For some female residents of The Salvation Army's residential programs, Wednesday night was their lucky night. They were treated to haircuts and learned the proper ways to dress for success on a budget. The event was envisioned by the organization's Maj. Doris Lawrence, who aims to set women back on a course to self-sufficiency through job interview preparation.
The stylist chopped down her brownish-red and gold curls, which were the result of multiple colorings. Her hair was also neatly flat-ironed and styled.
“It's actually all one color,” Ms. Chandler proclaimed, while gazing in the mirror for the first time after the makeover.
Shortly after, Ms. Chandler returned to the room where many other ladies intently listened to Maj. Lawrence share appropriate ways to wear skirts and scarves for a job interview.
Donning a velour sweater, skirt and boots, Ms. Chandler glided across the floor and stood in front of the other women, proud of the outfit she had selected.
“It really boosted my ego,” she said. “It made me feel good about myself.”
The warm smile and the pride that radiated from Ms. Chandler is a contrast from the life she experienced one year ago.
She moved from Colorado in September following a family tragedy and also said she had been repeatedly sexually abused. With the help of the transitional residential program, she's taking steps to rebuild a better life.
She has a job at the Goodwill Store and she notes that the support she receives at The Salvation Army makes the challenges easier. The mini style show had her thinking about revamping her wardrobe one day.
“I want to change my whole style,” she said. “I'm starting out pretty good today.”
When people lose their job, home or children, their confidence may take a big hit. Without confidence, it makes the obstacles they face even harder to overcome, Maj. Lawrence said.
She came up with the idea for a makeover night during a conversation with her stylist, Jaclyn Pointer, who helped with Wednesday night's event and wants to make it a regular one.
“If they believe in themselves and are confident in who they are, they will be that much stronger in an interview,” she said. “My thought was, 'this is going to be a fun night.' But on the same note, while it's fun, we can still teach and learn.”
She added, “This is a calling. My husband and I both left full-time jobs to answer the calling God's placed in our lives. Everything that The Salvation Army does is ministry.”
SECOND CHANCES FOR MOTHERHOOD
Elizabeth Cates, 28, is in her 57th day of Reconnect, an in-house drug and alcohol rehabilitation program with a faith-based focus. In a little more than a month, she'll enter Phase 2 and will get to look for work outside of the facility.
“I'm on lockdown, but it's OK,” she said, as Ms. Pointer finished cutting her hair into an asymmetrical bob. It's a big contrast to her shoulder length hair.
“It's kind of like a big dramatic thing for me,” said. “It's very exciting to be pampered.”
Years of abusing methamphetamines and marijuana are what brought Ms. Cates to The Salvation Army. The drug use came at a price — the former certified nurse aide's three daughters are in the care of child protective custody. Having her daughters back is a motivator to stay clean.
“If I don't straighten up and do what I'm supposed to, another family is going to raise my kids,” she said. “I don't want someone else raising my kids.”
She'd been through the program before, about two years ago, but didn't stay long enough to benefit from it. Even with the goal of caring for her children again, she realizes that she has to do it for her own good.
Amy Ferguson, 33, shares some common threads with Ms. Cates, who has been at The Salvation Army for more than two months. She also fell into a path of drug abuse and does not have custody of her children. She was excited about her new haircut, also a bob.
“It's a huge treat to have somebody come and do it for us,” she said. “Looking nice always helps you in a job interview.”
The former stay-at-home mom's life took a sudden and drastic turn in the prime of her life. She left her husband of 10 years and their three children.
“When I was 27, I just kind of, honestly, lost my mind,” she said. “I met a person and pretty much fell in love. I left my husband and my kids and starting using.”
Ms. Ferguson's drug use led her to prison. While there, she had a daughter by the man for whom she left her family. She said giving birth to her fourth child in prison was a turning point for her.
“It was actually one of the best things that ever happened because I wouldn't have stopped doing what I was doing at that time,” she said. “God just knew to set me there and set me still. I got out and I did really well close to three years.”
Today, she's working on getting her 3-year-old back from CPS and plans to move to Panama City, Fla., to be near her children, who reside there with their father and stepmother.
“They've got a really good life,” she said. “They honestly do. So, I just want to be a part of their lives. I don't want to make any drastic things happen.”
Armed with a new fashion and business sense, Ms. Ferguson looks forward to finding a job this month, as she, like Ms. Cates, enters Phase 2 of Reconnect. Her warning for other women is to maintain religious faith to avoid the setbacks she has had.
“Find God, because if I had stayed on the path he had me on instead of the decisions I made for myself, I would have had a way different ending, middle, all of that.”