Once Homeless Salon Owner Makes it Her Mission to Give Back With Free Makeovers
Lifestyle| | By Robin Milling
In Tampa Bay, Florida, seven homeless girls can go back to school with their heads held high from fresh new haircuts they received free of charge from Giving Hands Beauty Salon. Going to the salon can be a luxury for some who don’t have the means to afford the costs for a day of beauty, but what was even more special in this offer was owner Vanessa Howard was once down on her luck and homeless as well. Now she pays it forward one make-over at a time on a monthly basis through her Giving Hands Foundation.
This month Howard, along with her five daughters and dedicated volunteers, offered a free makeover on July 30 to homeless girls — some of them victims of domestic violence — called “Back-to-School Princess Party.” The girls were pampered with services such as haircuts, manicures, facials, chair massages and eyebrow shaping. To date, Howard and her helpers have given between 250 to 275 makeovers to homeless women, children, and victims of domestic violence. The results from their day of beauty have paid off for many of the women who have since gotten jobs, but Howard insists their success comes from within. “More than just looking good you have to feel that you’re beautiful and have the self-esteem to get a job. For us it’s not just about making them beautiful, but having a heart to build these women from the inside out,” she told Your Daily Dish.
The girls were highly emotional anticipating what lay ahead, but before they left, they made sure to express their appreciation to Howard. “They come in being battered and broken not knowing what to expect. Why would someone do a full makeover on them and feed them a full-catered lunch. Some of them haven’t had fresh fruit for over two years living in a shelter. We get a lot of tears and we laugh with them, they cry with us. After leaving, they say they’ve never felt so loved, and because of that, their confidence was built up,” she said.
Howard was able to change her own life around by turning to faith after years of suffering through domestic violence, abuse, and feelings of suicide. “This was 25 years ago. I was broken and I had about $1.75 and caught the bus. I prayed to God for a place to stay for me and my kids,” Howard said. Her prayers were answered when a landlord gave her an apartment after showing it all day. “From that point is when I made a decision to give my life to Christ and fast forward to 25 years we moved to Florida and God had impressed to me to open up the salon with the name Giving Hands Beauty Salon. I asked him why the name and he said I want you to use your salon not only for business purposes but to give back to women who were broken like you,” she told Your Daily Dish.
Howard opened Giving Hands Beauty Salon in 2014 after working for other salons in the area with the help of her husband and began her mission to help broken women and youth, giving free make-overs to homeless women. This marks the fourth event which began in May of 2014 with “Giving Hands: Giving Back to the Community” which served five women with free salon services.
Memories of her own homelessness came flooding back to Howard then while giving someone a pedicure. “It was so real and so fresh and all I could do was weep at her feet because I remembered being homeless, being a single mom, being in the streets, walking around malls not having nowhere [sic] to go, sleeping in shelters,” Howard recalled. “Now I understood my pain has so much purpose. What I’ve been through and my struggle and not having the support from my own mom and my family, and not wanting to live all makes so much sense that I went through this so others could live and find joy and see, ‘I am somebody and I have purpose.’ I would do it all over again just so other women could experience the same love that was poured on me.”