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Hometown Angels Flying Close

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Community News, People in the News

Published on December 12, 2012 with No Comments

Chavez

Carlos Chavez with his Salvation Army Angel Tree at First Choice Barbers in Portage . Chavez has pledged to answer the wishes of 50 children . Anyone can donate , as his customers have shown with early returns.

Giving tree in place at First Choice Barbers in Portage

There is proof that angels live among us. Each holiday season, the Salvation Army places Angel Trees in businesses. Children in need of presents have ornaments with their names on them hung onto the trees. People then can come by, fulfill the request and then deliver the presents to the tree site.  The children get a renewed belief in Christmas. The donors get much more.

So it is that a brand-new business, First Choice Barbers in Portage,5973 McCasland Ave., has such a tree in place. But that is only the first part of the holiday happiness story. Carlos Chavez is the new proprietor of the business. But he is not new to the idea of sharing Christmas joy. He started as a recipient.

“Times were tough and we accepted what we could when I was a kid,” said the Portage native. “When I was a kid, things were tough for us, too, so I know what it is like to hope for something you want for Christmas. So, while this is actually first one I’ve done, it is part of giving back to my community.”

Portage High School Teacher John Arredondo and members of his second hour U.S. History class volunteered to help First Choice Barbers with its Angel Tree.

Portage High School Teacher John Arredondo and members of his second hour U.S. History class volunteered to help First Choice Barbers with its Angel Tree.

He said his sister-in-law had the idea and told him about the Angel Tree and the Salvation Army. “So I made some phone calls to find out about it,” Chavez said. “I volunteered for 50 kids and they actually got quite emotional about it, said they had never had anyone start with 50. It apparently is a large number, but it is the number I picked.” Chavez believes in his hometown. In a sense, it is how he has become a new businessman in it. “I have cut hair my whole life,” he said. “But I just graduated to get licensed.

” The 1992 graduate of Portage High School had a lot of jobs since then. He was most recently a mechanic. He wanted to become a certified electrician but was told there was a five-year waiting list just to start. “But I made being a barber my first choice. I can’t complain about the way it is working out,” Chavez said. “Barbering was more than finding a means to an end.” The immediate plan was to “give back” to the community, he said. “Customers just don’t stop here with gifts; their generosity is amazing and they keep giving and giving.” The site of the shop was established as a neighborhood barber shop , even if its most recent former owner sort of just drifted out of business. “It had been a barber shop since 1959,” Chavez said. “It was one barber shop, then another, then another.” Now it is all his. “I don’t even think about it as work ,” Chavez said. “Not many people can say they found what they wanted to do all their life and then did it.

“When I got my hands on it and reopened it, it was just right, ” he continued. “I had always gotten my hair cut here. My goal was to come to this barbershop because it had been established for 30, 40, 50 years. Everyone once liked the barbers here.” The traditions of such barbering are not lost on the new guy. “I figured we can do a little more, make it the way it is supposed to be,” Chavez said. “We have a motto: ‘If they butcher it, we’ll fix it.’ Come and get in the chair and we’ll make it look like you had a real barber.” It’s a slight dig at the national chains of barbers. Chavez observed you never know what you are going to get there. And the person who cuts your hair this time might not even be around when next you need a haircut. “It’s all about consistency,” Chavez said. “Everyone wants to be able to say, ‘That’s my barber ‘ and know what to expect every time.” The neighborhood sometimes seems whole again with a business in a familiar place with a familiar face running it. “So many customers come in and are so happy to see the shop reopened,” Chavez said. “It is open six days a week and I am always here.” For more information about First Choice Barbers in Portage, call Chavez at 219-762-0204.

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About Mike Siroky

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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