Strangers’ kindness helps Columbus barber make ends meet

The stack of mail waiting for Byron Woods was about a foot high when he reopened his barber shops after a two-month shutdown because of the pandemic.

He tossed the pile of unpaid bills aside and opened a hand-addressed envelope.

Inside was a $1,200 check made out to him from a retired schoolteacher. She was giving Woods the stimulus money she received from the federal government.

Woods cried when he read the woman’s letter:

“Dear Mr. Woods,

Today is a happy day for me. It is a day I’ve been waiting for. You see, ever since I received my stimulus check from the federal government I’ve wanted to give the money to someone who needed it more than I, someone who would use it wisely, someone who was worthy of some help.

I am so impressed with and thankful for your giving nature, for all you do for others. And for making ME happy.”

Woods, 55, owns Oohs and Ahs Hair Design, Oohs and Ahs Lab, and Oohs and Ahs VIP in the Eastland Plaza.

The Dispatch, in a story published earlier this month, described how Woods had survived much hardship, including being shot in an armed robbery at his home 15 years ago.

Now the beloved barber who has been cutting hair for generations of families since 1991 on the city’s Southeast Side was worried about losing his business because he could not be open.

Woods’ story touched people.

In addition to the teacher, several others made unsolicited donations. Some were made anonymously, and those who included their names didn’t leave contact information. But Woods is doing everything in his power to find and thank them.

“The money is going to help me help others, but it’s their words of kindness in these letters that got me,” Woods said. “This shows the spirit of giving is transferable. It’s a tough time for sure, but it’s igniting people to be selfless.”

The barber has a long history of helping people himself. Woods has been involved in prison ministry for 20 years and has given a second chance to convicted felons by hiring them to work in his hair salons.

Woods said business has been steady since he reopened May 15. The problem is only about a third of his 27 hair designers have felt comfortable returning to work. That’s making it difficult to catch up on the rent and the bills.

It also makes the money he is receiving in the mail all that more valuable.

Last weekend, Woods received what he thought was an advertisement from a bank and almost threw it in the trash.

Inside was another check made out to him. This one was for $5,000.

“I don’t know else to say, man,” said Woods choking back joyful emotion. “I want them to know they inspire me, and I’ll do everything in my power to spread the goodwill they showed me.”