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Maricopa barber treks to Mexico to help get lives back on track
 ksawyer  / 

MARICOPA — Joe Templin sat outside his barber shop, Joe’s: A Barber Shop, sipping on an iced coffee from Honeycutt Coffee — just a stone’s throw from his business’s front door. His hair blew in a fall breeze, immaculately coiffed and cut in a way only a barber knows how. He leaned back in his chair, looking thoughtful.

He had just returned from a trip south that many people thought wasn’t a great idea.

“There’s a perception of Mexico right now that is very negative,” Templin said. “When I told people that I was going down this last weekend to cut hair, people were like, ‘Oh, you’re going down? What about the murders that just happened and things?’ If you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing in Mexico, then you don’t get caught up in that stuff. We go down there because the people are just beautiful, beautiful people and they’re so appreciative.”

This was Templin’s third trip to Mexico since opening Joe’s in Maricopa about a year and a half ago. He and his wife, Celeste, make the drive down to Puerto Peñasco, where Templin spent a great deal of time vacationing as a child. They journey to a local men’s shelter and orphanage there, affiliated with the God’s Grace Foundation and Oc3an View Ministry and also loosely with their local church in Maricopa, Community of Hope Church. This time, they brought their two young daughters — Caia, 5, and Avery, 3.

Templin cut hair for 24 men in just three-and-a-half hours on their first trip in March, and 14 more on each of their return trips. When the shelter announced his return on Nov. 10, the 70-or-so men at the facility cheered and clapped.

“They’re so appreciative,” Templin said. “They can’t stop saying thank you. I don’t speak a lot of Spanish, but it’s almost like they don’t know how to even express it. The gratitude is written all over their face. I guess that’s the most rewarding thing, is walking away from the experience with this warm feeling of happiness.”

He especially likes cutting the kids’ hair, and their smiles dazzle when they see their fresh cuts for the first time.

The shelter is a sober-living facility, where men can go for support and sobriety if they are addicted to drugs and alcohol. Templin said that, much like the United States, Mexico has an opioid problem — especially among vulnerable populations.

“Drugs and alcohol are a very, very big problem down there,” Templin said. “Most people think, ‘Oh, one of Mexico’s major exports is meth.’ Well, really and truly, meth is a huge problem down there as well. If you’re homeless down there, you’re probably addicted to some type of drug or alcohol.”

The goal of many living at the shelter is to put their lives back together, and that means finding work. Templin understands that a huge part of finding a job is looking the part, and a good haircut is a great start. Though he is trekking to Peñasco every three months, Templin says it’s not enough.

“If we could do it more often, it would mean that these guys would be looking better on a regular basis and things like that,” Templin said. “So the ultimate goal is to be down there more often, not just once a quarter.”

With his frequent trips across the hotly discussed border, it’s hard for Templin to ignore the political side of the issue, but he tries his best to help anyway.

“I can’t change people’s minds and perceptions about our relations with Mexico. I can’t do it personally,” Templin said. “When people come across from Mexico to the United States illegally, it’s obviously not the right way to go about things. And if we can help better them and help their economy down there, then they don’t have to do that.”

Templin has been wielding hair clippers since he was 14 years old, cutting hair out of his home in Tucson for the benefit of the neighborhood kids. Barbering runs in Templin’s blood, as his grandfather had been a career barber as well. But, as he grew older, Templin felt called to serve the community in other ways.

Templin became an EMT and then a volunteer firefighter, though still cutting hair for his companions at the station. He also taught EMT, first responder and fire science classes at Pima Community College. But when it came time to settle down with his family, he returned to his passion as a barber.

He co-owned a shop in Gilbert with an old friend, and together they boosted the shop to be No. 1-rated in Arizona on both Google and Yelp. But after a move to Maricopa, Templin realized he had a great opportunity in the smaller city.

Templin set out to create a different sort of experience for customers looking for a fresh new do than what he felt Maricopans were getting before, one that incorporated the whole family. His now busy shop has a kids corner complete with blocks and other toys for kids to keep themselves busy, a cushy seating area and a TV.

“The essence of a barbershop is a community gathering point where people, you know, I tell you how horrible your football team is, you tell me how horrible my football team is and we laugh and have a good time. Right? It should be a place of community,” Templin said with a smile.

As a customer walked by Templin’s seat and into his barber shop, he waved and said, “I’ll be right with you, bro.”

He estimates about 25% of his customer base travel south from Gilbert to Maricopa to see him, including this man, Isaac Cruz, who had been a client of his at his previous shop.

