Students style the homeless

Every Saturday, between 200 and 300 homeless individuals find relief from hunger at Jesus Burger, located at 2101 E. Marshall Ave. in Longview. Every third weekend of the month, the trip comes with a free haircut, thanks to KC cosmetology instructor Wesley Brasher and his students.

As buses bring in those living on the highways, near the byways, under bridges and in shelters, the KC students gear up with clippers and combs to hone their skills. Brasher said they usually have between four and nine volunteers from the KC Cosmetology classes on hand to cut hair for between 30 to 50 clients.

Photo by Lisa Harris/THE FLARE

Despite not having a salon set-up with mirrors and shampoo bowls, the students have effectively improvised over the past year of cutting hair outside.

“The clients tell us they love the haircut, even though they never see a mirror,” said Paige Williams, KC cosmetology student. “They are so grateful and have such appreciation.”

First-time participants Savannah Payne, Longview freshman, and Haley Lockhart, Kilgore freshman, agreed they would, “be back to do it again.”

Adam Smith, KC Cosmetology graduate, is also a regular contributor to the haircut program. He is currently employed at Bernardo’s Hair Salon, named the number one barbershop in town by Longview’s Locals Love Us magazine in 2017. He too was once homeless, spending 20 years of his life hooked on drugs. He has been clean and sober for the last five years and uses his second chance to, “do the Lord’s work,” he said.

Jesus Burger came about when Gary Don Holley, a man often seen carrying a cross up and down U.S. Highway 80 in Longview, partnered with Perkins Partner Ministry and “Shade Tree” Ministry to run a licensed food kitchen to feed the homeless. Six years ago, he began the orchestration of church groups and volunteers to come together and share the love of Jesus. Contributors include:

• The “Bread of Life” Assembly of God in Gladewater and Panera Bread of Longview – bread;

• Perkins Partner Ministry- meat;

• Super One – desserts;

• Genpak Manufacturing – to-go boxes.

As great as the draw for food might be, the real service is found in helping people, said Steve, one of the event’s organizers.

Joe McNary has been attending Jesus Burger since the beginning, and has been listening to the weekly messages. He credits God for his current remission of stage four cancer.

“I’m blessed and feeling great,” he said. He was once a drug dealer, but after turning his life around, he said, “I’m impressed when I see people I used to deal to be changed by God.”

One sign of miraculous blessing is the fact it has never rained on a Jesus Burger event.

There’s no point in checking the weather, observers have pointed out, because the storms stay across the street. “We have literally watched the storm move around us, as if the hand of God is protecting us,” said Scott, one of the volunteers.

Jesus Burger found its name from a man enjoying a meal. “This isn’t just a burger, it’s a JESUS BURGER.” The outreach ministry has been picked up by other passersby and now reaches as far as New York, Florida and North Carolina; and as close by as Gilmer, Big Sandy and Gun Barrel City.

For more information, or to find ways to volunteer, contact Brasher at 903-236-2015.