CLEVELAND — The first taste of winter arrived in Northeast Ohio last weekend, sending many into their closets to dig out their coats.
For far too many, that necessity is more of a luxury. However, for the third year in a row, a barbershop in the Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn, Ohio, is spreading warmth this fall and winter — no strings attached.
Marlon Brown, the owner of Legoheadz Barber Saloon in the heart of "Old Brooklyn," rolled out a coat rack chock full of coats and other warm-weather gear earlier this month. The coat campaign is the result of his simple observation and a desire to give back.
"We saw a need, and we tried to fill it," Brown said. "Just being on this corner, you see a lot of people. I saw people walking down the street without coats on."
He gathered what he could, and the Old Brooklyn community did the rest. After a sizable donation from an anonymous donor the first year, the grassroots program has become self-sufficient. Several times a week, citizens will drop by his barbershop to make donations and keep the coat rack full.
"Take what you need; just leave the hanger. Hangers get expensive after a while. I think the first year I was at Family Dollar every three days buying a box of plastic hangars," Brown said. "I'm blessed right now. I came from a place in my life — to even be where I'm at right now is a miracle in itself. If not for God's grace, I wouldn't be here. I'm always trying to give back as much as possible."
Brown, a resident of Old Brooklyn, said during the first two years of the campaign, those in need had received more than 600 coats. Anyone needing a coat is welcome to take one — no questions asked.
"Little actions like this are needed. I didn't put those coats out there for anybody that needs them as you're Black or anybody that needs them so long as you're straight. No, it's for anybody in need," Brown said. "My mother always told me that if you're going to give, give indiscriminately. The only thing I ask is that you pay it forward. At some point in time in your life, remember you got a free coat from somebody."
This story was originally published by Jordan Vandenberge on Scripps station WEWS in Cleveland.