering the building is named after one of San Diego’s biggest and most loved philanthropists.
“I had this vision three years ago because I live Downtown, and I really felt that there was a need in the community, at Father Joe’s for a barbershop,” Leone said. “And it really stemmed around self-image and self-esteem. And there was such a need for it that I raised some money from myself and my circle of friends and here we are three years later in terms of this project!”
In addition to the new barbershop, Leone managed to raise additional funds to completely redo the shower facilities located on the same floor as the barbershop. They are now also available for anybody who does not have access to a proper shower. Between the two amenities, it is now possible for people to be presentable for any occasion including job interviews, family visits or those who simply need a freshening up.
“By matching the amount of money I raised with a grant, we redid the entire showers across the hall,” Leone added. “We started with $50,000, and we parleyed that into a grant for another $200,000 and we were able to fund this facility here, plus the showers which I’m particularly proud of.” Leone credits Choctaw Construction from Ramona as helping get the remodel done.
Leone has served on the Father Joe’s Villages board of directors for 12 years and that’s where he saw the need for a barbershop at the facility. He originally got involved in helping Father Joe’s Villages through his tech company, MRC Smart Technology Solutions, that he sold to Xerox in 2010. “We used to come down here and serve dinner for the homeless, and it would be a great team-building project, it would be good way for my employees to get involved,” Leone stated. “I believe that corporations have a huge social responsibility to contribute to the community. I’ve always felt that way, and Xerox is really well known for that also.”
The barbershop is open everyday to anybody from 8 to 10:30 a.m., and 12:30 to 2:45 p.m. on weekdays, and 8 to 10:30 a.m. on weekends. The staff is completely made up of volunteer stylists from local boutiques. The facility serves all men, women and children at no charge.
Leone also has plans to hand out vouchers to people on the streets as a way to promote his facility to those who are unaware of what is offered. This might manifest itself as a $10 gift card from a company such as Jack in the Box, or anybody else who wants to help sponsor it. Once they come in for a haircut, they walk away with a fresh new look plus a gift card. “I want to drive people here. This is still San Diego’s best-kept secret in terms of what we have to offer to those people who are less fortunate and living on the street. I hope that stimulates a lot of activity for those people. In our company, we have this saying, ‘When you’ve been blessed in your own life, you want to make a difference in other people’s lives,’ and it’s just so great to see the people when they’re getting their hair cut… the after effect… and it’s pretty cool!”
Village Clips is completely reliant on volunteer stylists to keep their facility open. Those wishing to sign up as volunteer barbers can call 619-645-6411 or visit neighbor.org/volunteer.
— Vince Meehan can be reached at email@example.com.