Beauty boost: N. Ky. woman gives her Sunday, hair-styling skills to at-risk teen girls in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI - A Northern Kentucky woman offered an early gift this holiday season: free hair cuts and styles to girls who could really use some TLC.

Monica Dunhoft Nelson is a hair stylist at The Fringe Hair Salon in Florence. Since earning her license nine years ago, she has wanted to use her trade to help those in need. Her hope became reality Dec. 15, when she gave free hair cuts and styles to 12 adolescent girls at Talbert House, a residential care program in Cincinnati.

Hair care is something many people take for granted, Dunhoft Nelson said. Not everyone has the financial resources to pay for salon services. A basic haircut is $28 for teen girls and $31 for women. 

“It’s a luxury. You don’t have to have it,” 

Dunhoft Nelson said her daughters inspired her to give back to the community, encouraging her to offer her services to those in need.

Reaching out through Facebook

Although Dunhoft Nelson knew how she wanted to give back, she was unsure where to start. After seeing a post about giving back to the community on the WCPO - 9 On Your Side Facebook page, one of her clients suggested contacting WCPO.

Dunhoft Nelson took her client’s advice and sent a Facebook message, requesting help finding with an organization through which she could offer her services.

WCPO representatives connected her with Talbert House community relations Director Teri Nau, who served on the news station’s community advisory board for two years.

Talbert House is a nonprofit organization serving men, women and children through housing, community care, court and corrections and behavioral health services. The organization’s services include home, school, outpatient and residential care.

After speaking with Dunhoft Nelson, Nau arranged for her to bring her skills to the 12 to 17-year-old girls in Talbert House’s Passages program, which is designed to help young women overcome mental health and substance abuse issues.

The gift of confidence

One of Dunhoft Nelson’s primary goals was for the girls in Passages to learn how to take care of their hair.

“Appearance reflects, for all of us, how we care for ourselves. For people with substance abuse and mental health problems, physical health and appearance are not the first priority,” Nau said. “It means a lot to them that someone is willing to give their time and make them feel special.”

In addition to boosting confidence and teaching the girls proper hygiene and hair care, Dunhoft Nelson said she wanted the girls to feel pampered.

"It's not about me. It's about giving to people who can't afford it. This is their day, not mine," she said. “I’m just hoping this could be something for them to enjoy and relax, and not worry about anything.

Dunhoft Nelson’s hair styling services not only allowed her to help others but served as a lesson in giving back for the girls in Passages, Nau said.

"She talked to me like I was her child"

For Breonda, 15, Dunhoft Nelson's visit to Talbert was especially appropriate. She helped design a hair salon called Transformations at Talbert House. The salon offers a place for the girls to style each other’s hair and paint their nails.

“It helps with anger. It is something we can do to keep calm. It feels like I’m doing something positive,” Breonda said.

Breonda said having her hair cut and styled made her “feel like a star.” Dunhoft Nelson showed interest and excitement as she trimmed and styled the teen's hair.

“She talked to me like I was her child,” Breonda added.

Breonda, who lives with her grandmother, said she and her mother do not get along. Because of this, she never had the bonding experience of her mother fixing her hair or taking her to a salon.

“I never really had a chance to go to a hair dresser,” she said.

Breonda has been in the Talbert House Passages passages program since Oct. 25 because of problems at home that led her to run away. Although she was very angry when she began the program, she now serves in a leadership role as a Peer Posse member. Peer Posses are girls who set examples through good behavior, respect and helping other girls in Passages.

“I really like it here because they’ve really helped me so far,” she said.

Breonda added that she's learned to let her feelings out, and she prays every night for things to get better with her situation.

“I’m trying to get my act together now while I can,” she said.

As her Jan. 25 discharge date draws closer, she is preparing herself by making goals and focusing on her taking care of her one-year-old son.

“Even though my mother gave up on me, why should I give up on him?” she said.

While her immediate goals include finishing high school, Hurt, a sophomore, eventually hopes to be a lawyer. Her back-up plan is to become a hair stylist. She would like to learn to go to school for hair styling, then continue her education with business school in hopes of owning a salon.

For her part, Dunhoft Nelson said she would like to continue her partnership with Talbert House. She hopes to offer free services once every six months.

More about Talbert


Other Talbert House programs include:

  • The Fatherhood Project, which helps men to be more connected, involved dads
  • ADAPT (Alcohol and Drug Addiction Partnership Treatment), which operates through the Hamilton County Drug Court.
  • Community Link offers assessment, treatment, and reintegration for adult male ex-offenders in a residential setting
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