"I think that [from] a childhood perspective I look at it as the values that my mother and daddy put in me," Strickland said. "My dad was a Baptist preacher and he put in me the love and spirit of serving.
"I never thought that somebody would reach out and want to honor me but in the meantime I must have touched somebody's life. ... [To me, volunteering is] so important. You can read a book all you want to but what really impacts young folks is the success that helps them develop skills. They'll look at you [and] at your skills. A lot of people just like to talk but what you demonstrate, it will make a difference in children's lives and it's meat on the bones."
Since 1965, Strickland has owned and operated S & M Enterprises -- encompassing Strick's Barber Shop, Strick's Grill and S & M Laundromat -- in Marietta. A barber for about 50 years, he previously chaired the Georgia State Board of Barbers for 27 years, was president of the National Association of Barber Boards of America and was inducted into the NABBA Hall of Fame.
About 15 years ago, Strickland founded Blacks United for Youth in Cobb, an organization that fosters youth and has provided more than $400,000 in college scholarships.
In Bartow County, Strickland, 68, also is well-known in the community. Some of his contributions include supporting the New Frontier of Bartow County Inc.; emeritus member of the steward board for St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church; former board member of the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce; and chairman of the Summer Hill Heritage Committee, which secured funding for a statue of former Summer Hill educators James S. and Beatrice Morgan in 2006. He also is a member of the Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Foundation, which is sponsoring the Unsung Heroes Banquet.
Starting at 7 p.m., Saturday's event will be held at the Bartow County Senior Center, 33 Beavers Drive in Cassville. Along with presentations from those closest to Strickland, the evening will consist of a buffet-style meal and vocal performances. The attire is formal, black and white, but it is optional.
"One of the reasons why we try to honor different [people] in the community is to give an example to our young people about how [those honored] started out -- how they persevered and they worked hard and they were persistent in their goals," said Marian Coleman, curator for Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center, a black cultural museum at 2361 Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Cassville that reveals what life was like for black residents during the late 1800s to mid-1900s through donated items, like photographs, and hairstyling and cooking utensils. "They set goals in life and continued to pursue these goals and they didn't give up.
"Mr. Strickland came from a family of sharecroppers. His dad was a farmer and [Mr. Strickland] worked his way. He [attended] Summer Hill and he went into [Brown's] Barber College [of Atlanta] to become a barber. And he went on from there to be a business owner ... this shows how he continues to pursue his goals and be a success in life. And not only that, he gives back to the community."
Tickets, which can be obtained at the door, for the Unsung Heroes Banquet are $20 or $25 for event admission and foundation membership. Proceeds from the banquet will go toward the upkeep of Noble Hill, which is dear to many in the community including Strickland.
To see Noble Hill in its present state is a rewarding experience for Strickland, who helped raised funds to restore the building in the mid-1980s.
"[Mr. Wheeler] baled newspapers [there] as a little business. He'd bale it and sell it, and he told me one day, 'I wish we could [restore] this building to get it back to its original [state] and let it be a model for education.' And that just really thrilled my heart," Strickland said. "I'm high on education. ... [Nobel Hill is] a history.
"Some people have gone through a lot [to restore it]. ... Those are the kinds of things that a lot of people just walk away from but you've got to be in the building business if you want to even build education."
For more information about Noble Hill and the upcoming banquet, call the museum at 770-382-3392.