Fayette County Association for the Blind 'Dress to Impress' program builds confidence
By Mary Pickels
Published: Sunday, April 28, 2013, 11:41 p.m.
The cosmetology clinic at Uniontown's Laurel Business Institute was a relaxing oasis for several Fayette County Association for the Blind clients last week as they enjoyed complimentary haircuts.
Several days earlier, a shopping spree at Burlington Coat Factory led to bargain purchases, including clothes and jewelry.
Rita Jones, 58, of Uniontown is temporarily using a wheelchair after undergoing surgery.
“Psychologically, this is such a boost for me and my self-esteem. Wait until we have our luncheon and I wear my new outfit. I will look like a million bucks,” she said.
The luncheon will conclude a four-week program called “Dress to Impress.”
“When you look good, you exude confidence,” said program creator Becky Kamp, 46, of Hopwood.
A member of the Uniontown Lions Club, Kamp is blind. She also is job hunting.
Kamp saw a correlation between presentation and perception, and she came up with a plan to share her insights.
Lions Club donations and fundraising allowed Kamp to provide about a dozen participants with $50 gift cards for their shopping trips.
“These haircuts and services we are providing are on the house. Our students' customer service skills are outstanding, and they were excited to work with the clients,” said Sherri Rimel, cosmetology program director at Laurel Business Institute.
As student stylist Jared Oliver gave Lynda Hoon, 60, of Hopwood a trim, she said she had enjoyed the opportunity to “get out of my house.”
“It's a very kind thing that she (Kamp) did,” Hoon said.
Laura Cordery, 55, of Uniontown swung her newly cut hair.
“As you can see, it's a lot more manageable,” she said.
Cordery said combing the sales racks at Burlington allowed her to purchase several outfits, blouses and a belt.
Her apartment at Marshal Manor in Uniontown was damaged by a fire in March.
“Not all of my clothing made it out,” she said.
Hoping to continue her ITT Tech online studies when she can move back into her apartment, Cordery said the “Dress to Impress” program made her feel “special.”
To debut her program, Kamp worked with Robert Rafail, past district governor and past president of the Lions Club, and with Sandra Morris, executive director of the Fayette County Association for the Blind.
Simple grooming and dressing tasks can be challenging for the blind, Kamp said. They can't see themselves in the mirror, page through a magazine for ideas, or easily determine which styles or colors flatter them.
“A lot of blind people are unemployed and do not necessarily have the need to get up and dress as if going out. I felt the need to give back after joining the Lions Club, and to use my time while unemployed wisely,” she said.
“Becky came to me with the idea. The more she talked about it, the more she developed it. It became a skills training program. With Becky's positive attitude, I knew she could help out with other clients lacking self-esteem,” said Rafail, president of the blind association board.
Representatives of the Bureau of Blind and Visual Services in Pittsburgh spoke with the group about job searches, living skills and adaptive technical equipment.
“One of the main things (Kamp) wanted to get across was that even if you are just going to the grocery store, even if you can't see it, knowing you made an effort makes a difference in how you feel and how you are perceived,” Morris said.
Some participants had been unaware that the Americans with Disabilities Act allows a visually impaired or blind person to request assistance from the business staff, Morris said.
“This was great news,” she said.
Morris said she hopes to offer the pilot program on a regular basis.
“It would be good for different age ranges, and for men and women. Becky has done a phenomenal job,” she said.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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