Fourteen years ago, Erin Stott was a family member attending Victoria’s Our Place Society.
When Stott became a part-time employee of the organization about 10 years ago, she drew upon her own experiences to introduce Beauty Day to Our Place, which offers supports to some of the city’s most vulnerable citizens.
The annual event invites clients of Our Place into the onsite chapel, where a collection of community volunteers provide everything from hairdressing services to manicures, massages and makeovers.
The results have been everything Stott had hoped for.
“Some of the transformations are just incredible. You can see the difference it’s made on their faces – before and after,” she said.
“These are women who will not usually ever have access to this sort of pampering, and it can go a long way to affecting the way they think about themselves and about how they approach the world in general.”
In addition to the attention to hair, nails and make -up, the event features several racks of fashions available to participants in the event. They were invited to select one item, at no cost, and take it away to help them make life just a little bit easier. Similarly, a display table of fashion jewellery was available for browsing and participants were able to select items to accessorize the outfits they had chosen.
To top things off, through the generosity of local businesses, a selection of snacks ranging from fancy sandwiches to elaborate cupcakes were available and added to the overall spa feel of the event.
It’s only through the participation and generous support of the community that this event is made possible, Stott said. On top of that, the volunteers who provide the services tell her they love Beauty Day as much as the more than 50 women who attend on an annual basis.
“The big thing is that, here at Our Place, we get a lot of women who are struggling with day-to-day survival, poverty, abuse and more,” said Grant McKenzie, Our Place director of communications.
”We see everyone come in, from sex workers to senior citizens, and to have a day where we take the time to make them feel special is a very important thing. And even if the effects are only short term, it’s an amazing thing to see how it can help them hold their heads a wee bit higher and how it puts the light back in their eyes.”
The program has been so beneficial, Stott adds, that four years ago she introduced the masculine equivalent to the event: Handsome Day. That event happens in June around Father’s Day and is equally popular with Our Place clientele.
“We spend a lot of time concentrating on making certain that people have access to basics like food, shelter and medical care, and that’s certainly important,” McKenzie said. “But this is one day a year where we make a point of recognizing the importance of other aspects of life.
“It’s these little things that really do add up and can have an important impact on people’s lives.