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'Just pay it forward': KC barber offers free haircuts for students

Idea spurred from client who works for nonprofit
Toombs asked Gumby to help him with these haircuts because of how involved Gumby is.
Posted at 5:38 PM, Apr 03, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City-area barber is paying it forward by giving students free haircuts and confidence.

"Hair’s not only a physical appearance, but that promotes mental health within oneself," said Tim Gumby, owner of Gumby's Barbershop.

Tim Gumby, owner of Gumby's Barbershop, and Craig Toombs

The idea was brought to him by his client and friend Craig Toombs, a student support educator for the nonprofit SparkWheel.

SparkWheel works to cut out any barriers that stand in students' way, whether it be clothing, food or transportation.

"There was a student who was having issues with not wanting to take his hood off in the classroom, and oftentimes these are indicative to maybe not being able to have a haircut," Toombs said.

Craig Toombs, one of his students, and Tim Gumby after a haircut.

Gumby and Toombs said haircuts teach responsibility since they require pre-planning to make an appointment. Plus, students must practice respecting others' time when showing up promptly for an appointment.

"I feel like they’ll walk into that school, feel as good as they can and put in their best effort," Toombs said. "I think each student gets something different when they come out of this barbershop."

Craig Toombs, Student Support Educator for SparkWheel

Gumby said his work is more than a haircut; he wants people to feel good inside and out when they leave his shop.

"When they come in here, it’ll just show that, 'Hey, somebody looked out for me today,'" he said. "It’s the smile. You can’t beat it."

He said he can't remember how many kids' hair he's cut, but he'll always remember their gratitude.

"One person could change a multitude of lives, and that’s what we do here," he said. "One haircut at a time."