August 15, 2013
Generous stylists donate their services at shelter – The Chronicle
A meeting room at the Bethesda Center for the Homeless was converted to an improvised hair salon Saturday morning.
About 50 current and former shelter residents had their hair cut or styled by beauty professionals who volunteered their services. Melissa Puryear, a receptionist at Bethesda, organized the event, which also provided shelter residents with a variety of hair care products.
“We’re here to make people’s lives feel better,” said Puryear, who is also a veteran stylist and make-up artist. “My love for God, my love for people and my love to do hair is just one of the reasons I coordinated this event.”
Stylists Lawanda Tuttle of Tweet’z Locs of Love and Matthew Lawson and Fitzgerald Lilly of NuEvo Hair Studio (227 W. Fifth St.) also lent their talents.
Lilly, who’s been in the industry for 13 years, is no stranger to using his styling gifts to help others. He regularly volunteers at hair workshops for cancer patients going through chemotherapy. Working with homeless clients, though, was a new experience.
“I love making people happy, so if my gift from God can bless other people, why not?” he said.
Shelter clients indeed saw their new looks as blessings. Cynthia Bingham was so pleased with Puryear’s work that she was near tears. Lavonda Little also gave kudos to Lilly, who trimmed his hair.
Little and his girlfriend lost their home three weeks ago and are now staying at Bethesda. “I thank Ms. Melissa for doing it because everybody doesn’t have money to go get hair cuts,” he said.
Naomi Barham had her hair done for the first time since she came to the shelter in May. The 60-year-old, who turned to Bethesda after she moved to North Carolina and was unable to find work and housing, said the new hairdo boosted her optimism and gave her renewed confidence in her job search.
“It makes me feel like my confidence level is back up to 10,” she said. “It’s just a great feeling.”
The Bethesda Center has seen no shortage of clients this summer, a season when occupancy is typically lower. Bethesda Center Executive Director Peggy Galloway said that Friday, the Center’s night shelter was over capacity, forcing some to sleep on mats.
She was thrilled by clients’ reactions to the weekend beauty session. Although barbers have volunteered in the past to cut clients’ hair, Galloway said she could not recall an occasion when stylists had come in to provide services to both men and women.
“This is what it means to show compassion,” Galloway said of the stylists’ efforts. “This is demonstrating what you’re supposed to do.”