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Hairdressers Unlocking Hope

Maggie Mulhern | July 10, 2011 | 8:14 PM

Guess how many of the 275,000 destroyed by Katrina have been rebuilt by Habitat for Humanity and the other private organizations since the disaster?  The number is a bit staggering.  I must admit that I thought the number was huge.  I personally know of so many people who have donated money, items and time to put together a home for a displaced family.  I saw them build a house on the Today show, I know of church and temple groups that have bussed down to assemble a house and I know of groups from various companies that took time off to go “rebuild.”

Hairdressers Unlocking HopeBefore I give you the answer, I want you to get an inside look at the wonderful work done by Vidal Sassoon and Mary Rector Gable on behalf of the victims of Katrina.  Vidal, a very philanthropic guy, has donated his own money and time to various charities throughout his professional life.  Although many causes have caught his eye, the Katrina victims have truly motivated him.  Most gentlemen looking at their 80th birthday rarely have the need to lace up construction boots and slide on work gloves, but Vidal felt he had to do something.  In his words, he was “outraged that there was not more outrage over the lack of help to the Katrina victims by the government of the United States.”  Vidal turned his outrage into something more tangible.  He asked Mary Rector Gable of Behind The Chair to get the word out to as many hairdressers as possible to pull together and make something happen.

What happened is now known as Hairdressers Unlocking Hope (HUH).  This powerful organization is benefiting from the amazing generosity of the hairdressing community.  More than 2 million dollars has been donated from individual hairdressers, salons, organizations and manufacturers.  The culmination of this effort occurred last week as a group of 200 salon professionals gathered together to put the finishing touches on ten homes.  These homes were then donated in a beautiful key ceremony that evening to ten wonderful families that had been living in trailers since the disaster in August 2005.

I am proud to say I was there and actually GOT DIRTY laying sod and trying to maneuver a weed whacker.   It was a hot sunny day and everyone was there to work.  Sod is shockingly heavy, but when put in the hands of our group…the rectangles felt as light as a hairbrush!  The Habitat people expected the finishing touches operation to take a full day, but they clearly underestimated the efficiency of our bunch of multi-tasking salon peeps.  We were done by 2, leaving us all plenty of time to “bond” with the families and each other.  I had worked side by side for a solid hour next to a cute guy wearing a “my wife is hot” tee shirt.  At lunch we were “introduced” and when he realized I was Maggie and I learned he was Michael Baker, we were thrilled.  We had been great friends about 20-ish years ago when we hung out at Zotos events.  Then I saw John Allan, owner of the John Allan salons.  John has personally donated a whole house ($85,000).  His house will be donated in the spring ceremony when ten more houses will be handed over to 10 more families (I will be there).  Sam Brocato showed up.  He has single handedly motivated hundreds of salon professionals to donate to help rebuild his native Louisiana.  Over at another front yard was Michael Gordon.  He and Bumble and bumble donated a house.  Vidal was everywhere, signing autographs, granting interviews and hugs, and having his picture taken with every and any one.

There is more work to be done, more homes to donate and more need for our help.  Kudos to Vidal and Mary.  Kudos to HUH and the hairdressing community. In the great words of Vidal, “it is the so-called little things that make a difference between a good hair professional and a great person.  Hairdressers can make miracles happen.  This effort shows we can make a difference.”

Oh, by the way, the answer to the first question?  Fewer than 1400 homes have been re-built in these past years.  We clearly have a long way to go!

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