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May21WedNew Brunswick corps helps women develop confidence and explore their beauty within. May 21, 2014 by Shelly McCready
“Wow, you have your toenails done. Do you know how long it's been since I've done that?” The woman speaking to me was named Tanya. She had just stopped in at The Salvation Army Saint John Hope Community Church in Saint John, N.B., for food and help. For someone who had been living on the streets, this woman viewed pedicures as a luxury, something one would never take the time, energy or money to do.
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That was the catalyst behind Ladies' Spa Day, an event designed to pamper women in the community. Many of these women struggled with mental health issues, physical disabilities, abusive relationships and poverty. To say they suffered from low self-esteem was an understatement. We knew this would be an opportunity to help them feel valued and beautiful.
Tanya had been a nurse, married to a doctor and living in a home in an affluent neighbourhood. Then everything changed. Tanya was in an accident and sustained back injuries that required her to take pain medication. She developed an addiction and her life fell apart. She was so well spoken, her speech did not match her demeanour. She was refined and yet rough. Tanya could only look at her life with regret as though she had reached a peak, slid downhill and would never get back up.
On that first spa day in 2010, Tanya's nails were carefully buffed and polished. While receiving her French pedicure, she met a friend of mine who had come to volunteer. As it turned out, my friend attended the same nursing school with Tanya. Over the next few years, my friend was able to minister to Tanya during turbulent times. Today, Tanya has a small, fully furnished apartment, is in recovery and taking some computer courses. She has a boyfriend who is also a recovered addict and who works as a paramedic.
The next time we organized a spa day was last summer. The day began with our guests going to a local hairdressing school to have their hair done. Many of them commented that they had not had their hair professionally done in years. Next on the agenda were make-up and a manicure. After this, we sat at tables decorated with fancy napkins and enjoyed lunch together. It was so rewarding to see the joy on their faces! Each left with a bag of beauty products and personal care items, and a huge smile on their face.
These spa days were a welcome reprieve for women living their lives in “survival mode.” We hope to have spa days on a more regular basis. After all, the experience shows us that even pedicures can be used for God's glory!
Shelly McCready is the community ministries co-ordinator for The Salvation Army in Saint John, N.B., where she is deeply invested in the lives of many of the clients who seek services. McCready is actively engaged in advocacy in a city that experiences one of the highest rates of poverty in Canada. She is happily married with five children.