A crowd gathered out front of Fading Autism Barbershop on Main Street, Kutztown to celebrate its one-year anniversary on Aug. 27.
Northeast Berks Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting, with everyone in attendance gathered around the barbershop’s owner, Frank Antoine, as he cut the ribbon. Traffic stopped as photographers captured the moment and the crowd applauded Fading Autism Barbershop.
NE Berks Chamber Executive Director Lori Donofrio-Galley was pleased with the turnout for the Ribbon Cutting and Open House. In attendance were Chamber members, business owners, Kutztown University students and staff, community members and barbershop clients.
“We are thrilled that we had such support not only from Chamber members, but from the community and Kutztown University,” she said. “We congratulate Frank and we wish him the best. I know that he will really thrive in this community.”
Antoine joined the Chamber in July to expand his network of support for Fading Autism.
“He really does work with a mission for children on the autism spectrum and I think he’s very inspirational. We already know that small business is very connected to non-profits, not only in Kutztown but in Berks County in general. I think it’s interesting that he’s combining the two, a non-profit mission with a for-profit operation,” said Donofrio-Galley.
Kutztown University President Dr. Kenneth Hawkinson attended the Ribbon Cutting, “I just think it’s absolutely wonderful that Frank has been able to put together two very important things, a local business but also to support children who have autism. I think it’s a very unique operation on his part. I’m very proud of him, especially since he is a KU alum.”
Antoine was also pleased with the turnout, “We have a lot of love and support from the community and the college. As you can see, there are guys from fraternities here. We’re just here to be the example and give back to our community.”
Aug. 27 marks the one-year anniversary of Antoine opening the barbershop at 269 West Main Street. The barber shop operates as an LLC business Tuesday through Saturday with a Saturday $10 special from 4 to 7 p.m. On Sundays the shop operates as a non-profit charitable organization, closed to the public, offering free haircuts to children on the autism spectrum, working one-on-one with families.
“Clients are definitely growing. We are definitely getting more in tune with the community, growing with the college, especially being involved,” said Antoine about the past year.
Antoine gives a shout out to his supportive family, who were in attendance at the Ribbon Cutting. In particular he recognizes his wife, Perla, for her support and advice.
“Without her, I would not be able to do this,” said Antoine.
Also in attendance, eager to eat cake, was their daughter Faith, who will be 2 in October.
New this year is the addition of an intern for Fading Autism. Shannon Pierce is working on her master of social work degree at Alvernia University.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to help out the organization and help the community and raise awareness,” said Pierce, who started her internship on Aug. 25.
John Lichtenwalner of Lyon Station, is a volunteer for Fading Autism and will be working with Pierce. A social work professor, he is program director for Alvernia’s master of social work program.
“It’s a unique service that Frank is offering. There are a number of opportunities to help families in the barbershop setting such as socialization and daily activities like grooming,” said Lichtenwalner.
Antoine’s brother Amos, who attended the Open House, has autism spectrum disorder and is non-verbal. Antoine began cutting his hair at home when his family encountered difficulties with Amos getting a haircut at a barbershop.
While as a communications studies student at KU, Antoine offered his hair cutting skills to friends which lead to becoming a licensed barber at City Cuts Barber Shop in Kutztown. Antoine created Fading Autism while a KU student and a barber. He offered free haircuts to children on the autism spectrum when the barber shop was closed. Last year he opened his own barbershop to continue his mission.
“My freshman year at KU I was giving haircuts out at Bonner Hall. Here we are now, still in Kutztown with my own business. It feels good not only to give back to the community but also back to my college,” said Antoine. “There’s always a chance to educate and to do good for the community. We fundraise and do events throughout the year. We’re going into a new year now, so stay tuned for future events.”
Antoine often asks people, college students in particular, how they plan to use their college degree to make a difference in the community.
“I think Fading Autism is an example of how you can take an idea and turn it into something that truly helps people,” said Antoine. “I’m trying to set an example and be an (inspiration).”
To schedule an appointment with Fading Autism on Sundays, go to https://www.fadingautism.org/ and scroll down to click on the “Request a Haircut” to fill out a survey. Donations to Fading Autism are also welcome, click on “Donate” on the website.
For more information, call Frank Antoine at 610-509-2623 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.