In-Kind Donations from Rockford Hairdresser Foster Sense of Belonging

A chance meeting with a former client gave Kayla Speaker, owner of Beautiful Ambitions Salon, the opportunity to make a meaningful difference for dozens of people in need.

At a Discover the Possibilities event at Mosaic in Rockford, Illinois, Speaker learned about some of the financial and other barriers the people Mosaic supports face.

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities receive limited income each month to provide for their basic needs. Most of this income is used to cover their healthcare and living expenses, leaving very little for basic needs like haircuts, toiletries, clothing and more. In Illinois, for example, people are guaranteed $60 per month to cover these types of expenses.

Most states have similar restrictions for what’s called a “personal needs allowance.”

When Speaker heard this, she was shocked.

“That’s nothing,” she said. “I knew I needed to give everyone Mosaic supports in the area haircuts free-of-charge.”

Today, Beautiful Ambitions Salon provides about 30 haircuts to the people Mosaic supports every six weeks. Speaker’s generosity saves each person about $200 annually. It may not seem like a lot, but it makes a huge difference.

“If I can make people feel better, then I’m helping them in a different way,” Speaker said. “I would love to be able to donate monetarily, but this is the only way I can make an impact.”

While the financial relief is great, the relationship goes deeper, said Tammy English, community relations manager with Mosaic.

“The people we support look forward to coming back here so much,” she added.

Previously, it had been difficult to find salons that felt truly welcoming. Because many people aren’t used to seeing people with disabilities out in public, stylists were often unsure of how to interact with the people Mosaic supports.

“For many of our people, it’s the first time that a hair stylist knew their name or they booked an appointment to get their hair done. This is a real experience for them,” said Linda Wennmacher, executive director of Mosaic in Rockford.

“Our whole goal is to give them a life that everyone else has. Kayla is a big piece of that.”

In other situations, she said, stylists even seemed annoyed or rushed through haircuts.

“That’s just wrong,” Speaker said. “They’re human just like all of us.”

In contrast, Speaker works hard to create a welcoming environment. She brings in a volunteer to read with people, makes sure everyone’s favorite show is on Netflix and takes the time to get to know each of her new customers.

“They feel like they belong here,” she said. “I’m helping them feel like they’re pampered.”

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