Wednesday afternoon inside Aaron Roberts Salon in Westminster, the hair dryers whirred, scissors snipped, ceiling fans whooshed above the exposed brick walls and the faint sound of music could be heard as Rebecca Marquart, of Hampstead, took her seat in the barber’s chair. Her long brown hair hung wet against a purple smock, due for more than just a trim.
“This is massive. She’s going to put in some layers and give it more body,” Marquart said with a smile. “Just in time for the holidays.”
A full salon experience hasn’t been a regular thing for Marquart — in fact the last time she’d had a full-on styling was two years prior. Instead, she had been going to The Shepherd’s Staff for her haircuts; the nonprofit offers free trims on a first-come, first-served basis from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the last Wednesday of every month.
“There are six in my family, so having a once-a-month haircut for free was very helpful,” Marquart said. “Last month we showed up and the stylists were not able to make it, so they gave us a rain check and upgrade. I was not expecting the full treatment. This is a nice surprise!”
Two of the stylists at Aaron Roberts Salon, Zoey Lessner and Julie Wright, along with Bryan Combs of the Westminster Barbershop, have been providing those free cuts at The Shepherd’s Staff for more than a year.
“We could see the difference it made in people, their outlook, their disposition just to have a nice fresh haircut,” said Karen Rau, volunteer coordinator for The Shepherd’s Staff. "But at The Shepherd’s Staff they are really only able to do a spray and a trim and they send them on their way. Zoey thought it would be nice to give them a special day where they can actually have the shampooing and go through the whole process."
And so the first Spa Day for guests of The Shepherd’s Staff was born. For people who might be on a limited income, homeless, or just temporarily struggling to make ends meet, it was a chance for a full shampoo and a 'do, according to Rau, with people chosen from a list of those that signed up at The Shepherd’s Staff.
“It’s amazing how little things make a difference,” Rau said. “We tried to get 20 people for today. I know the ladies that can’t make it are probably going to be very disappointed.”
For Lessner, she knew immediately after her first time volunteering at The Shepherd’s Staff giving haircuts that she had to keep doing it.
“Normally we sit them down, I’m in the reception area and there are two people in the kitchen spraying them down with spray bottles and just cutting their hair. That’s all we do and they’re so appreciative, so happy," she said, becoming emotional. "Sometimes I could be the first one that touched them that day, even though I just touched them on the shoulder."
“People who are homeless, people who are struggling, not only do they not get any human touch, but they don’t even have people look at them, so they can go days and days without hearing from another human being,” Rau added. “It means a lot to people.”
Going forward, Lessner said she hopes to make the Spa Day a regular occurrence as well.
“We’re going to continue to do it at The Shepherd’s Staff every month and then I think once a year do this,” she said. “Hopefully it will get bigger, because this is the first time we’ve done it. Then if people get used to coming here every October to get this done, then we’ll go from there.”
Her hair trimmed and blown dry, Marquart stood up from the barber’s chair and shook her hair after looking in the mirror.
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“I love it,” she said.