Every Monday, the sound of laughter and scent of shampoo drifts out of the beauty salon at Parke View Rehabilitation and Care Center in Burley in southeastern Idaho.
The center’s residents laugh along with cosmetologist Sandy Garrard, her sister Bonnie Jones, and Garrard’s three daughters, Brenda Olsen, Natalie Smyer, and Becky Webb. They are carrying on a half-century family tradition of giving free haircuts, shampoos, and perms to 25 to 35 residents.
“We remind clients that it only costs a smile, and they’ve already paid,” said Garrard, who lives south of Burley.
Garrard’s mom and Phyllis Beck, along with Helen Greenwell and other hairdressers, started the labor of love in 1965.
“They worked in a janitor’s closet with a sink and two hair dryers,” Garrard said. “It was the hospital then, and they did hair for residents who lived in the care center wing.”
When a new hospital opened in 1995, the building was converted into Parke View, and the volunteers continued coiffuring hair.
They nicknamed their philanthropic project “Take a Chance Beauty Salon.” While Garrard and Olsen are professional cosmetologists, the others volunteer with shampooing, trimming, and drying hair.
“For us, coming here is a way of life,” Smyer said. “It brings as much joy to us as it does to the residents, and it’s a chance for us to be together as a family.”
Webb said their friends know to never call on Monday mornings “because they know we’re here and won’t answer the phone. When we tell people we do hair at Parke View, they don’t understand what it really means. Residents here become our friends. We feel sad when they pass away and cheer them on when they’re able to go home.”
Residents get more than a free haircut.
“We make them feel good about themselves,” said Smyer, while braiding Donna Drage’s hair. “People always feel better after they get their hair done. Sometimes they need something more—a hug or pat on the back—and we’re happy to give that, too.”
While Smyer braids one side of Drage’s hair, Webb does the other. They know how she likes it—two tight braids doused with a lot of hair spray.
“They’re amazing, aren’t they?” Drage said. “I feel good after they’re done with me. It’s good for my health, isn’t it?”
Sometimes they care for their former high school classmates, teachers, and employers.
“I felt honored to do my high school English teacher’s hair,” said Webb, 56. “We’re serving those who once served and cared for us. Sometimes we bring our family to meet our second family here.”
Webb’s daughter did a high school project at Parke View.
“She interviewed residents about how positivity affected their lives and wrote about it,” Webb said.
When Smyer’s son Jaxon was a child, he befriended a resident named Ruby.
“When she was under the hair dryer, he would turn pages of a magazine for her,” Smyer said. “Then he’d push her back to her room.”
When he got a puppy, he insisted on naming it Ruby.
“One night he woke up at 2 a.m. crying,” Smyer said. “He told me Ruby had died. I thought he was talking about his dog, so I showed him she was alive. He told me he was talking about his friend at Parke View. The next morning we found out she had passed away about the time he was crying. Somehow he knew.”
Like Jaxon, Smyer came to help when she was a child.
“After kindergarten, the bus driver dropped me off here,” said Smyer, 48. “After their hair was done, I’d push them back to their rooms.”
Sometimes the bond they have with residents extends beyond the salon.
“Family members have asked us to fix their loved one’s hair for their funeral,” Olsen said. “The other day one of my regulars asked me to make sure her hair was permed for her funeral. She smiled and told me, ‘Don’t forget.’ ” ISI