Stephen Flowers

As reggae plays softly in the background of his Easton salon, Stephen Flowers settles into a chair, crosses his legs, and begins to talk about why it’s important for him to give back to those in need.

“I have a young son, and I want to teach him to make the world a better place,” he says. “It seems like people are very angry at each other, and we’re so divided. When you think about it, people who don’t agree with you aren’t bad people; they just have a different point of view than you.”

For the owner of Suddenly Samantha, it started with a single haircut on Christmas Day in 2009.

“My family celebrates on Christmas Eve, so that Christmas afternoon I was bored and recently divorced and made plans to hang out with friends later that night,” he recalls. “I decided to take my dog downtown for a walk, and a guy asked me for money for food. I offered but said there’s nothing open.”

A little hungry himself, Stephen dropped his dog off and accompanied the man to a nearby WaWa for some food and came back to the salon to eat and watch Christmas movies.

“The guy took off his hat, and his hair was just so dirty and greasy. It was clear he hadn’t had a haircut in a while,” Stephen says. “So, I offered to wash and cut his hair, and we continued to hang out.”

A couple days later, the man returned to thank him, saying it was the best Christmas he had ever had. You treated me like a person, he remembers the man saying.

After that encounter, one of his employees suggested inviting people into the salon on New Year’s Day for a warm place to stay to start off the new year. After two years trying that, Stephen and his staff settled on Christmas for the outreach, mindful that so many people are alone that day and in need of some comfort.

A new tradition started on Christmas Day 2011. Stephen and his son did their morning gift exchange and then started cutting up fruit, veggies, and cheese and laid out cookies to serve at the salon.

“I called all the local shelters and posted information on Facebook—anyone who’s alone, living on the streets, homeless and have nowhere to go, come on in for haircut or not. You’re more than welcome,” he recalls. “We had 19 people show up the first year, and it’s become our tradition every Christmas since.”

He opens his salon every Monday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to the homeless living on the streets for free haircuts.

It’s now grown to into a community-wide event supported by the Grand Eastonian and other local businesses that serves hundreds of people and provides gifts for children. Guests can get a haircut in the salon and then go up to the hotel banquet room for a traditional hot Christmas meal with dessert. This past Christmas, more than 200 were served; Stephen and his staff did 40 haircuts, too.

“It’s not just homeless,” he adds. “People who can’t afford Christmas or just need a place to go are welcome.”

Stephen’s helping hands are kept busy throughout the year. He opens Suddenly Samantha, named for his stepmother, who raised him, every Monday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to residents of Safe Harbor, an Easton shelter, and the homeless living on the streets for free haircuts. Everyone receives the same services as a paying client—consultation, wash, cut, and style.

Twice a month, he goes to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on South Eighth Street in Allentown to cut hair for people who use the church’s day shelter.

A devout non-traditionalist—he lives off the grid and in fair weather, kayaks to work down the Delaware River from his home in Lower Mount Bethel Township—Stephen and his second wife, Dr. Tricia Kelly, a surgeon at St. Luke’s Hospital, keep separate homes so their children can finish school in their respective school districts.

“On Thursdays, she has a long day at work, so I go up and take care of her dogs,” Stephen says. “One day, I had my hair-cutting supplies with me and decided to cut hair in the streets of Allentown. It was cold, and the wind started to pick up and I asked about nearby shelters and was directed to St. Paul’s.”

He introduced himself, set up for the next week on a trial basis and has been doing haircuts there ever since.

Jennifer Matos, the secretary at St. Paul’s who manages the church’s Crossroads day shelter, says her clients love Stephen.

“They always ask when he’s coming back,” she says. “They love it when he shows them before and after photos. He just does a complete transformation for my clients. It’s such a morale booster. A clean cut or a new hairstyle goes a long way. He just does this out of the kindness of his heart.”

Trained at the Career Institute of Technology in Forks Township, Stephen has started a “No Child Left Behind” event with Easton’s Third Street Alliance to provide free haircuts and backpacks full of school supplies to needy children in Easton and the surrounding area. This past school year, Stephen and his crew did 169 haircuts and filled more than
300 backpacks.

He and his wife have started supporting the Brem Foundation’s Re-Bra initiative where breast cancer survivors donate old bras and help raise awareness for breast cancer. His wife also teaches self-care and provides information about early detection to women who may not otherwise be able to access that kind of medical information.

And if that wasn’t enough, Suddenly Samantha for the past five years has hosted a silent art auction called Deck the Walls to support Safe Harbor. About $3,000 is raised annually at the auction, held on Thanksgiving weekend at the Easton Public Market.

Asked what drives him, Stephen doesn’t pause for even a second.

“Just making people feel better and wanted—that’s the thing we lack in our society,” he says. “We say we’re compassionate, but I don’t know how much we really are.”

It can start with something as basic as a haircut.

“It makes you feel good to have someone treat you like a person,” he says. “I don’t care if they live under a bridge or along a creek. You’re still human.”

Suddenly Samantha

140 Northampton St, Easton

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