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Beauty Makeovers Transform Lives

After working late hours during the week and all weekend, typically the salon industry closes up shop each Monday to give their employees a day off. This is not so for a salon in Miami! The last Monday of each month Serenity Hair & Spa of Miami Florida, opens her doors to a very special group of clients. Once a month a team of hair stylists, makeup artists, and manicurists who work at Serenity Hair & Spa volunteer for the day and transform the bodies and lives of a group of women from the A Safe Space woman’s shelter. This is salon owner Debbie Smith’s game in the Landmark Education Team, Management and Leadership Program.

The project began two weeks before Christmas 2009 when Smith and her salon employees were thinking of something they could do during Christmas Day that would contribute directly to the community. As a team, they created “A Day of Pampering” for women at A Safe Space (at a local women’s shelter) on Christmas. After making the arrangements with the shelter director Paula Owens, the team went out into the Miami community and collected many much needed gifts and donations. On Christmas day the team arrived at the shelter with all the gifts, food and the donations.

Debbie said, “It was an amazing day.” The team prayed with the women and listened to stories of how they came to be at the shelter. Wasting no time, they then “got busy” creating all new looks for many of the ladies.

Debbie later found out how fortunate they had been in being able to gain access to a shelter at such a short notice. As we can well imagine, such shelters are usually quite restrictive as to whom they allow in, typically requiring a series of background checks, so as to maintain the safety of the woman. Instead, Serenity Hair and Spa of Miami not only gaining access to the woman’s shelter, but due to the strong desire at the shelter, were welcomed with open arms.

From the success of the first event, Debbie decided to open her salon on the last Monday of the month and has been doing so since January 2010. She provides salon services for six to eight women from the shelter. Once a month the shelter conducts a raffle and the women who have matching numbers then receive a $100 gift certificate for any salon services. Debbie said the services they provide during the day usually surpass the amount of the gift certificate since each woman receives a manicure, pedicure, new haircut and style and a makeup consultation. Women are also offered other services such as highlights or a new hair color.

“When we are finished and the women look in the mirror, they cry,” Debbie said. “You can see in their expression that the women realize their inner beauty and substance and the fact that they don’t have to be abused anymore because they can see they are beautiful and that they are wonderfully made.”

Debbie’s team of eight employees has brought their whole community together to contribute to the women at the shelter. During their visits, many salon clients donate such items as clothing and other accessories so that they can be given to the women at the shelter. Also local restaurants and shops donate gift certificates or products. For example last month Wal-Mart donated various products, gift-wrapping materials and gift baskets.

The salon services do more than transform the appearance for these women. A Safe Space Director, Paula Owens, told Debbie that when the women return to the shelter after a day at the salon they feel better about themselves and are quite inspired to maintain their new look. Paula stated, “For women at the shelter, it makes a difference with their attitude and improves their self-esteem. They feel empowered and when people are empowered, they can see possibilities for themselves that they didn’t see before.”

The difference it makes for the team at Serenity is that they have a sense of accomplishment, of being a contribution and of service. At the end of one service day, Debbie’s daughter (who is also on the team of volunteer stylists) said simply “We had a great day.”

Debbie’s game has inspired a hair salon owner in Palm Beach, FL to provide the same type service to another women’s shelter in her area. From her commitment, Debbie’s team has now invited many other salons to participate so that they too can alter the lives of more women at the A Safe Space shelter and beyond. Currently there are 24 to 30 women in the shelter who stay for six to eight weeks.

In her vision to expand the magnitude of her project, Debbie is having conversations with people in other states for them to start their own Day of Pampering at their own local woman’s shelters. She is also creating a foundation to fund the project’s expansion and sees the project expanding to cities all over the country and world.

written by Belinda Cogburn and edited by David A. Gower-Spaminato.

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