Fighting Diabetes One Cut at a Time

Dr. Bill Releford leads a barbershop-based effort to screen Black men for the potentially deadly disease

Releford is determined to get diabetes education to black men.  “It is very common for us to go into a barbershop and screen someone, and their blood sugar is so high that the meter can’t read it. Many men have had to be sent directly to the emergency room from the barbershop. There is nothing more enriching than when I go into the community and walk down the street and someone says, ‘Hey, I’m glad I went to the barbershop that Saturday because I found out I had diabetes—and now I’m eating better and exercising.’”

RELEFORD’S ADVICE

Find a fiscal intermediary. Hire a certified public accountant to handle the money, pay the bills, make sure you stay in compliance with the Internal Revenue Service, and keep your payroll and donations on track. Be careful though—some will try to take you to the cleaners with fees of up to 20%, when 5% or 6% is standard.

Partner with your legislators. Through the Diabetic Amputation Prevention Foundation, The Barbershop Program received $238,000 in congressional aid appropriated through Rep. Maxine Waters in May 2009. The men’s health summit was partly supplemented from this fund. “The mistake a lot of people make is they’ll say ‘Our congressman hasn’t done this or that.’ But they can’t just do a health fair themselves. They need people on the ground, to shuttle resources to. That requires you to do your part and create a viable vehicle that can [accept] those types of legislative responsibilities.”

Build a strong team. Choose people who’ve overcome challenges and prevailed; people who know what starting something from scratch is about, says Releford. “What we’ve found is that degrees and accolades do not indicate a person’s effectiveness. We’ve found that people who have overcome challenges and adversity tend to be more suitable for an aggressive agenda in any organization.”

Choose a cause that is relevant. The leader of the organization must have passion. “Passion is the universal language,” says Releford. “Passion will supplement all the other resources that you’re initially deficient in.” But, the cause must be bigger than you. Many people have nonprofit activities and it is all about them. People don’t support individuals, they support causes. It needs to be timely, relevant, and a part of an existing conversation.

Do you live by the Wealth for Life Principles? We would love to print your story. Nominate yourself or someone you know at wealth@blackenterprise.com.

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