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Shaina Ramsey styles a client's hair for a maternity photo shoot at Copycat Salon. / Staff Photo by Troy Stolt

On any given weekend, Shaina Ramsey might be putting makeup on a bride and making sure her hair is just-so.

Ramsey might be at a photoshoot, making sure the hair and makeup of those in the picture are looking good.

She might be working at her business, Copycat Salon, which she opened in August.

Or, she might be having fun with her two sons, 8-year-old Luke and 2-year-old Ezra, her "kiddos," as she says.

While that may sound like enough to fill a calendar, Ramsey does find some spare time — and, perhaps unsurprisingly, something to fill it with.

The 30-year-old created and manages Cuts for Change, a nonprofit that gives free haircuts and styling to men and women who would never be able to afford them so they don't even think of getting them. In addition, hygiene products are offered to women free of charge, and local health experts give advice on medical issues.

"We spend one-on-one time with our clients while pampering them," says Ramsey, who graduated from Red Bank High School. "We give them a new look and a fresh start. Our simple act of a haircut and access to hygiene products brings back dignity.

"I love giving back, because I've faced hardships and I know the toll it can take on your self-worth," Ramsey adds, listing a litany of tough times: grabbing her kids, including a 6-week-old Ezra, and leaving a "tumultuous" relationship; a van that couldn't pass emissions testing; a bankruptcy; starting a business from scratch.

Cuts for Change began in 2017 but wasn't certified as a nonprofit until last year. Before the coronavirus ground things to a halt, the organization hosted an annual event in Miller Park, attracting hairstylists from around Chattanooga to give free haircuts. In 2019, 22 showed up, Ramsey says.

"Coronavirus has completely shut us down," but the plan is to restart it in the spring, she adds.

Her inspiration for Cuts for Change was Mark Bustos, a hairstylist in New York whose haircuts can cost as much as $1,000 but each Sunday gives free haircuts to the homeless.

When it is in operation, Cuts for Change holds what Ramsey calls "monthly pop-ups," smaller versions of the annual Miller Park event. Anywhere from five to 10 volunteers show up each month. Among the places the pop-ups have been held are the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, which feeds and clothes the homeless, and Patten Towers public housing.

While Cuts for Change is on a hiatus, the free time has opened an effort to build a mobile salon, says Ramsey.

"We're hoping to finish raising funds for our mobile salon so we can come back even stronger [in 2021]," she says.

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