There is a large wooden cross standing by the front door of the Overflo Salon and Barber Shop in Columbus. Written on it are the words "God Lives Here."
The shop on Midtown Drive is owned by Catosha and Gerald Riley. "We are letting people know we are ambassadors for Christ," Catosha said.
Meeting the needs of their customers often means doing more than just styling. There are times when Catosha or Gerald will go to the back of the business with a customer and pray. "We are much more than just a barber shop," Gerald said.
He said, for some unchurched customers, the Rileys are the only people of God they know.
At 7 p.m. each Tuesday, a Bible discussion is held at the business. At 7 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of the month, a special "Real Men Real Talk" program is led by the Rev. Vincent Bell. "We invite men to come and share their experiences," Bell said. "We are trying to unite the men of Columbus."
The participants talk about everyday topics, including family issues, politics and sports.
"We welcome men of all faiths as we look for real solutions to problems," Bell said.
"God is weaved into the conversation," Gerald added.
The business owners keep busy. "We are 'Team Overflo,'" Catosha said of their outreach efforts, which includes working with the Homeless Resource Network once a month to provide free haircuts for the homeless, giving free haircuts to children in Head Start, holding community barbecues, conducting hygiene and professionalism workshops in public schools, donating turkeys to families at Thanksgiving and Easter baskets at Easter.The couple also goes to Second Avenue to take food to the homeless. "Many want more than just food," Gerald said. "They want fellowship. They want conversation. We provide that, too."
The Rileys have been known to take up a collection for a shop customer who is having trouble paying a utility bill. And they say their faith is never pushed on any customer. "We don't beat anyone over the head. Some people don't want to talk about anything and that is OK," Gerald said.
The Rileys will have their ninth wedding anniversary in July. Before getting married, each owned their own shop. He is originally from Pensacola, Fla., and came here when stationed at Fort Benning. She is a Columbus native who graduated from Kendrick High and Columbus Technical College.
Each has for a long time been involved with working as a mentor with children. They take pride in more than their outreach work.
"We are also a pretty good barber shop," Gerald said, smiling.
Overflo was honored at a banquet in May as Columbus Barber Shop of the Year by the nonprofit organization Horace Empowerment Inc., but the most important work is the outreach.
"We love God," Catosha said.
Moving forward, Overflo Outreach Ministries plans to develop programs in four areas. Those are youth volunteer training, mentoring, health hygiene and civic responsibility. It is collaborating with Bell to create a program to get guns out of the hands of children, possibly offering some kind of incentive for surrendering weapons.
"We are working to make things better," Gerald said.