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Barber Honored for Fighting Unemployment One Haircut at a Time

Deerfield barber, entrepreneur team up to help people find jobs. Today he is Huffington Posts's greatest person of the day.

Elias Otero is a quiet man of action. 

The owner of  in Deerfield has been doing something about Sept. 11 since the attacks occurred 10 years ago and now he is tackling the nation’s unemployment problem.

Each Wednesday Otero gives free haircuts to the unemployed just as he has been doing for returning servicemen since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon 10 years ago. Dec. 8 he is being recognized as Huffington Post’s greatest person of the day.

There is a price for the haircuts. The job seeker or returning member of the armed forces must bring a resume that will be placed in a binder in the shop so anyone there who may need to hire someone can take a look.

“This is a little piece but every little bit helps,” Otero said. “I overheard two guys (waiting for haircuts) talking about each needing to hire 100 employees and I wanted them to see my resumes. I didn’t have that many.”

Since Otero began the program Nov. 30, he has given 12 haircuts to people looking for work. He has also learned something from them.

“One guy was here who is 63 years old and he has been out of work 18 months,” Otero said. “He has been struggling to pay the mortgage for the last six months. When you’re 63 you should be thinking about retirement not struggling to make the mortgage.”

Resumes in Otero’s binder come from engineers, lawyers, accountants, financiers and senior managers. They are not only from Deerfield but places like Lake Forest, Buffalo Grove, Northbrook and Barrington.

With unemployment hovering around 9 percent in the United States for more than a year with the real rate nearly double that , the idea to offer the free haircuts is a joint effort of Otero and .

Kane operates  in Deerfield which helps people find jobs by providing training, mentoring and networking to more than 7,000 people. He has been Otero’s customer for more than 10 years.

“You’ll never know who you can meet using this method, but you need only one person to see your resume and to help you get that next great opportunity,” Kane said. “Consider this a form of networking and a way to expand your network while receiving a free haircut.”

Kane knew Otero was already giving free haircuts to veterans so the two of them got together and came up with the idea. Kane sensed Otero’s commitment because of what he did for members of the military. He knew Otero would be a candidate to help.

“Our corporate mission is to help people get jobs, Kane said. We felt Elias is a perfect example of a Main Street small business owner doing his thing to help people weather the storm of unemployment and by giving back to the community.” 

Otero’s reason for giving the haircuts to service members was a simple act of caring. It was his way to make a difference. “I wanted them to have a little piece of home when they left,” he said.

Kane has expanded Otero’s feelings for veterans into helping people find jobs. “He’s doing his part for main street,” Kane said.

Mara Meyer November 26, 2011 at 05:41 PM
Way to go Elias!

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