You’d think a barber wouldn’t encourage baldness.
By RUSS PULLEY
Special to The Star
Not so with Nick Swearngin.
This will be the sixth year he’s asked Lee’s Summit notables and friends to get their head shaved as a “hair razing” fundraiser for Hope House, a shelter for women fleeing domestic violence.
To date the “Lee’s Summit Bald Eagles” event has raised $27,000 for Hope House, and the next public head shaving is scheduled for March 16.
Nick and his father John Swearngin are well-known in Lee’s Summit, both having served on the City Council. Their downtown business, John’s Barber Shop, was founded in 1941 with John Swearngin starting there in 1969, then taking full ownership in 1972. Nick took over in 2007 after his father retired.
Nick Swearngin said he had always wanted to help people and was active in church projects and other activities, but it wasn’t until he’d had the desire to try shaving his head that he began organizing this project.
His father wouldn’t let him take a razor to his own pate, working at the barber shop. When he took over, Dad couldn’t boss him, but then his wife wouldn’t let him. Swearngin said he thought, “I’m a grown man and I can’t even decide how to get my own hair cut in my own barber shop.”
His wife is a supporter of Hope House. It occurred to him that she couldn’t refuse to let him go bald if he cast shaving his head as an event to raise money for Hope House.
He recruited his son and another barber, added a silent auction and raised $1,000 in 2008. Last year the event collected a high of $12,000.
New this year will be a traveling trophy given to the Bald Eagle who gets the highest bid.
How it works is that friends, or conceivably enemies, bid at an auction for the right to shave volunteers’ heads. Professional barbers then touch up the job.
Swearngin said there are 15 volunteers this year, including two women.
Three have volunteered to raise money to avoid being shaved, including Art Davis, former Lee’s Summit city administrator, and Rob Ellerman, a real estate agent. Ellerman has pledged to raise at least $1,000, or get shaved, Swearngin said.
Councilmember Rob Binney is to go under the razor to fulfill a campaign promise from last year. Past volunteers have included State Sen. Will Kraus.
Last year a woman beginning chemotherapy, her aunt and her 11-year-old granddaughter volunteered.
For a week leading up to the event in 2011, Swearngin dyed his hair and beard pink. He wore a T-shirt that read on the front, “I did this for Hope House,” and on the back “What are you doing?”
That gave him an opportunity to explain the shelter’s mission and how necessary it is for Lee’s Summit and Jackson County.
“It led to a lot of conversations about Hope House,” Swearngin said, “I tell them it gives (women) a place to go when they don’t have anywhere else to go and get out of a bad situation.”
He said he’s amazed at the stories women have shared with him. He tries to help educate people about the signs of domestic violence and steps women can take to get help.
MaryAnne Metheny, CEO of Hope House, said that every year Swearingin thinks of a new twist to improve the fundraiser.
“Nick’s continued and growing efforts to support Hope House have meant both sustained support for survivors of domestic violence and greater exposure for the organization’s mission in the Lee’s Summit community and across the state,” Metheny said in a statement.
His work led to his being named 2012 Outstanding Fundraising Volunteer by the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Mid-America Chapter.
He said the accolades belong to the community.
“That really needs to be shared,” Swearngin said. “It has grown to this point only because of so many wonderful people.”