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Pay It Forward: Free haircuts for furloughed government workers

Government workers had a tough January. Many of them were furloughed due to the partial government shutdown. Now, they are still trying to get back to normal, even with back pay. And a local young man is trying to help them by paying it forward.

“Something that small, for 10 minutes of my time, gladly help,” said Matthew Elliott, a cosmotologist.

He has been styling hair for about nine years. He has lived in Salt Lake City and California, but says he always seems to come back home to Eastern Idaho. It must be the people here that brings out the best in Matthew.

“My haircuts are $35 to $50, so right there, I already know that’s a half of a grocery cart of food, which could feed a family for a week, you know,” said Elliott.

He had the idea to offer free haircuts for government workers affected by the partial government shutdown.

“I was getting a lot of phone calls and text messages from my clients saying that, due to the government shutdown, they weren’t able to make their appointments. And that really broke my heart. I was, like, you know, a haircut should be a basic, basic thing for most people, but it’s sad that even that was cut out of their budgets. So I thought, you know, just give them a break for a minute and see if that helps with their bills,” said Elliott.

His associates are not surprised by this at all.

“Every time that we go out into public, he is always looking for ways that he can enrich people’s lives, whether it is the waitress that’s serving us, or if we go shopping, he’s going to look for something for his mom, his sister, one of his friends. He’s never thinking about himself,” said friend Chris Bradshaw.

The gesture has been well-recieved.

“It’s been actually really awesome. I’ve had a lot of people hitting me up and saying, ‘Hey, we love that you’re doing this.’ I’ve had other salons, all over the world, saying, ‘We love what you’re doing and it’s fantastic,'” said Elliott.

Time to Pay It Forward.

“I’ve heard from some of my workers, employees and government workers that you um…,” said Elliott.

“Matthew, how are you?” said a man walking into the salon and interrupting the interview.

“Good. How are you?” replied Elliott.

“Good. I’m Kory (Carling) and I’m with Mountain American Credit Union,” said the man.

“OK,” said Elliott.

“We heard about what you’re doing,” said Carling.

“OK,” said Elliott.

“And how cool of an idea it is, and your generosity for our community,” said Carling.

“Thank you,” said Elliott.

“And for that reason, we are here today to Pay It Forward,” said Carling.

“OK,” said Elliott.

“So, I’ve brought with me today, – $500 in cash that I know you can put towards using for whatever you’re going to do and continue to benefit the lives of our community. You didn’t have to give free haircuts to the employees that were affected by the government shutdown, but you did out of the kindness of your heart and you are recognized for that,” said Carling.

“Thank you,” replied Elliott.

“So, on behalf of Mountain America Credit Union, we want to Pay It Forward,” said Carling.

“I appreciate that. I want to give you a hug. That’s awesome!” said Elliott.

“You betcha! Good job!” said Carling.

“Thank you,” said Elliott.

“You betcha,” said Carling.

“I appreciate that (envelope of cash). I’ll put that towards good use,” said Elliott.

“You bet,” said Carling.

“Absolutely,” said Elliott.

“Awesome,” said Carling.

“Thank you, guys,” said Elliott.

“You bet,” said Carling.

“Wow. Awesome,” said Elliott.

Elliott said he is extending his free offer for government workers who were not working, so they can get back what they lost. In fact, he is going start including gift certificates that they can use throughout the year.

His salon is located in the Phenix Salon Suites, which is in the Centennial Square shopping plaza in Idaho Falls near Pier 1.

“Pay It Forward” airs the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on “Pay It Forward” on the right side of our website and fill out the form, or send an email to KIDK Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz at

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