University Avenue Barber Hosts Backpack Giveaway and Launches Youth Mentoring Nonprofit – Twin Cities



Milan Dennie was in a tough spot a year ago. Dennie had reopened King Milan’s barber shop in Saint Paul in early May 2020, in defiance of the governor’s extended stay-at-home orders, while insisting he could cut his hair safely using barbicide-sterilized masks, combs, and other precautions he shared at the time in a proposal to the Minnesota Board of Barber Examiners and the Minnesota Board of Cosmetologist Examiners.

It is not known how far his efforts moved the needle, but the state allowed the lounges to reopen with COVID plans on June 1.

Last September, the annual Frogtown backpack giveaway he has been hosting since 2015 was back, but without the usual free haircuts for young people returning to school. Turnout was lower than expected, even with a burger barbecue and members of the Minnesota Teamsters National Black Caucus hosting a bounce house across the street.


Dennie remains unfazed. He recently hired his fourth barber, bringing his small store back to full swing after months of running alone.

“It’s better now,” Dennie said Monday. “We are well.”

And now it’s time to give back.

It’s Our Neighborhood, the non-profit Dennie youth mentoring association founded in association with King Milan’s Barbershop, will once again distribute 300 to 500 backpacks from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, September 6 at 511 W. University Ave. , this time with free haircuts for anyone of school age.

Target donated backpacks. Burgers and hot dogs are back on the grill. And This Is Our Neighborhood will take the opportunity to show off the youth hangout that Dennie has opened in a basement under the store, where Dennie himself will teach an entrepreneurship program up to four times a day. week.

The program, E-Seedling, was founded by Madison, Wisconsin educator Julie Ann Wood, and it’s Dennie’s way of delivering the kind of education he never received growing up in poverty. in a single parent home in Gary, Indiana.

“They don’t have those kinds of conversations at home,” said Dennie, who has physical space to work with about 10 young people at a time. “I know not. (Mom) knew the things of common sense – going to school, getting good grades – but she had never bought a house or run a business.


Others stepped in to help. UPS has signed up as a financial sponsor. A contact at UPS who is active with the National Black Caucus of Teamsters plans to come once a week and recruit young workers while teaching them career preparation and college opportunities. Dennie hired a chess master to teach chess. He is currently interviewing students who can serve as academic tutors.

He talks to the Neighborhood Development Center, which is building a new mixed-use building on Dale Street and University Avenue, to hire young people for landscaping work. He is considering field trips and basketball tournaments, visits to drive-in theaters and presentations on how to write a business plan.

On Tuesday, Dennie made a fundraising presentation at the Bush Foundation. It also accepts donations from the general public.

By mid-September, It’s Our Neighborhood hopes to be open daily. More information is online at


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