Tucked away in the corner of the Mustard Seed between the clothing drive and the shelves full of books is a small brown door with a small label that says “Gail’s Locker.”
Sliding that door aside, it looks like a mini barber shop.
There are containers of equipment, a giant mirror, a hand-carved barber shop sign, flowers and a hairdresser chair.
This is the space that Gail Bones, a Brentwood Bay resident, calls home three days of the week.
For the past nine years, Bones has been volunteering her time providing free haircuts to people at the Mustard Seed.
“I try to listen to what people want because in a community where so much of people’s lives are out of their control, they feel powerless,” said Bones, who is also the chaplain. “Hair is a small thing, but it’s controllable. I really want people to believe that when they sit in that chair, they’re the most important person.”
Her career as an informal hairdresser began 16 years ago when Bones gave up her job as a fitness instructor after an injury.
She began dropping off clothes and runners to Open Door and Upper Roof (currently Our Place) and little by little, people kept asking her to stay and help out.
“I didn’t fall in love with the work, I feel in love with the people,” said Bones, adding she has had the opportunity to get to know hundreds of people, who have opened up and shared their life stories with her.
One day, she was serving lunch at Upper Roof when a person asked her to pray for him to get a rooming house appointment. He was afraid his appearance would cost him the apartment because he didn’t have money for a barber.
Bones, who had given haircuts to her children and husband, offered to cut his hair. A few days later, the man got the place and asked her to cut his friend’s hair.
Since then, Bones has done roughly 8,600 haircuts — generally 20 to 25 people a day.
“I’m doing this because of utter gratitude for all that Jesus Christ has restored and given me,” she said.
Fifty-eight-year-old Pattie Robertson has been coming to Bones for the past three years to get her hair cut.
“It makes me feel wonderful, like I’m a new person,” she said. “It’s nice to do something for yourself sometimes.”