ANNE ARUNDEL CO., MD -- A tattoo shop in Brooklyn, Maryland, is erasing gang and racist related tattoos at no cost.
Dave Cutlip and his wife decided to cover up hateful tattoos after a man walked into their business, Southside Tattoo, hoping to get a gang tattoo removed. Cutlip tells DCW50 he couldn't help the man because his tattoo was too prominent.
"I could visibly see how hurt he was and how much this tattoo actually bother him," Dave Cutlip, Southside Tattoo's owner, said.
Even though, they weren't able to help that man, they turned to Southside Tattoo's Facebook page to help others who may be in the same situation. Their post went viral, it's been shared more than 26,000 times and has been liked thousands of times.
"Because of that initial post, we were able to start a nationwide profit called RedemptionInk.org, that's where people can go and sign up if they need help or sign up if they want to help," Cutlip said.
The Cutlips are also raising money on a GoFundMe for The Random Acts of Tattoo Project. So far, he has helped 15 people erase a part of their life they were ready to move on from.
"Every single person has been extremely grateful," Cutlip said. "And I've gotten some of the nicest messages back from them."
One those erasing a troubled past is Randy Sturgill. Over the years, he gradually added more and more gang and hate related tattoos over his body. Sturgill says he eventually met a friend who helped him in Baltimore. She's African American and has a child. Sturgill says he dreaded the day he would have to explain to the child what his tattoos stood for. While attending a therapy session through the Health Care for the Homeless in Baltimore, Sturgill told his therapist he wanted to get rid of the hateful tattoos and that's how he met Dave Cutlip.
Cutlip covered all the racist related tattoos on Sturgill's body, for free. Then he invited him to live at his home and even hired him as an apprentice. Sturgill is now working to become a tattoo artist.
"I am just indebted and grateful to Dave and Beth because they really did give me a whole new opportunity at life," Sturgill said. "Without them I don't know what I would be doing right now."
Cutlip says Southside Tattoo is the only business in the DMV-area, covering up racist and gang related tattoos for free to help give remorseful ex-members a fresh start. However, he says he gets requests from all over the country — asking for his help covering up hateful tattoos. He`s working to connect those people with professionals near them who may be able to give them a second chance.