For many women struggling through rehab programs, finding a reliable place to stay, a job or even someone to treat them with respect comes first. On Saturday, they were able to set aside those concerns for a few hours during a full makeover session at Turning Points.
The semi-annual Pampering and Empowering event provided 11 women with a fresh coat of makeup, nails, clothes and more. Laura Licoski, who started the service three years ago, said providing for them is the least she can do to make them feel better about their social standing.
“Now that they’ve boosted their confidence, they don’t want to let themselves down, but they don’t want to let you down either,” said Licoski, who also helps Bradenton’s homeless with long-term solutions like jobs and identification cards. “The whole point of this thing is to get them to realize that they’re beautiful, they’re strong, they’re worthy and they can do this.”
The strict rules associated with rehabilitation programs can be difficult to get used to, Licoski said, but she hopes the makeover serves as a spark to keep them going.
“They’re all beautiful, they just don’t see it anymore,” said Licoski, who represents Facing Homelessness Bradenton and Home Is Where the Heart Is. “They get beaten down from the struggles they deal with every day, but when that happens, I’ll be right here to pick them back up.”
It all began when, in her journey to help homeless people find stability, Licoski welcomed Samantha Bradham into her home. She offered Bradham, 30, a change of clothes and a shower, and she hardly recognized the woman standing in front of her.
“I was like ‘... this is a different woman,’” Licoski said. “Now, I want to know how I can get all these people off the street. They’re my lost friends that I just haven’t found yet.”
For the first time since she met Licoski, Bradham was among the women receiving a full makeover Saturday, along with Thomas, her 2-year-old son.
“I feel confident now, but it’s the whole experience coming together,” Bradham said. “I’ve been on both sides of this, but this is my first time actually being pampered, so it’s an awesome experience to help provide that feeling to someone else.”
Thanks to donations from more than 100 people, including a few local businesses, Licoski was able to provide a “shopping experience” for the participants to accessorize themselves any way they wanted.
This time, the pampering and empowering event focused on providing for women going through the Bradenton-based Beauty for Ashes women’s recovery program directed by Debbi Hanna.
“Laura has been beautiful offering this. She put together and honored these women so well,” Hanna said. “Laura’s heart has been incredible to me and all of these ladies.”
Each woman was able to choose their own clothes from a rack before moving along to makeup, nail and jewelry stations. A pair of hairdressers set up shop for a fresh look. When they were all done, they also took professional photos to remember the day.
“It’s especially nice getting my hair done,” said 47-year-old DeAdra Sunset, who attended with her 3-year-old son Dacian. “It’s been three and a half years since I’ve been able to do that. The thing about having a toddler is that he comes first, and I never really get anything nice like this for myself.”
“Every woman deserves it, especially with the past that we have,” said 30-year-old Taryn Shawnee.
It was a huge operation, but Licoski didn’t have to spend a penny to put it all together.
“Everything you see here was donated,” she explained. “We need to expand compassion in our community and see who else can make themselves part of the solution. No matter how small the contribution, there’s a way you can help.”
The effect is already rippling throughout Bradenton. Bob Slicker of Swordfish Grill was so touched by the program that he agreed to cater for the last two events. Licoski also praised Turning Points for allowing her to set up base at the Bill Galvano One Stop Clinic.
Jeni Scheid and her 12-year-old daughter Madi, who invented a portable homeless shelter, began lending a helping hand to Licoski last year. She said the results of their charity have been undeniable.
“They’re always so moved by how people treat them kindly and now they’re motivated to do better things,” Scheid said.
The pampering is set to continue with haircuts and coloring Sunday morning at a salon in Ellenton. For more information, visit Facing Homelessness Bradenton on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FHBradentonFL.