Grow For It

Andy Bindernagel swore off shaving to raise cash for charity.
Nine months and $2,000 (and counting) later, he’s yet to pick up a Bic.
Andy Bindernagel’s beard now stretches somewhere around 6 inches. He can store pens in it. Beardruff (his term for the facial version of dandruff) often rains upon his chest. All because he has neither shaved nor even trimmed his whiskers since New Year’s Day 2009.

And while his freewheeling facial hair certainly draws stares, it’s also already helped him raise more than $2,000 for the Domestic Violence Center of Greater Cleveland. He expects it’ll help him earn another $2,000 in online pledges by the end of the year, when he meets the challenge of not shaving for 365 days.

The 26-year-old Lakewood resident devised his offbeat scheme to grow a beard for a good cause late last year. He wanted to perform some sort of yearlong challenge but wasn’t satisfied to do it just for bragging rights.

“I was like, ‘Well, let’s turn it into a charity thing,’ ” he recalls.

He gave it a name, Year of the Beard, made T-shirts, started a blog to document his quest ( and opened a Facebook account to help raise awareness for his cause. Many of his supporters got in the spirit of the idea, promising to pledge in 12 installments —one for each month Bindernagel lets his beard run wild.

“When I started, I hoped to make $1,000,” he says. “I didn’t think anyone was going to take it seriously.”

Then he held a fundraiser in March at McCarthy’s Ale House in the Flats. Local businesses donated prize baskets for raffles, and Bindernagel sold stick-on beards. That event alone brought in $1,400. Suddenly, it was serious.

The good news for the Domestic Violence Center of Greater Cleveland — aside from the money, obviously — is that Bindernagel’s stunt is publicizing the organization to a new, younger donor demographic. “A lot of our donors are traditionally more in their middle age or older,” says Lizzie Ackerman, who oversees fundraising for the organization.

Still, Bindernagel says not everyone has caught the Year of the Beard spirit. “There are some family functions where some of my older relatives get kind of like, ‘What? That just doesn’t make any sense.’ ”
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