Grassroots effort raises $630 for struggling family's oil bill

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Johnny Barber sits in his chair in his barber shop on Grafton Street in Charlottetown Saturday. Barber fundraised to enable him to buy two tanks of oil for needy families.

Money transfers from Fort McMurray, Alta., random drop-in donations as well as customers’ loose change only account for some of the forms of generosity Johnny Thompson has witnessed over the past month.

The owner of Johnny Barber’s Barber Shop in Charlottetown has concentrated that grassroots generosity, which has raised $630, towards helping two Prince Edward Island families in need this Christmas.

The money will go towards paying for the two families oil bills this month, said Thompson.

“When I was younger I knew that somebody helped my Mom and it was just something they had done at Christmas,” said Thompson, who added that he wasn’t looking for any recognition when he undertook the initiative. “It was just an idea I had.”

Thompson said he decided to start the oil fund when he heard about how much money had been donated to the Salvation Army this year.

“They’re gladly happy for it but it’s still not enough,” he said. “There are lots of people that are off of work for disability reasons or not able to return to work. They’re hard-working people but they were just laid off, they’re people who don’t qualify for oil subsidies.”

Thompson put a post on Facebook last month asking if anybody would help donate to someone who needs oil this Christmas.

By the second day, Thompson had not only received offers of donations but also got an email from a woman whose daughter and son-in-law had both been recently laid off from their jobs.

“She was the perfect candidate, they had small children, day care bills, vehicle payments, and it’s a lady that would never ask for somebody else’s help,” he said. “Both parents have been laid off. They actually have two properties, one that is desperately trying to be sold… but they have to keep oil in both properties, if not, the pipes will freeze.”

Thompson said part of the money is also going to another family that he knows personally.

Since last month, he has seen donations come in from far and wide, including from customers as well as old friends.

Earlier this week, a transfer truck driver had even parked on the street opposite to Thompson’s shop with a donation.

“I thought he was coming in for a haircut. He just threw me 20 dollars and said ‘this is for your heat fund,’ and left,” said Thompson. “He didn’t say who he is, didn’t shake my hand, didn’t say thank you.”

“It’s just the little things like that, it’s so easy to do.”

Organizations: Barber Shop, Salvation Army

Geographic location: Fort McMurray, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

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  • True Spirit of Christmas
    December 15, 2013 - 00:47

    I being one of the many letter writers to Johnny want to take the time to say thank you . What he is doing is wonderful. I think the story above has bits and pieces of my letter added in to other families story as well. He has read so many letters that I can only imagine it weighs on his heart. Doing this interview is a way to let Islanders know that times are getting tough for a lot of people, no matter how it looks on the outside. Many don't share their stories of struggles. The headline should say "families" as he is helping more than one family with this donation. (family's makes it sound like one family ) Hats off to this wonderful man and his generous heart. I am sure giving an interview was not on his agenda . His kindness was shared on facebook prompting my letter. Next year I plan to be one of the first at his shop to give back so other families can be blessed by his kindness. May God bless him and all who took time to donate.

  • don
    December 14, 2013 - 16:57

    great job. and may God bless you down the road. shame more were like you.