Templin seems to create that sense of community wherever he goes, regardless of borders. It even stretches to include the competition, House of Gentry, a salon just a couple doors down from Joe’s: A Barber Shop. The two have a signed agreement to try and maintain their own clientele and to refer clients they feel would be better suited at the other location.

The barbershop specializes in shorter haircuts, designs, beards and fades, while House of Gentry caters to longer-haired clients typically looking for color, perms or more of a stylish look. He was quick to clarify that all genders are welcome in his shop, though.

“If a female walks in and says, ‘I want this cut,’ and it’s something that doesn’t cross over the bounds of what they do with that salon, then yes, we totally take it,” Templin said. “Honestly, I’ve sent plenty of people who come in with longer hair who wanted styled, longer cuts (to House of Gentry). I said, ‘This is the place for you. You should go check them out.’ He’s done the same for me. … We’ve learned to coexist and live together.”

Though fresh from his latest trip, Templin isn’t ready to slow down. If anything, he’s got more than ever planned for the future. He hopes to continue making more frequent trips to the shelter across the border and asks that the community consider donating to the organizations responsible for the shelter, God’s Grace Foundation and Oc3an View Ministry, as most of the expenses for his trips are out of pocket.

Joe’s: A Barber Shop is located on 44480 Honeycutt Road, Suite 101.

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Maricopa center receives multiple contributions to aid youths
 ksawyer  / 

MARICOPA — Maricopans may be surprised to learn that there are more relatives — specifically grandparents — taking care of children in Pinal County than any other county in Arizona. But First Things First knows the statistics all too well, as the organization works with vulnerable populations every day.

First Things First is a publicly funded, voter-mandated service dedicated to early childhood, giving Arizona children opportunities to succeed and thrive from an early age. First Things First says it understands the issues vulnerable children face first-hand and aims to curb issues before they take hold later in life.

Michele Reimer is the community outreach coordinator for First Things First Pinal Region, and worked for years with families experiencing hard times, specifically related to domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, before coming to First Things First.

“I actually decided to come to First Things First because frankly, I didn’t work with a lot of folks who didn’t have something happen in early childhood,” Reimer said. “When we resource families, when we resource young children, we shape the trajectory of the lives they live.”

According to Reimer, much of the funding comes from taxation on cigarettes, as 80 cents per pack goes to the organization. Though First Things First is well-equipped to help needy families with a variety of issues regarding their children, the organization appreciates other entities that step in to help support the youngest of victims.

Maricopa Family Advocacy Center is a branch of the city of Maricopa that assists vulnerable people who have been victims of a crime or are involved in a crime, especially children and the elderly. They offer medical examinations, help for abuse victims, advocacy and a safe space for Maricopa families.

So when it came time for First Things First to make its annual donation to a charity of its choosing, workers in the Pinal Region were unanimous in their choice.

“It’s up to the staff members based upon their own, personal decisions to choose to make a donation to that organization. So it all comes out of the pockets of the individual employees who want to support people who are doing good work within the state of Arizona,” Reimer said.

Once the staff had made their choice, they submitted an application to the Phoenix office along with all the other state regions, and they were overjoyed when they heard who the winner was.

“The staff at First Things First was really excited about the Family Advocacy Center (winning),” Reimer said. “Family Advocacy Centers exist in different parts all throughout Arizona. So, many of them knew what they did and we were able to really kind of personalize the Maricopa Family Advocacy Center and excellent work that they do there.”

The Maricopa FAC was the recipient of a truckload of household items and basic necessities such as toilet paper, shampoo, soap and cleaning supplies donated by the First Things First employees.

“They work on a pretty slim budget, so anytime that organizations can get resources like toilet paper — it’s not the sexiest thing to donate, but oh my goodness, it makes a huge difference,” Reimer said. “We all need it. It costs money and you can’t go without it. So that takes that necessary purchase off their shoulders.”

The collaboration between these two organizations was a natural fit, said Shannon Fontes, regional director for the First Things First Pinal Region, in a press release.

“First Things First values our community partners and continually seeks ways to support agencies whose work strengthens families,” Fontes said. “We appreciate the support of staff throughout the state donating to such a worthwhile organization that supports children and families in vulnerable situations.”

The center also received another financial boost recently, as Arizona Complete Health awarded it a grant for equipment and facility upgrades so they can better help victims.

“The advocacy center is a true asset for the town of Maricopa,” said James Stover, Medicaid program president for Arizona Complete Health. “Nationally, advocacy centers are integral in encouraging the victims of domestic and interpersonal violence to come forward. Maricopa anticipates increases of 10 to 20% in the number of exams conducted, making these upgrades a necessity.”

