Across the country nail technicians are donating their time and services to help women who are making the difficult choice to leave abusive relationships and addictive lifestyles. Through community programs and church ministries, techs and stylists offer home care tips and hands-on application to help lift these women’s spirits and get them ready to enter the work force.
Nail techs at Rolf’s, a full-service salon in Scottsdale, Ariz., don’t have to go far to donate their time and services. On the last Monday of every month, Rolf’s hosts the Fresh Start program, a program dedicated to helping women recover from the effects of domestic abuse or abusive behaviors. Through this program, 12 women are given a day of beauty that includes a motivational speaker and one-on-one instruction from beauty consultants. Marketing director Kari Stolley says the program is part of the “community relations-driven culture” at Rolf’s. It is one of many opportunities Rolf’s participates in to give back to the community and to help its employees meet the hiring requirement of 12 hours of volunteer service a year.
The program is meant to encourage women by treating them to a day of pampering, and to equip them with the skills to duplicate the effect at home. Rolf’s staff knows it will take most of the program’s participants a number of years before they can afford maintenance treatments on their hair and nails so taking the time to educate the women on self-grooming is a priority. The whole day is focused on a long-term change, not a short-term, feel-good experience.
Women arrive at Rolf’s at 9 a.m. and begin the day by taking a “before” picture. During the next seven hours, women participate in a sequence of scheduled events. First, they listen to a motivational speaker explain how to choose clothes for their body types, how to dress for business, and the importance of their appearance during the interview. After listening to the speaker, the women have a manicure class to learn how to care for their nails at home. Next, the women choose any hair service on the menu while stylists explain how to recreate the style on their own. Finally, participants are given a makeover that includes lessons on color application before taking an “after” picture to complete the day.
Cindi Durham, a master nail tech-nician at Rolf’s, says the salon is committed to providing the women not only the skills but also the tools they need to maintain their professional appearance. To do this, each woman is sent home with a gift bag full of beauty products such as hair supplies and nail polish and files. “By the end of the day, you watch a transformation occur,” says Durham. “Many of these women have been deserted by their husbands and they feel like they can’t do anything,” she says. By the end of a day filled with applicable knowledge and sincere attention, the women have a different attitude about themselves. Durham says women often write letters telling what the day meant to them.
Volunteering time and services allows Durham to meet many interesting people; she told of one client whose story had a happy ending. “She was a beautiful woman with breast cancer,” recalls Durham. “She was bald from chemotherapy treatments. While I gave her a manicure, I spoke about what it means to me to be able to volunteer my time. Today that woman works at the salon with me.”
Beauty With a Purpose
Techs at Rolf’s are fortunate to work for an owner who values giving back to the community, but there are other opportunities for techs who aren’t involved in salon-funded events. Teresa Russo organized a Day of Beauty through her church, Willow Creek, in Wheaton, Ill. Russo says eight years ago she began organizing beauty days by working in coordination with organizations such as Women In Need Growing Stronger and Preservations of Human Dignity. She said she started the program to give beauty professionals in her church an outlet to use their abilities to touch other women’s lives. “There was a time when I was working in the industry and I wondered if what I was doing mattered. Then I realized that through my services and hands I could offer hope to other women,” she says.
Russo organizes at least three Days of Beauty each year, and she says it’s a great time for the community to work together. Russo says restaurants donate food or space for a light lunch, bakeries donate treats, and salons open their doors to assist in the success of the event. Russo says she has received help both from various religious groups and groups with no religious affiliation at all.
You Have the Power
You don’t need the resources of the salon or the organization of the church to volunteer. Kathy Starses is the self-esteem program coordinator for Fresh Start Women’s Foundation located in Phoenix, Ariz. Starses offers a few suggestions to techs who want to get involved: Call a local shelter and offer to provide manicures to women who are going on job interviews. During the manicure, educate the client about the importance of properly maintaining her nails and donate the supplies she will need to continue the care at home. If the cost of donating supplies to individual women restricts you, donate supplies to the shelter so many women can use them. Another get-involved idea is to teach a how-to workshop one evening at the shelter. At the workshop, explain the steps of an at-home manicure or pedicure and reiterate the importance of appearance in the work environment.
Techs who don’t know where to begin can research the opportunities and the tools offered by the National Cosmetology Association (NCA) through the Cut It Out program [see sidebar on page 120]. Cut It Out provides techs with ideas for different ways to donate, and it also supplies resources such as posters and brochures to salon owners interested in raising awareness of domestic abuse. Techs are trained to recognize the signs of abuse with the hope that they will be able to help clients who are trapped in an abusive situation.
Marlene Bridge is a nail technician involved with the Cut It Out program. She has worked trade shows educating techs about ways to get involved. Her goal is to raise awareness among techs and stylists in the beauty industry about the number of women affected by domestic abuse. “A woman is abused every 15 seconds.” Bridge says. At the trade shows, Cut It Out distributes rubber bracelets in the color of domestic violence, purple, as a way to increase awareness “without saying a word.” At one of the shows, the bracelets were given to attendees, but many people wanted to pay for them instead of accepting them for free. “Salon professionals are the most caring group of people I know,” says Bridge. Once these professionals are made aware of the statistics and what is at stake, many of them are eager to get involved.
Bridge says she began by donating services and products to women during the holidays, but now she donates products throughout the year. Donating to women’s shelters is a way to help women, but it also comes with intangible benefits. “Sometimes I feel guilty because I get so much out of donating,” says Bridge. “It really warms me up inside to see the gratification and appreciation of these women.”
“Cut It Out” Involvement Ideas
Cut It Out is a partnership formed between the Clairol Professionals, Southern Living at Home, and the National Cosmetology Association. The program is dedicated to mobilizing salon professionals to help fight domestic abuse. Cut It Out’s newly unveiled Adopt-a-Shelter program formalizes the process. Participating salons will receive “adoption kits” and will be encouraged to register their “adopted” shelter. Salons will receive a formal “Certificate of Adoption” suitable for display, plus a kit that includes posters, a supply of safety information cards, and other material to help raise awareness of both the issue of domestic abuse and the salon’s efforts to fight it.
Here are some of the ways Cut It Out suggests salons get involved:
Call a local shelter and ask them for a beauty wish list of the women living there.
Donate hair products, nail products, makeup, or magazines to the women’s shelter.
Host a Mani-thon where clients pay for manicures, but all proceeds go to the shelter.
Display posters and safety cards throughout the salon and ask clients to make donations to the shelter.
Place a decorated container is a visible spot with a sign suggesting clients donate loose change to help change a woman’s life.
You can learn more about Cut It Out and Adopt-a-Shelter by visiting www.cutitout.org. Michelle Pratt is a freelance writer and nail tech based in Johnson City, N.Y.