Through the tireless efforts of countless volunteers, Our Daily Bread Food & Resource Center provides a wide variety of services to the entirety of Payne County. And those volunteers are always on the task of providing as many services to their clients as possible. That effort has recently resulted in the addition of a full-fledged salon to provide free haircuts for those already using the other resources available.
Our Daily Bread Executive Director Rachael Condley said she and other members of the staff toured the Catholic Charities Mary Martha Outreach organization in Bartlesville, where they got a firsthand look at a location that offers salon services, dental work, furniture and clothing and much more. While many of these services couldn’t be undertaken by Our Daily Bread, Condley couldn’t shake the thought of bringing a salon into the fold.
“We came back and we know we’re not opening a dentist’s office,” Condley said. “We know we’re not opening a clothing store. These are things that we can’t do and aren’t interested in doing. But what could we do well? And I couldn’t let go of the salon thing. I came back and talked to the staff. And they’ve tried a couple of times in the past to have haircutting events and things like that. So we started to look at what it would be like if we had a regular service.”
That prompted her to reach out to her longtime hair stylist and friend, Jennifer Wheeler, who operates The Wash House Salon & Soapery in Stillwater, to speak with her about what possibilities were available.
Wheeler said she had done prior volunteer work with prison outreach, a nonprofit cosmetology school in Oklahoma City and has worked with Salvation Army to provide back-to-school haircut events, so assisting Our Daily Bread was right up her alley.
Wheeler said she has lived in Stillwater for so long and has had a salon in town for so long that she puts old things in storage when she buys new things for her salon. This provided some of the equipment needed to set up the salon. Along with a $1,000 donation from the Stillwater Kiwanis Club, Our Daily Bread had what it needed.
“I had a whole warehouse full of equipment,” Wheeler said.” So I went over and met with her at Our Daily Bread, looked at the space, and her, me and the maintenance guy basically figured it out. We got all the equipment out of storage and had it set up as a full salon ready to go in like two weeks.”
Wheeler said she reached out to several of her beauty shop representatives to see if they would like to donate to the program and was met with enthusiasm from those she asked. She said she had the necessary furniture, while a lot of tools and products were donated by others.
Condley said the program is still in its early stages, with the exact need and demand not yet known.
“It’s a trial program right now,” Condley said. “Until we establish the need, and that it’s also successful. We’ve given several haircuts back there and it’s been more successful when we’ve been running it during a shopping session.
“We tried it on a couple of Saturdays, but we do third Saturday sessions, and at the time they were drive thru, so people were having to come in to get their hair cut when they were only planning on driving through. So we didn’t have a whole lot of guests take advantage of it the first couple of times. But these last few times we’ve been having it on Mondays during shopping, so when people check in we ask them if they would like a haircut that day.”
Wheeler, along with Jeanie Morse, another local stylist, have provided haircuts to patrons during the first three sessions, cutting hair for more than 10 people so far. Wheeler said people have been appreciative of the new service thus far.
“Most of them have been kind of surprised that they were offering it, pretty excited and just thankful that there’s people willing to volunteer their time and just help,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said she has had many hairstylists reach out who want to volunteer and that once the program is fully running and the networking has taken place, the program has a chance to take off. Having gone to Meridian Technology Center, Wheeler said she has always been involved in job shadowing and mentoring programs that take place at MTC. She said there is a possibility of providing MTC cosmetology students with opportunities to gain experience while also volunteering to cut hair at Our Daily Bread.
“All of the students out there need job shadowing hours, they need hands-on salon work hours to go towards their licensing,” Wheeler said. “We’ve definitely talked about how as the need grows, and to even maybe add more days to the schedule, and so some of the students could participate in that. Hopefully, if we did this back-to school event, we’re hoping we can have multiple stylists and multiple students coming out.”
She said she’s had a lot of hairstylists reach out to say they want to volunteer. She’s said once it’s gotten going and they get to networking, that it will take off. There have been discussions of having a back-to-school haircut event with times before school during a whole week of availability. There have also been discussions about potentially hosting a prom-based event, complete with haircare and clothing options. These are just examples of what has been imagined toward what the impact of the haircut program could become for Our Daily Bread.
One of the main priorities of Our Daily Bread has always been to make people feel as dignified as possible about being at a food bank or using other services that are offered. Condley said the haircut program is yet another way people can leave with a raise in self esteem with the other services they used.
“We’ve reached a little bit of skepticism from people who are like, ‘Food is a life or death thing, if you don’t have it, haircuts not so much.’ However, if we are in the business of guest dignity, for job interviews, you want a haircut, for back to school, you want a haircut,” Condley said. “So we’ve also talked about maybe expanding before school, having our salon open every day for a week so you can you kids a haircut, or something like that. There’s something about a haircut that can give you so much self esteem or self worth, that I don’t want those kinds of services to be reserved only for people at that instance to pay for one. It’s so cool that we have people who want to invest in that with their time.
“Our mission is feeding our community collaboratively, first and foremost, and providing connections that enable lasting change. And to me, that’s part of those connections. We want to provide things for people in our community that are sustainable. And also to not duplicate a service that somebody in the community is already doing. We knew there were some events in town, such as free haircuts or discounted. But as far as having a stable service that was free, where hair stylists could come here and volunteer their time and where also our guests could get a great experience, we didn’t know of something else like that that was happening consistently in Stillwater.”
The next scheduled haircut opportunity for haircuts will take place during the shopping session from 1-3 p.m. July 19.