- Associated Press - Sunday, May 18, 2014

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - As she navigates the clippers expertly around his head, Heather Luna listens intently to Bill Johnson.

Wearing jeans that swallow his slender waist and with snow white hair and a wrinkled face that indicate a rough 47 years of existence, Johnson says, “My family left me behind. I’d like to hear from them if I could.”

The 38-year-old Luna hears her share of positive and negative stories from customers as she cuts their hair for free Thursday in the Meridian Health Services Drop-In Center, located next to the Harvest Soup Kitchen in the basement of the St. Vincent de Paul Store. Luna is a beautician at Identity Salon, but she stops by the center each month to offer her services free of charge, The Star Press reported (http://tspne.ws/1oF0vNY ).

Meridian contacted Luna seven years ago about the possibility of cutting hair at the Drop-In Center. Her heart ached at the sight of dozens of people without the money to pay for a dinner, let alone a haircut. She offered her services, and seven years later, she remains committed to cutting hair there.

“They sit in the chair and tell me on a personal level what they’ve gone through,” Luna says. “I owe it to them because we’ve become friends. They’re the same as any clients you have.”

One of her first customers Thursday is former professional boxer Charlie Peterson Jr. The middleweight fought in 38 professional bouts from 1979-81 and says he is “punch drunk” from his years in the ring. He won only nine of his bouts and lost 15 by knockout.

The 54-year-old Peterson eats at the Soup Kitchen virtually every day, and whenever Luna is next door, he is one of the first in line for a seat in the salon chair. His friendship with Luna dates back seven years to when she first started cutting hair there.

“I like everything about her,” says Peterson, wearing a white ball cap backward with a dark blue vest over a faded University of Illinois sweatshirt. “I’ve got nothing bad to say about her.”

Peterson is a self-described “loner,” but he is comfortable around Luna. He flirts with her, and she laughs off his advances as she shaves his head and trims his beard and mustache.

“She won’t give me a date,” Peterson says. “I’ve been trying to get her since she come over here.”

John Holaday is another one of the early customers Thursday morning. Holaday flips off his black Vietnam Veteran ball cap and tells Luna to trim the sides but leave the top untouched. His white hair is long on top and at age 70 he is in no hurry to lose any hair up there.

Holaday wears a black American Legion Post 159 jacket that matches his hat. He walks around with a cane. He says he first injured his right leg jumping out of a low-flying chopper in Vietnam.

He lives off his Social Security check and he says paying $15 for a haircut is too rich for his blood.

“My dad paid $1 to get his haircut,” says Holaday, who has lived in Muncie off and on for the last 30 years. “There’s nothing for a dollar anymore.”

Luna averages 10 to 12 customers per trip at the Drop-In Center, and she is on the high side Thursday morning with 15. There is nary a complaint from her spiffed up customers as they exit the chair.

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