For more than eight years, Ohef Sholom Temple has opened its doors on the last Monday of every month for its Soup Kitchen, regularly serving approximately 75 guests. Dorianne Villani and her cadre of congregant and community volunteers prepare and serve a hot, nutritious lunch. In addition, her committee and fellow congregants collect, donate, and distribute such necessities to their guests as clothing, blankets, shoes, new underwear, toiletries, and much more. They also provide brown bag meals to each guest as they leave the Soup Kitchen.
A hot meal, shelter from the elements, and care packages, however, are not the only options on Ohef Sholom’s monthly Soup Kitchen menu. In July 2016, a new feature was added. That’s when Josh Lewis, a hairstylist at Gary Allen Salon in Virginia Beach, began offering free haircuts for those entering for some nourishment.
“Josh is my hair stylist, and I’d sit in his chair and we would talk about the Soup Kitchen. I would share with him what we’re doing and what the needs are of our guests,” says Villani. “Josh and I concocted the idea of him coming to our Soup Kitchen to offer free haircuts, not knowing how it would be received by the guests. That’s how it began.”
Now, says Villani, there’s a line every month for guests who appreciate the opportunity to get a free haircut, which is a luxury for many. Josh provides haircuts for a minimum of 15 guests each month, and never turns anyone away. He maintains the high standards that he has set for himself for each and every guest.
Gary Allen donated a stylist chair and Lewis brings the scissors, combs, and all of the supplies that he needs.
“Josh always brings personal items to donate to our clothes pantry, too. He told me that giving back to his community was a reflection of how he was raised in his very large family of nine siblings. He feels that God has led him to reach out to those in need in this way. He has such a giving and humble spirit,” says Villani.
And, it was that same giving spirit that prompted Villani, along with a couple of other Ohef Sholom congregants, to show up at Gary Allen Salon one afternoon earlier this month to surprise Lewis with a certificate of appreciation and a cake to celebrate and honor his efforts. Gary Riffe, the salon’s owner, was in on the surprise, telling the staff there was going to be an announcement at 2 pm. No one knew what it would be.
“Josh has given up his Mondays once a month to make a difference for so many people,” Villani told the salon, sharing specific stories such as one about a man whose head was covered with sores because he had been using Nair to make his hair fall out, so he wouldn’t need a haircut, which he couldn’t afford. Josh put an end to that. No more Nair for that gentleman – instead, a handsome cut that has given him back his dignity and feeling of pride.
“This is a meaningful, new way that our Soup Kitchen can serve our community and reach out to our needy neighbors, many of whom sleep right outside our doors. And Josh makes it all possible, month after month,” says Dorianne.
“We are so proud of Josh. We had no idea he was volunteering his expertise on his day off and were thrilled to participate in honoring and recognizing him in front of his peers and clients,” says Riffe.
For more information or to get involved with the Soup Kitchen at Ohef Sholom Temple, email Dorianne Villani, firstname.lastname@example.org.