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Organizations ready to bring Maricopa together during Thanksgiving
 ksawyer  / 

MARICOPA — Looking for a holiday feast for a family in need? Look no further: FOR Maricopa and Maricopa Pantry are both offering hungry families the opportunity to snag some Thanksgiving food next week.

On Tuesday, FOR Maricopa is hosting a turkey giveaway. At 9 a.m. patrons can come to the blue barn at 19428 N. Maricopa Road to sign up and take a number. Then from noon to 2 p.m., volunteers will be there to hand out the turkeys. For those looking to volunteer, help is requested from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

On Thanksgiving, Maricopa Pantry and the city of Maricopa are organizing Maricopa’s first Melting Potluck at Copper Sky Recreation Complex. The idea came from Mayor Christian Price, who reached out to Maricopa Pantry owner Jim Shoaf to organize an event similar to Thanksgiving events done by the city in the past.

The Melting Potluck will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and only requires attendees to bring a dish to share with the community. Maricopa Pantry encourages community members to bring in a family recipe or culturally significant dish to showcase people’s diverse backgrounds.

Jennifer Connelly, director of development for Maricopa Pantry, has been gearing up for the event. Maricopa Pantry expects upwards of 200 people to arrive for the potluck, and it has planned alternative seating outside to accommodate the Thanksgiving crowd.

“I am so, so excited. We are expecting hundreds of people. We have tons of volunteers, lots of food. We have games for the kids. We have activities for adults,” Connelly said. “We have gotten response from the community that we’re going to have dishes from all over the world. I just can’t wait.”

There is a link to the food sign-up sheet on the Facebook event page, and another separate sign-up sheet for those interested in volunteering at the event.

“The only thing that I don’t know for sure that we’re gonna have is tamales,” Connelly said, laughing. She encourages anybody who knows how to make the tasty Mexican treat to stop by the potluck and share with hungry brunchers.

Community members expressed to Connelly how much the potluck means for them, as some families have more people attending than previously thought.

“They were having 10 guests for Thanksgiving that they hadn’t anticipated — out-of-town guests,” Connelly said. “The lady said because of this event she can take her family, give them a beautiful dinner and she doesn’t have to worry about the cost and she gets to show them what Maricopa is all about.”

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Maricopaville Festival urges residents to shop local for holidays
 ksawyer  / 

MARICOPA — Small business is the backbone of many thriving communities across the nation. Statistically speaking, small businesses continue to come out on top in terms of employment rates and appreciation from their respective communities.

Mayor Christian Price took time to honor small businesses contributions to Maricopa on Tuesday night during the city council meeting.

“As you know, small businesses are a really important part of our economy and keep us thriving,” he said. “They are one of the key parts of any society and our city is no different, so we want to honor our small businesses.”

To celebrate this achievement, event organizer and community member John Stapleton is throwing the second annual Maricopaville festival and food truck competition on Small Business Day on Saturday. Though the event is local, food trucks from all over the state will arrive to compete in the food truck competition, serving up their street food to patrons.

Entry is free, but donations of non-perishable food items are welcome, and there will be a competition for the canned food drive to benefit F.O.R. Maricopa.

In honor of the small business achievement, Stapleton is hoping that residents will choose to shop locally this holiday season.

“We are going with more of a street fair atmosphere, but we really want to stay focused on the shop local experience,” Stapleton said. “A lot of people are heading out of town to go do their shopping over the holidays, but we want them to stay in town and this event really emphasizes that.”

Though the Small Business Day isn’t a new idea, it is new to this community, and it joins the ranks of other communities across the nation commemorating their local stores.

“The city of Maricopa, Arizona supports our local businesses that create jobs, boost our economy and preserve our neighborhoods,” Price said during a proclamation. “Advocacy groups as well as public and private organizations across the country have endorsed the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday.”

The city of Maricopa was happy to endorse the Maricopaville festival and help sponsor the event by offering Pacana Park as the space. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and attendees can expect some unique arts and crafts booths.

A scavenger hunt will also be occurring throughout the day, where patrons can have each booth sign their flier to be entered into a contest at the end of the day.

“Some of them may be fake booths that we just put out there that they have to keep searching (for) and doesn’t exist, but just to keep them on their toes,” Stapleton said, joking.

With plenty of good food to be had, holiday shopping to be checked off and a whole lot of fun in store, Maricopaville Festival is expecting a stellar turn out.