Providence Street ministry offering free haircuts for kids

Providence Street ministry offering free haircuts for kids

Zander Andrade, 4, of Johnston smiles for a photo with pastor and hairdresser Gail Johnson at In His Image Outreach Ministries at 800 Providence St. Andrade and his siblings stopped in for free haircuts as part of a new service the ministry is offering as kids go back to school. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

WOONSOCKET – When Gail Johnson lost her husband, Wayne, to cancer last year, she could have let the lease run out on his insurance business at 800 Providence St. But the pastor and co-founder of In His Image Outreach Ministries had others ideas for the space.

“I didn’t even have to think about it. I said, I’m keeping the office, and I started with the food pantry,” she told The Valley Breeze last week.

Now, the Christian ministry has expanded its services to include free haircuts for children in addition to its weekly food distribution. After an initial back-to-school event last month, Johnson, a former hairdresser, said she plans to hold haircut days once a month and encouraged parents to call the ministry at 401-769-8888 to make an appointment. The next haircut event is on Sept. 24 from 2 to 6 p.m.

Johnson and Wayne co-founded In His Image Outreach Ministries in North Kingstown in 1996. Since then, the ministry has expanded and now includes a house of prayer and arts training center in Warwick and weekly church services in Chepachet. During that time, said Johnson, her husband supported the family out of his business in Woonsocket, allowing her to focus on expanding the ministry throughout the state.

“My husband supported me for 25 years so I could go out and do what I do,” she said.

After his death in May 2018, she decided to honor him by opening a food pantry in his former office at 800 Providence St., the same plaza as Providence Liquors. The pantry offers soup, bread and more every Tuesday from 2 to 6 p.m. Its clients include individuals like Bruce and Serenity Fields, who moved to the city from Providence to get a fresh start earlier this year.

“We moved in the area in July and we were walking by and noticed they helped,” said Serenity. “We came and we’ve had a nice, wonderful experience.”

“They’ll sit there and take time to talk to you,” added Bruce.

Susan Sanborn, administrative assistant at the Woonsocket location, explained that the homegrown effort relies on volunteers. Though they’re in the process of becoming an affiliated member of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, at the moment, all their food comes from donations, making the weekly outreach a labor of faith and love.

“We really have a heart for Woonsocket, and since we started here last year, our focus has been here in Woonsocket,” she said.

Visit www.inhisimageoutreach.org to learn more about the ministry and its services.