JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — He is a man with a heart for his community.

Craig Charles, an East Tennessee State University alum who was a standout four-year letterman for the football program, owns and operates Craig’s Crown Cutz Academy of Barber and Style.

He runs the successful barbershop and academy is located across the Tri-Cities in Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol, Virginia, all while using his expertise to help others rise in his community.

“Someone always told me when you’re trying to start your own business, try to get into something that you’re an expert at,” Charles said. “I was really good at cutting my own hair, and giving haircuts to my friends, family and people I played college football with.”

With a dedication to his community, Charles has created a flourishing business in the span of 17 years all while helping those who are less fortunate.

“He helps out the homeless with free haircuts. He’s just an all-around great man, and I’m blessed to have him as a friend and I wish him the best success ever,” longtime friend and frequent client Jonathan Stephens said.

Charles added, “Just giving them a self of assurance. Just some type of affirmation that you are someone. I know a lot of people underprivileged and homeless. They kind of feel outcast. Just give them an opportunity. They might be preparing for a job interview or just coming to have a conversation with a student and might change their life.”

Crown Cutz Academy serves clients throughout the Tri-Cities region. The academy also helps future barbers learn the skills needed to become a professional.

“A good 60 students since 2017 when I first opened. It’s 1500 hours. It takes you about- full-time 11 months to complete. Twelve months roughly,” Charles explained. Looking for a change of pace and barbering is something that I love and know it’s a good industry, it’s a good career and it’s a good income.” He went on to say, “Our school is Crown Cutz Academy, so when you finish, you will have earned a crown and a championship belt to see that they accomplished something, and hey when you earn the crown, you have arrived.”

Stephens has known Charles since he opened his first barbershop in 2004.

“Craig has made a huge impact on the community. He goes up to Science Hill High School, talks with young kids there. He gives them great advice,” Stephens explained.

He is a mentor for kids in a Johnson City-based organization called Rise Up for Kids working to help inspire kids to be successful and to plan for the future.

Charles said, “Which we give free haircuts to some of the kids, just mentor them and talk to them throughout the time. One of the guys who work for them- Damon Johnson, he brings the kids to the barbershop where they can speak to their students. Just kind of get like a mentor or a big brother program when they come in. Just extend our hands to all the young boys and girls in our area.”

However, Charles was motivated to do more. As an ambassador for barbers in the state of Tennessee, Charles is also part of “The Confess Project“, aiming to train barbers to help clients who have dealt with their mental health.

“A lot of people don’t understand mental health.,” Craig said. “We try to reach young boys color, African-American men, so we figured out that one place they feel comfortable is the barbershop. So, we decided to train barbers to be extended hand clinicians and experts. Just say, ‘hey, we understand what you’re going through but here’s a number where we can set you up and get help.”

Congratulations Craig Charles. This Week’s Community Hero!