SOUTH LOS ANGELES — A Thanksgiving tradition continued Nov. 24, when Good Fred’s 22nd annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner was held at LaRutan Barber Shop. Members of the nonprofit MAPLE Inc. and other community advocates handed out hot meals to community members and offered other resources, including free health screenings.
The event also honored founder Fred “Good Fred” Ellis. The late barber was known as a pillar of his community, and started the event to feed the homeless at Thanksgiving in the late 1990s.
“I used to call [Fred] the mayor of 54th Street,” says Scean Ellis, his daughter-in-law. “That was my nickname for him because he was such a pillar in the community.”
Steve Ellis, Good Fred’s son, says, “This was his [way to] give back. And then it just grew from doing a little something to [getting] bigger, bigger, bigger. We’ve been doing it for over 20 years now.”
Now his son and daughter-in-law are continuing his legacy, hosting the event through their nonprofit, MAPLE Inc. Foundation. This is their second year hosting the event. In 2018 they served an estimated 150 people, according to Ellis.
MAPLE Inc. also honored Ellis by reaching out to veterans, visiting the local VA center to invite them to the dinner and offering free haircuts.
“My dad was in the Air Force,” Steve Ellis said. “So we want to kind of also work from his legacy from that perspective. [It] honors my dad’s part in the military, and at the same time gives the veterans some much needed love and respect.”
This year’s event also included blood pressure and diabetes testing by Trap Medicine, a public health organization whose mission is to raise awareness of health disparities among black men by using the barbershop as a wellness hub.
Jahmil Lacey, founder of Trap Medicine, says “People in the barbershop talk about sports, sex and relationships. Why not talk about your health?”
MAPLE Inc. was founded by Steve and Scean Ellis, to give back to the community and promote their five pillars: mentorship, apprenticeship, wellness prevention, financial literacy and entrepreneurship.
The main program for MAPLE Inc. is the Untouchable Apprentice Training Program, where the basics of barbering and cosmetology are taught to students who can’t afford or have conflicting schedules for cosmetology school. The apprentice program is taught out of LaRutan Barber Shop, which is also MAPLE Inc.’s headquarters.
Scean Ellis hopes to expand the program to include other fields.
“We’ve had some interest from people that are willing to train people who want to be a plumber, an electrician. [But] we figured we’d start, where we know what we’re doing.”
MAPLE Inc. also offers a mentorship program for anyone who wants to learn a trade, especially high school students.
“[We] pair them from a mentoring standpoint with someone who is successful in that field, and wants to walk them through the ropes of what it takes to be successful,” Scean Ellis said.
Overall, Steve and Scean Ellis plan to expand their organization based on suggestions from the community. “As MAPLE starts to grow and develop, we’ll see where it takes us. As people start to come in and say, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about this and that,’ we’ll start to see what other directions we may go in,” Steve Eliss said.