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Harvesters sees increase in first-time clients amid coronavirus pandemic

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Posted at 4:00 AM, Sep 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-11 06:47:24-04

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. — Cutting hair is in Robert Smith's DNA.

"It's been about 42 years, this year," Smith said. "I came out of the Marine Corps, went almost straight to hair school after one year."

However, 2020 caused a unique shake-up for the veteran.

"In all my years of cutting hair, I've only seen the flu close a few shops for a couple of weeks cause the whole staff got sick," Smith said. "Other than that, nothing like this. Nothing at all like this."

The coronavirus pandemic, which hit the Kansas City area in early March, has affect what Smith has been doing for years.

"Going from 600 cuts a month to 80 cuts a month," Smith said. "You have more time to pay attention to detail."

Because of that, Smith decided to check out Harvesters for the first time.

"Hunger has a way of melting pride," Smith said. "When the ice box was looking empty and the paycheck was a week away, and I'm going, 'Hey, this is available. Let's go see it, let's go check it out.'"

Harvesters employee Byron Elam, who has worked at the organization for six years, noticed the uptick in demand.

"It's just increased tenfold pretty much," Elam said.

As Elam packs up the thousands of pounds of food for the community, he said he just wants to help.

"There's a lot of people out there who need," Elam said. "And I'm just glad to be apart, to be able to help. I'm glad to be here."

Though Elam and Smith have not met, Elam said he's ready to assist.

"We got stuff to give," Elam said. "You guys out there hungry, come get something to eat."

For Smith, he said, going to Harvesters turned out to be a great experience.

"I'm really glad we found it," Smith said.