Nonprofit provides makeovers for at-risk clients trying to transform lives

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter


photoSecond Step Housing client Jordan Munday, 30, gushes over his new look provided by stylist Crystal Morgan at Salon Magnolia in Camas. Munday, who got his two children back after a stint in prison with help from the nonprofit, now works as a freight broker and has been teased by colleagues for his baggy clothes and overgrown buzz cuts.

(/The Columbian)

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Second Step Housing

Second Step Housing provides affordable housing to at-risk women and families in Clark County, in concert with classes and services that help teach clients skills to help build self-sufficiency. Classes range from personal finance to parenting strategies.

If you go

What: Second Step Housing’s Step Into Fashion fundraiser.

When: 6 p.m. Oct. 5.

Where: Hilton Vancouver, Discovery Ballroom, 301 W. 6th St.

Tickets: $75 to $100 at Step Into Fashion

Info: Second Step Housing

Personal style was the last thing on Vancouver resident Charlene Burrell's mind when she was overpowered by her drug addiction.

In summer 2010, Burrell, 39, decided to change her life. She went to count rocks with her 2-year-old son by the Columbia River one day. She had been using drugs and drinking.

"I thought I heard a splash; I looked up, and my son was not there," she said, choking up. "I thought he was in the water, but I couldn't see a water ripple. I went into the water. It was dirty. I couldn't see him. I can't tell you how I felt. I thought I would be pulling my child's dead body out of the river. I was hoarse from doing drugs, and there was almost no sound when I tried to call for help. Then, I heard him laughing. He was hiding behind a log."

The scare prompted her to ask for help. She went through inpatient drug treatment and was referred to Vancouver nonprofit Second Step Housing in January 2011 for transitional housing. The nonprofit, however, doesn't stop with housing; it also provides classes and counseling to help empower at-risk women and families to become self-sufficient.

Since then, those tools have helped Burrell land a job at the Vancouver Housing Authority, learn how to manage her finances and become a better parent. Now, she wants to advance her career. Sporting a more professional look is part of that process, a way to boost her confidence and presentation to potential employers, she said.

"I've worked hard to change myself," she said. "I need to give myself a boost in self-confidence with a more professional look."

Second Step Housing helped give her that confidence boost Wednesday and Thursday with a makeover donated by Salon Magnolia and Lily Atelier in Camas, Agave Denim in Ridgefield and Couture Bride.

"This makeover does fit in with our mission because we help people transform" said Debby Dover, the nonprofit's executive director. "You take the first step; we'll take the second one."

Burrell is one of three of the nonprofit's clients who won the

makeover this year. The makeover event is now in its second year. Burrell and Vancouver residents Jennifer Pierce, 31, and Jordan Munday, 30, were chosen out of 15 clients who applied for the makeover.

The makeover is intended to fuel clients' confidence and give them tips on hair, fashion and makeup they can continue to use.

Pierce, now a lead in Costco's warehouse demo services, used to be homeless. Second Step Housing helped give her the tools to give up drugs, regain custody of her two sons and launch her career.

"I honestly believe I wouldn't be where I am now if it hadn't been for Second Step Housing," Pierce said.

And Pierce said she's aiming higher: a promotion to assistant supervisor.

"I thought this (makeover) would be an awesome opportunity to make myself more professional and get skills on how to do my hair in a better way," Pierce said.

Munday also regained custody of a son and daughter after a stint in jail for automobile theft. He learned how to manage his money at Second Step Housing and now is a freight broker at Gulick Logistics. He said his colleagues tease him for wearing baggy clothes and allowing his buzz cuts to grow out like an Afro.

"They're hinting it's time to start growing up," Munday said. "I thought this would be cool to have an idea what I might be able to look like. Maybe I can be higher up on the ladder where I work."

Munday is the first man to win a makeover from Second Step Housing.

Hair, makeup and clothes may seem trivial, but they're important for self-esteem and confidence, key ingredients in improving one's life, Dover said.

"When my bangs get too long and I get a haircut, I feel like a different person," Dover said. "You need that spring in your step, that good feeling."

Confidence and style also can provide an edge in gaining employment, Dover said.

Makeover winners visited Salon Magnolia for their hair makeover Wednesday. On Thursday, they were fitted for clothes at Lily Atelier and Agave Denim.

Salon Magnolia stylist Sara Biaggi tamed Pierce's hair.

"I have big hair," Pierce said. "Hopefully, it'll look a little more professional and not so choppy."

Biaggi cut some weight out of Pierce's hair and framed her face with layers, colored her hair a chocolate brown and added partial highlights with red tones. Then, she used a flat iron to show Pierce one styling option.

A new hairstyle is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to update a look and gain confidence, according to Angie Cox, a fashion consultant and author of Seattle blog

The makeover recipients will unveil their new looks in a fashion show at Second Step Housing's major annual fundraiser, Step Into Fashion, on Oct. 5. They'll also share with the audience how the nonprofit helped them change their lives for the better. Other community members, including Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, will join them on the runway.

The event also includes dinner, a silent auction and entertainment by Portland's Sports + Lifestyle Unlimited.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551.