DULUTH, Ga. - A few weeks after the coronavirus pandemic forced Georgia hair salons and other businesses to close in mid-March, Shanika George received a call from a client desperate to get her hair styled.
"It was her fifth wedding anniversary. She needed to get her hair done told me she didn't have any shampoo or conditioner and didn't know what to do, so I made a bag with everything she needed," said George, who owns Press Express in Duluth.
After George pulled together a bag of shampoo, conditioner, hot oil treatment and other supplies she wasn't using, she realized other customers were probably in the same bind--not to mention women who work in healthcare on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight--women like Nicole Wimes.
"This is tough, this is very, very tough for me. I'm used to getting my hair done every two weeks and I love it. Getting my hair done is like wearing a cape. I just love it," said Wimes, who works as a Licensed Practical Nurse for nursing homes and private homes.
I have to go to work and I want to look nice for my patients. Me looking good and feeling good is a big deal for me, but I don't want to expose my patients, so I don't go to the salon right now. I'm just doing it myself," said Wimes, who is a mother of three.
Fortunately, her stylist, Shanika, doesn't mind helping by phone until she reopens the salon on May 20.
"I love my job and even though I can't do their hair, I love being able to show women how to do it in a healthy way," said George, who moved from rural Louisiana to open her Gwinnett County salon.
George started assembling lots of hair care packages at home and at her in Duluth. She gives them to clients and healthcare workers at no cost. To make ends meet, she's also making wigs to sell to clients who aren't having as much luck with their in-home hair styling challenges. She's given away more than sixty hair care packages already but wants to give away more to health care workers in need of a little pampering. Clients arrive at the shop to pick up the packages from a safe distance. She also delivers the packages to health clinics in Gwinnett County.
"With the salon being closed, I just figured I had to do whatever I could do," George told FOX 5's Portia Bruner.
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George said she will continue to give away the packages even after she reopens the salon. She said only a limited number of clients will be allowed inside at any given time and only a couple of stylists can see clients at the same time.
"We're going to do what we have to do to stay healthy. Masks on stylists. Masks on customers and everyone has to get their temperature checked with a touchless thermometer before they enter the salon," she said Tuesday from her shop on Breckenridge Boulevard.