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Aug22WedThe Salvation Army is bringing dignity through 'dos. August 22, 2018 by June Li
Pay rent or buy groceries? Have your electricity turned off or go to sleep hungry?
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- Faith & Friends
Sadly, these are the difficult decisions that thousands of Canadians living in poverty have to make every day. Unexpected illnesses or a change in income can often force individuals to re-evaluate their lifestyle. “When people struggle to get food on the table, things like personal care are let go,” says Abby Mills, director of The Salvation Army Belleville Ministries in Ontario.
For Melissa Payton-VanNorman, this hits close to home. “I don’t come from money,” Melissa explains, “I never got to get a new haircut for back to school or a new outfit.” After volunteering to give free haircuts at a women’s shelter, Melissa, an experienced hair stylist, decided to start Street Stylez.
In partnership with The Salvation Army Belleville Ministries, Street Stylez is a community event that provides free haircuts to those less fortunate. With eight experienced hair stylists and 30 volunteers, Street Stylez gave 108 haircuts at their latest event, totaling 560 free haircuts in the past two years.
Melissa explains that for those experiencing financial hardship, it can be hard to ask for help. Street Stylez strives to ensure that every guest feels valued. Along with personalized haircuts, a free hot meal, snacks and goody bags filled with basic necessities, Street Stylez also provides backpacks filled with school supplies during the back-to-school season.
Though the gesture of a haircut is simple, it is the kindness shown through these actions that helps people realize that they are loved. A haircut is a powerful thing and can inspire confidence for those down on their luck. “It can have a lasting effect,” says Melissa. “A community worker contacted me and let me know that a woman she has been working with completely changed her demeanour after receiving her haircut. She began taking more pride in her appearance.”
“The hairdressers treat everyone with such care and compassion and you can see the difference it makes to our guests,” says Abby. “People walk out of here standing taller with confidence in their steps.”