After working 22 years as a nurse, Sister Bonnie Steinlage needed a change.

“To start her Lenten observance, she splurged on a $14 cut and perm,” wrote the Los Angeles Times in a March 4, 1995, profile. “Sitting in that cut-rate salon, she knew she had to become a beautician.” Sure in her new vocation, Steinlage won a scholarship, got her cosmetology license, and, after a missionary stint in Brazil, set up shop at Mary Magdalene House, a shower facility for the poor and homeless in Cincinnati, Ohio. Nine years later, she still cuts hair there, and she has added several other social service organizations and hospitals to her client roster. Using donated equipment and beauty supplies, Steinlage and a dozen volunteers cut the hair of about 3,000 needy people a year.

“You give somebody a sandwich, it lasts for four hours,” she says. “Give them a haircut...[and] doors of opportunity open to them for weeks.” Beyond the visible benefits, Steinlage believes that being touched with gentleness and love brings healing to those who need it most.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.