By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
When it comes to picking a team to root for, most people default for their home team and while that’s inevitably true here in Milwaukee, there’s more to it than that. The Milwaukee Bucks is arguably one of the most beloved teams, at least in Wisconsin, and it goes beyond the team’s talent and knack for winning.
Over the past years, the Milwaukee Bucks have become known for their outreach in the community. Last week, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Andis Foundation along with Safe & Sound announced it would be expanding its Barbershop Mondays program.
Barbershop Mondays began as a way to offer mentorship to young men between the ages of 10 to 23.
During the event, the young men can receive a free haircut and an opportunity to engage with positive male role models in their community.
Although the overall goal of the program is to encourage open communication and dialogue, occasionally one or more of the players will make an appearance.
Arvind Gopalratnam, the Milwaukee Bucks Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, said that the Bucks are proud to participate in the barbershop conversations. He praised Safe & Sounds work in the community and its efforts to make sure that youth have an opportunity and a space for their voices to be heard.“
Through our engagement, we hope we can bring more visibility not only to these youth but the challenges they are facing each day,” Gopalratnam said.
In an interview with WISN12, Damien Smith, the youth program manager for Safe & Sound, said that Barbershop Mondays came through the realization that barbershops are often a source of information and a place for conversation.
Smith continued that the conversations cover topics such as fatherlessness, law enforcement and bridging the generational gap between younger and older attendees. He said that law enforcement will show up both in and out of uniform to help establish a
bond with attendees.
According to the press release, “The focus of these discussions is building social and emotional confidence, leadership and how youth can develop positive mentor relationships.”
In addition to the special appearances by players or otherwise, a main part of Barbershop Mondays is the barbers themselves. During the interview with WISN12, Smith said that the barbers are volunteers who offer up their time to be a part of the program.
While real barbers cut the hair, the barbershops themselves are often created in community rooms and made to be like a pop-up barbershop.
Andis Foundation, the Buck’s partner, also plays a role in Barbershop Mondays. The foundation’s goal is to help build strong families, develop thriving children and foster a vibrant community.
“This innovative program shines a light on the important role that neighborhood barbershops play in their communities, – providing a safe place for young men to gather and talk about issues with a positive and trusted role model – their barber” said Laura Andis Bishop, co-president of Andis Company.
The program will include an additional eight events which will take place over the next four months. Six will be held in Milwaukee and two in Racine.