About Michael R. Hooks
Michael R. Hooks grew up in a single-parent home. His mother never had a job and never owned a house or a car. Hooks says his family was a product of the welfare system, and he recalls being surrounded by people who barely scraped by.
“As a young kid, I can remember vividly not having the things I needed to start the school year, (so) I didn’t want to go to school,” says Hooks, now 48.
These memories — along with many factors — are what drove Hooks to start giving free haircuts to students before the first day of school 14 years ago. Already the owner of Michael’s Hair Salon, Hooks saw it as a small way he could help the community in a way he knew how. Haircuts soon turned into giving away backpacks, which turned into filling packs with school supplies, which turned into a community-wide family resource fair.
In August, Hooks will hold his 14th annual Back-to-School Free Haircut Day as well as his third annual Family Resource Fair. Last year, more than 1,000 participants and about 60 agencies were involved in the Family Resource Fair. Free dental exams, immunizations, physicals and vision screenings were offered in the past. This year, Hooks hopes to teach people about the Affordable Care Act, offer CPR certification, teach people urban farming and how to cook healthy meals on a low-income budget.
In many ways Hooks still identifies with the reluctant elementary-school student who goes to class in hand-me-down clothes, unsure where he’ll eat dinner and just wanting enough paper and pencils to get through the day.
“When you’re young, you’re vulnerable, and if there’s no one there to care for you, anything could happen to you,” Hooks says.
“We don’t ask for parents who don’t work or parents that use drugs — as a kid, we don’t ask for those things, but as a kid there’s nothing we can do about them. But if you can come along and give those kids — those people — a hand, a new way of looking at life, a better understanding — ultimately that’s what I believe (in).”
SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR – Michael Hooks created MMLB with the aim of solving social problems & issues within the Erie community. Michael believes that TOGETHER we can continue making a difference.
Despite the local fame Hooks has experienced, he still hates the spotlight. In fact, when people first approached him years ago to interview him, Hooks turned them down.
“I never wanted the focus to be on me,” Hooks says. “I don’t think people take into account that, yeah, I’m the focus, but there are so many people behind me, so many people that believed in me, … people who help out. I couldn’t do any of these things without those people.”
Whether it’s the people who help him, the people he helps, or the people who look to him for encouragement and advice, Hooks is motivated by them all.
That’s what Hooks loves about his job — the people, the opportunity to connect with people and to bring people together in a meaningful way.
Cutting hair or running a snow removal business might not sound like the most glamorous job, but Hooks counts his businesses as a major success.
“Success is not where you are in life, it’s what you had to go through to get where you are,” he says. “It’s not about trying to match yourself up to anybody else. It’s about taking what life has given you and making the very most of it.” LEL
By Lydia Laythe – Source: GoErie
In the beginning, Michael gave free haircuts the weekend before the school year started, to children in need. He knew this would boost their self-esteem, making the students more apt to learn and make friends, rather than face tensions and being targeted for bullying, all in the first days of the new school year. Through faith, determination and creativity, Michael Making Lives Better (MMLB) produces a back2school weekend like non other every August.
First, Friday’s Family Resource Fair, is the day that makes essential services available to the families free of charge, such as: dental and physical exams, health and wellness, financial advocacy, and educational programs to name a few. Saturday’s event is the Back2School Free Haircut Day, where MMLB host barbers and cosmetologist from barbershops, salons and schools of Cosmetology from all over Erie County, giving many students their first haircut of the new school year. This day is a favorite for students because there are so many fun activities, games, giveaways, prizes and food, before and after the student’s haircut.
Say hello to our board of directors:
President: Michael Hooks
Secretary: Elizabeth Edwards
Treasurer: Robert Martin
YOU CAN HELP!
Get involved, much like many of the individuals, businesses, and community agencies who’ve answer the call to help make lives better. To make a financial contribution click on the donation button.