Barbershop owner who hosts health screenings, resources wins overall Everyday Heroes award

Cole Behrens
The Columbus Dispatch

Al Edmonson is driven by the heartbeat of his Columbus Near East Side community.

Edmondson owns A Cut Above the Rest barber shop at 346 N. 20th St. on the city's Near East Side, which has become the hub from where the husband and father of two has set out to improve the community he has long called home. His barbershop in the city's Mount Vernon neighborhood along the border with the King-Lincoln Bronzeville neighborhood hosts health screenings, offers resources and more to his neighbors and friends.

“Our barbershop is more than just a barbershop," Edmondson, 53, told The Dispatch. "They call it the community center; this is the anchor in the community.”

On Tuesday, Edmondson was awarded the 2022 overall Everyday Heroes award during an event at COSI Columbus in Franklinton. Edmondson will receive a $10,000 grant to contribute to a charity of choice.

Al Edmondson at his Columbus Near East Side barbershop, A Cut Above the Rest, where he hosts health screenings and other services like a community center would.

Everyday Hero: Al Edmondson tirelessly serves Near East Side from inside his barbershop

The four other 2022 Everyday Hero finalists were:

The four other finalists and 14 semifinalists also will receive financial grants provided by The Columbus Foundation and the Columbus Foundation's Center for HumanKindness to contribute to a charity of their choosing.

The process of choosing the 2022 group of Everyday Heroes began earlier this year when The Dispatch asked readers and the public for nominations. Edmonson and the 18 other finalists or semifinalists were then featured in a special publication last month by The Dispatch, Dispatch Magazines and ThisWeek Community News. The event will also be televised on NBC4 WCMH-TV, a partner for the Everyday Heroes award, later in the week.

Read about all 19 of the 2022 Everyday Heroes

Ray Paprocki, publisher of Dispatch Magazines, commended all of the 2022 Everyday Heroes.

“The purpose of Everyday Heroes is to shine a light on those selfless folks who try to help improve, unite and improve the community," Paprocki said. "We hope that sharing these acts of kindness and generosity will inspire others to do at least a bit more to make a difference.”

Owner Al Edmondson cutting Kenneth L. Wright's hair at Edmondson's Near East Side barbershop A Cut Above the Rest,. A large mural behind them depicts life and history of the area.

Edmonson builds Near East Side community with haircuts and support services

When he accepted the award, Edmondson said his aim is to create a community from his Near East Side barbershop.

"I want to leave a lasting legacy for young kids — follow your dreams, just dream big," Edmondson said.

Al Edmonson, owner of A Cut Above The Rest barbershop on Columbus' Near East Side, right, receives the overall 2022 Everyday Heroes award Tuesday at COSI Columbus in Franklinton.

Edmondson was born in the Near East Side neighborhood and faced a turbulent childhood.

Though he said his grandmother was his primary guardian, Edmondson lived with his mother for a time in Linden. When Edmondson was 10, his mother, who struggled with mental illness, split up her four children, sending Edmondson to live with his father on the Near East Side. Edmondson later graduated from East High School in 1987.

After a career in the Army and tours in the Persian Gulf War, Edmondson returned home. He was inducted into the 2016 class of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame for his service.

B.J. Hicks said he was 10 when he met Edmondson for the first time. He said he and his brother would get haircuts from Edmondson at another barbershop at Mount Vernon Plaza.

It wasn't long before Edmondson opened his own barbershop, A Cut Above the Rest. Living up to the higher standard demanded by his business' name, Edmondson didn't settle for simply giving haircuts.

Around 2010, Edmondson founded Making a Difference Inc., a nonprofit that provides health resources, youth mentoring and family development services with the goal of strengthening the local Black community.

Edmondson is also the longtime president of the Mount Vernon Avenue District Improvement Association, where he has advocated for neighborhood businesses and fought for traffic safety measures.

In addition, Edmondson has volunteered with a number of organizations over the years, including the American Heart Association, whose organizers have hosted health screenings at the barbershop many times in recent years.

Hicks, who is now a vascular neurologist and co-director of the comprehensive stroke program at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, is a regular customer of Edmondson's shop. He said he's had the privilege of collaborating with Edmondson on several charitable endeavors, including health expos, voting drive efforts, youth mentorship opportunities and school supplies giveaways. 

“Every single time I sit down in the barber chair, I am updated on newly formed or existing initiatives he is spearheading,” Hicks previously told The Dispatch. “Rarely does he simply attach his name to something; these initiatives are self-envisioned, cultivated and executed. …   His impact is consistently community-centered and driven by love."

Dispatch reporter Eric Lagatta contributed to this report.