Local woman giving free, back-to-school makeovers to homeless girls

TAMPA, Fla. - Vanessa Howard was a homeless, single mother of three and suicidal. 

Howard says her life was forever changed the day she said one prayer. She prayed God would get her out of her situation. The very next day, with just $1.75 in her pocket, she got on the bus with her three daughters. It was that day she met a man who gave her a chance and an affordable place to stay.

Howard then promised herself she would help others, from that day forward, one makeover at a time.

“They come in broken,” Howard said. “Not knowing what to expect.”

She’s referring to the women who come into her Carrollwood hair salon, Giving Hands Hair Salon, for free makeovers. Some of the homeless are struggling and some are even domestic violence victims.  All of them in need of something that will change their lives.

“Once a month, me and my five daughters and dedicated volunteers do a full makeover. We spend anywhere from six to eight hours,” said Howard.

She does it all for free. Her payment...stories like this:

“A woman came to me one time. She walked through the door and sat in my chair to get her eyebrows done.  She grabbed my hand and started crying before I could even start the service,” said Howard. “She said to me, ‘no one has ever called me beautiful before. I’m 62 and no one has ever said that to me. Thank you.’”

She’s been doing makeovers for women in need for four years now, some of them in conjunction with Metropolitan Ministries. Metropolitan Ministries says most of the women she gives these makeovers to, usually get jobs. Howard said a lot of that is because of the self-confidence boost they get from a makeover.

Since kids are going back to school in August, this month’s makeover theme is “Back to School Princess Party” for young girls who are homeless.

“We do their hair and their nails. We buy uniforms for them to go back to school. Socks, shoes, underwear even school supplies. We make sure that when they go back to school, they are confident and ready,” said Howard.

“Giving is contagious and that’s why I encourage people to give,” said Howard. “Whether you’re a business owner, no matter what you do. Always look to be a blessing and to help someone.”

For more information on Vanessa Howard’s Giving Hands Foundation and the work they do in the community, visit Facebook.com/GivingHandsFoundation.

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