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When Matthew Hanson thinks back to the five weeks that he, his brothers, and their mother spent at the YWCA Battered Women’s Shelter, he remembers it as “a getaway especially from what was going on.”
He and his brothers swam in the pool, learned to play chess, and were taken to the library and the circus by generous volunteers.
“It didn’t feel like something bad. I just knew something was changing in our life,” Mr. Hanson recalled.
Now 26 and a licensed cosmetologist, Mr. Hanson wants to provide a getaway to women who now find themselves at the downtown women’s shelter. He, his boss, Linnette Owens Markray, and other stylists at the Loft Boutique on South Reynolds Road will be offering a day of pampering to women at the shelter — haircuts, manicures, free clothing — on Jan 15.
Ms. Owens Markray, who knows stylists are at times amateur therapists, said she hopes the day will start the women's new year off on a positive note.
“I think that’s my calling,” she said. “Going to church every Sunday, I love to get the Word and give it back to someone else, to plant seed, good seed.”
When Mr. Hanson, who has worked at her salon for about three months, suggested the pampering day, Ms. Owens Markray said she was happy to work with him on the idea. Staff at the YWCA were excited too.
“They are voluntarily giving of their time and services to give back to the community by helping women who don’t typically take care of themselves or have the resources to invest in their beauty or hair or presentation so it’s going to be awesome,” said Shelly Ulrich, the Y’s associate executive officer.
Women from the shelter and the Y’s permanent supportive housing program will have the opportunity to sign up for the free salon services. Ms. Ulrich said it will give the women time for themselves.
“I think it will mean them being able to focus totally and solely on them and just being taken care of instead of taking care of others,” she said. “Instead of serving, they will be served and pampered. It’s just an opportunity for them to be taken away from it all, kind of like a Calgon moment.”
Mr. Hanson’s mother, Bridget Hanson, said she’s proud of her son, touched by his generous heart. She remembers what it was like to leave an abusive marriage.
“That was the only place I could turn to,” she said of the Y shelter. “I always said if I got rich I wanted to adopt a room at the Y and fix it up.”
She said that while she was staying at the shelter with her four sons in 1995, she tried to get the other women involved in creative outlets like dance to take their minds off their situations. She suspects the spa day will help do that too.
“When you make [battered women] feel better and look better, you develop their self-esteem, and they’re able to do more for themselves,” Ms. Hanson said.
Mr. Hanson, who studied cosmetology in Atlanta, said the salon will be able to work with 20 to 25 women from the shelter. He hopes it helps them on their journey as the shelter helped his own family.
“What really stuck with me is that these women are not homeless, they’re battered,” he said. “There’s nothing really wrong with them, it’s just that they’re in a bad situation. I want them to know there are people who care and want to make them feel special. Hopefully, they’ll feel that way.”
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.