‘Pink Ladies’ keep Evangeline of Ormond residents spruced up

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 20, 1999

DEBORAH CORRAO / L’Observateur / April 20, 1999

They’re called the “Pink Ladies” – this light-hearted brigade of beauticians who invade Evangeline of Ormond Nursing Home every Thursday morning.

Armed with blow dryers and brushes and garbed in uniforms of bright pink jackets and white pants, these Retired and Senior Volunteer Program volunteers not only style hair but brighten the spirits of up to 55 elderly residents of the nursing home once a week.

Every Thursday the tiny room set aside as a salon where the 13 volunteers weave their magic becomes a beehive of activity presided over by the queen bee, Maggie St. Pierre, 74.Ten years ago St. Pierre’s 29-year-old son was killed in an accident,sending her into depression. Then she got a call from the RSVP asking if o she would volunteer to cut hair at the nursing home. Saying “yes” changedSt. Pierre’s life.”Anyone who is depressed should volunteer,” she says. “You can’t getbored here.”In fact, there’s no time to be bored.

At about 7:30 George Dugas, the only male volunteer – he volunteers along with his wife, Yolande – begins to wheel residents from their rooms pinning each of them with a card indicating whether they will need a cut, set, blow dry or style. Dugas then takes them to a separate room whereActivities Director Norma Nicholas washes their hair.

From then on it’s a veritable assembly line as wheelchairs line up outside the salon, each resident anxiously awaiting her special time for a little pampering by the “Pink Ladies.”And, while there’s much work to be done, things never get hectic enough that the volunteers won’t take a little time to give the residents a heartfelt greeting, a gentle hug, a smile.

“Once in a while I don’t have enough volunteers available to handle their needs,” says St. Pierre. “We have to cancel and they get so disappointed.”But they get no complaints about their work even though most of them have no experience outside of styling their daughters’ hair.

Only one of the “Pink Ladies,” Pat Roth, is a licensed cosmetologist. Roth,who serves as instructor for the group, admits she was a little hesitant about volunteering at first.

“My neighbor got me involved after my husband died,” she says. “I didn’twant to at first, but it’s been a lot of fun.”Fun is second nature to this group of volunteers. Occasionally, if theirschedules permit, they get together for lunch after a three-hour hairstyling session.

Most of the time, though, they bring their own unique brand of fun to share with the elderly residents of Evangeline of Ormond. Sometimes they sing. Sometimes they dance.

Once someone brought a 90-minute tape of the macarena and taught the dance to wheelchair residents as they cut and dried.

The group has grown through the years as friends recruit other friends.

Most of them have other interests in common as well. Some are membersof the New Sarpy Homemakers Club; others came from the ranks of the Highland Park Homemakers Club in Norco, which recently disbanded.

Audrey Brady, 68, of Norco, has been volunteering seven years. When shefirst began volunteering she wasn’t old enough to be an RSVP volunteer.

Since that time the age requirement has been lowered to 55.

“You don’t need special skills to do this,” Brady says, “just a willing heart.”The volunteers not only give from their hearts but from their pocketbooks as well. The ladies buy their own curling irons, brushes and blow dryers,which are kept in cabinets near their work stations. In addition, they havereceived some donations to buy chairs.

There are occupational hazards to be sure.

Elsie Montz, a 72-year-old volunteer from Norco, says sometimes her feet are run over by a wheelchair but it’s all in a day’s work.

And St. Pierre confesses her volunteerism once took an emotional toll.”I got too close when I first started,” she says. “I took it hard if someonepassed away.”But the smiles on the faces of their elderly “clients” are the rewards that keep her going week after week.

“It makes you feel good to know you’re doing something for someone else,” says St. Pierre. “If it wouldn’t be for this, I’d be bored. I’d be depressed.”For her efforts, St. Pierre, a longtime member of the New SarpyHomemakers Club, has been chosen a finalist for the J.C. Penney GoldenRule Award in the category for adult volunteers. She was nominated byEthel Tramonte, president of the club.

St. Pierre will be attending a banquet April 27 at the Sheraton in NewOrleans where the winner will be announced.Back to Top

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