This past August, one of our residents, Monica, told our Marketing and Development Coordinator, Kristen Orgera, that they would most enjoy it if we could plan a spa day for the women in our shelter. This planted a seed that has since sprouted thanks to Orgera and the help of two Communications interns from Albright College, Travis Hoshauer and Emily Weaver. As a result of their efforts, our residents’ wish became a reality on Thursday, November 20 at our inaugural “Cuts For A Cause” event.
One of our residents expresses her gratitude to our Marketing and Development Coordinator, Kristen, after receiving a hair cut at our inaugural Cuts For A Cause event.
Over 20 local hairstylists and barbers, who either work freelance or for one of eight participating local hair salons, which included American Barber Academy, Bell Tower, Cinergi Salon/Spa, Hair Cuttery, Salon Shampoo, Styles Underground, Sydias Hairsalon and Boutique, and United Artists Salon and Spa, came out to Opportunity House to donate their time that afternoon.
Thanks to this overwhelming generosity, nearly 50 of our shelter residents received a free haircut and were able to take some time to relax and get pampered. Additionally, the volunteers also offered the residents manicures, free massages courtesy of massage therapy students from Berks Technical Institute, and the chance to have their make-up done if they so desired. With a grin stretching from ear to ear, one of our residents, Monica, summed up how many
were feeling after indulging in the services offered at this event; “I died and went to heaven three times,” she exclaimed after receiving her massage.
This feeling of satisfaction from the impact of the event did not extend only to our homeless residents, however.
Theresa Schweitzer, a stylist from Styles Underground in Adamstown, had a particularly inspiring story as to why she decided to volunteer at “Cuts For A Cause.” Schweitzer, who is currently celebrating nearly two years of recovery from a drug addiction, had recently told her pastor that she wanted to give haircuts to the homeless. Just three days later, one of Schweitzer’s friends shared our Facebook advertisement, which was seeking out hair stylists willing to donate their time, with her. “She just thought I might be interested, and she had no idea that I had said this to my pastor,” explains Schweitzer. “The whole thing is beautiful! The fact that I got here and found a parking spot is pretty cool
since I hate to parallel park” she adds with a laugh.
Volunteering at “Cuts For A Cause” was especially emotional for Schweitzer since she can relate on a personal level with those who may be homeless due to an addiction. As a domestic violence survivor, she explains, “It’s by the graces of God that I am not here. I could have been homeless very quickly. I could have been in need of a place like this, so I see the need for this event. I know how important it is to look good on the outside and feel good on the inside. They are special, and they need to know that.”
Schweitzer also enjoyed getting to see the younger stylists learn “how important their profession is to everybody and the difference they can make.” She cites what she witnessed as our first resident had their hair styled and make-up done: “The whole change in her demeanor, that smile, that’s all you need. I just love seeing that. The skill that [the hair stylists] have chosen can heal people in so many ways,” Schweitzer states with passion in her voice.
George Ortiz, owner of American Barber Academy in Reading, is another example of a barber who uses his talents to help others. Ortiz, a 2003 graduate from Holy Name High School, has offered his services to benefit other organizations, including Olivet’s Boys and Girls Club, since he started this business five years ago. All of Ortiz’s students have to obtain 1,250 hours of practical time in order to graduate, so when he heard about the “Cuts For A Cause” event he thought it would be a great learning experience for his students. “It is always a good teaching tool to
instill in our students. Plus, it’s always good to give back to the community,” explains Ortiz. Ortiz and his five students training to become barbers provided 23 haircuts to our male residents.
Students from Ortiz’s American Barber Academy participating in Cuts For A Cause.
Opportunity House and its residents are in awe by the outpouring of help received from the local Reading community to make this event possible. “The generosity from local hair stylists has been amazing! We had so many people offering to help with this event that we even had to sadly turn some people away since the number of volunteers outnumbered our number of residents,” explains Orgera, who was more than happy with the outcome of this event. “I was happy to see that the volunteers seemed to be enjoying themselves. Not only did they get the chance to practice their skills while giving back, but they could also network with other hair stylists in the area. It was just a great event that brought the community together. I was holding back tears as I saw how happy our residents looked as a result of getting pampered and feeling like they, too, mattered.” At the conclusion of the event, Schweitzer, who has thirty years of experience as a hairdresser, stated, “I’ve done a lot of fundraising, but this is really special here today.” She hopes to volunteer again in the future at the next “Cuts For A Cause” event. Given the positive feedback and endless support from the community, efforts are in place to make this a recurring event for the residents of Opportunity House. “It’s the beginning of a good thing,” Schweitzer concludes with confidence.
Kristen Orgera, Marketing and Development Coordinator, and Delia McLendon, VP of Shelter and Housing show their happiness to seeing the residents’ transformation after they receive their haircuts.