Salon pros, students pamper families battling hard times

"For Kathy Curtis, the Families in Need Cut-A-Thon at Simi Valley's Oasis Day Spa and Salon on Sunday meant a lot more than a free haircut and manicure.

Curtis is seeking a job in customer service. "The Samaritan Center helped me with my resume. The Free Clinic of Simi Valley helped me with my teeth, which I should be getting on Monday. It's like everything happened at once," she said.

Organized by Don Knypstra, president of nonprofit Ridone, the Families in Need Cut-A-Thon brings local cosmetology students and professionals together with social service organizations to offer free haircuts, manicures and other services to individuals with disabilities, the unemployed, underserved and homeless.

The Samaritan Center of Simi Valley, the Free Clinic of Simi Valley, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Simi Valley distributed some 300 vouchers for complimentary cosmetology services.

"The response from the very low income and community residents who are on the cusp of being homeless has been very strong," said Betty Eshey, executive director of the Samaritan Center of Simi Valley. "It's more than just a haircut. It changes their sense of worth and they see themselves differently. They have more confidence."

The Families in Need Cut-A-Thon events serve to raise public awareness and to educate cosmetologists and salon owners as to the challenges individuals with disabilities face when trying to secure salon services. The events are also used to collect clothing and canned goods for shelters and to raise funds for the mobile unit Knypstra hopes to have in operation shortly.

"There are 40,000 hair salons in Los Angeles and I don't know how many more in Ventura County, but not one of them services the disabled community," Knypstra said. "There's no equipment for those in wheelchairs or for the deaf. We've developed a whole salon that will have all of that equipment — the special shampoo bowls, wheelchair lifts and ramps and computers at every station so the cosmetologists can communicate with deaf clients."

Oasis stylists Nina Myles and Gena Honings and more than 20 students from Simi Valley Adult School of Cosmetology volunteered their services, while instructors Deborah Lange and Renee Mendez managed clients and workflow.

"There are a lot of people that really need these free services but we can't provide them at the school," Lange said. "We've been involved with the Cut-A-Thon for a couple years now and it's a service the community needs."

Mendez added, "The students were totally excited about the opportunity to help out the community and to represent the cosmetology school."

Arianna Tangoin, who will graduate next month, said her goal for the day was "to make people happy and pleased with themselves."

Colleen Holt was appreciative of the hair services she received.

"They've all been so kind," she said. "It makes me feel very special."

This article was first published on vcstar.com.