Annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down

By Lisa Keuning 

The annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down was this weekend and I had the privilege of volunteering in the haircut tent for a few hours. This local version of a national event provides many services to those currently homeless and those close to being homeless, with an emphasis on support for Veterans. Jessica and I joined some of our friends and fellow Dream Catchers volunteers to man the haircut station Sunday morning. The line of chairs were quickly filled by the time we got our clippers plugged in and we went to work! A haircut may seem trivial in the grand scheme of things when you’re thinking of services for a homeless person, but that little haircut tent moved 214 people through the line in one weekend! The need is great, but the volunteers, resources, and helpful spirit is even greater. I am proud to have been a small help to such a wonderful, fulfilling cause!

I have my hands in people’s hair nearly every day. Think about that for a second; how intimate that can be. The people I connect with are always grateful for the haircut, but few are genuinely touched and truly thankful for such a simple thing as the people I encountered today. One homeless man, who everyone knew by name as he has returned year after year, literally slept while I was cutting his hair. The cut probably wasn’t great. I could barely reach the front of his hair on his bowed head. I wasn’t even sure he knew where he was or what was going on … but I kept going! When I finished and took off the cape, he stood up, looked me in the eye, and shook my hand before taking off to meet his friend. He didn’t know what his hair looked like. He didn’t care. He was grateful for me being there, doing my thing, and respecting his peaceful day.

I spent my morning not only cutting but listening to and sharing with homeless veterans, locals, and volunteers who were the most gracious and grateful people. They didn’t need me, but I needed them. I am thankful I had the opportunity to experience and participate in this year’s Stand Down. My heart is full and my cup runneth over.

Dream Catchers Foundation Inc. Awarded 501(c) of the Year

On Thursday, February 4th, 2016, Dream Catchers Foundation Inc. was awarded 501(c) of the Year by the Des Moines East & South Chamber. For this recognition, we are humbled and filled with gratitude. Looking back over the past year, we are astounded at how rapidly our message has spread throughout our community. This momentum is proof of the need for our services. Currently, we are the only non-profit in Central Iowa that provides salon services for men, women, and children that are chronically and/or terminally ill, as well as their caregivers. Since May of 2015, we have served over 70 Iowans.

Those who serve typically struggle to receive praise and recognition. We don’t serve because we’re looking for accolades; we serve because it’s who we are. We are dreaming the world beautiful with each hand that we hold. When a caregiver is at their wits end after spending night after night in the hospital with their loved one, we feel blessed to be there and say, “Let me take care of you for an hour!” Sometimes it’s just what they need to say, “I can do this! I can keep going!”

The reality though is that in order to expand and in order to spread our message, we need to be recognized. With that said, we would like to say, “Thank you to the Des Moines East & South Chamber for recognizing and awarding Dream Catchers, 501(c) of the Year. We are filled with pride in what we do and we are committed to evolving each day to better serve our fellow Iowans.”

Wesley Acres Event

This was my first event with Dream Catchers so I was not sure what to expect. I was excited and a touch nervous, but our day at Wesley Acres exceeded my expectations in more ways than I had anticipated. We were scheduled in the Community Room from 10am to 3pm to provide makeup applications and light hair styling for 35 of the women residents. On top of that, our plan was to do before and after shots of each woman.

Here is our day in a nutshell! I arrived at 9:30 and was directed to the Community Room where I met with the activities coordinator and she informed me that we would be spending the day with a variety of residents. Some had a form of dementia, some were battling cancer, some were stroke victims and some had experienced a physical injury from which they were recovering.

We set up our station, with two hair stylists, Lisa and Jessica, and two makeup artists, Tricia and Katie. They prepared all the tools of their trade and we positioned 3 chairs in front of them just as the first group of women was brought in. Julie, Dana and I went down the line and learned each woman’s name as we took their before pictures. The first three women were gently ushered to the stylist’s chairs as the other women looked on. It was then the fun began! One by one the stylists transformed the women’s hair and makeup and when each was finished we gave them a mirror to look at their mini transformations. The smiles were contagious as we heard the women ‘ooooh’ & ‘aaaah” and say things like, “Who is this?” or “Wow!” or “Thank you so much!” The day continued this way and we visited with each woman, gave them hand massages while they waited, but mostly just enjoyed each other’s company!

We had women in wheel chairs and women with walkers, also some women had a form of blindness, but the wonder of it was their overall positive outlook and excitement. Many of them stuck around after their hair and makeup was finished to visit and enjoy the other ladies’ transformations. It brought a special light to the room!

At one point a husband and wife were walking by on their way to lunch. For our purposes, we will call them Bob and Jane. The activities director invited Jane to come in and get her hair and makeup done. There was a slight protest that they were on their way to lunch, but with a gentle “twist of the arm” and a little coercion by her husband, Bob we enticed Jane into one of our chairs. There were not many of the residents in the room in this time, as many were having lunch, so the Dream Catchers group had a bit more time to visit. We learned that Bob and Jane had been married for 70 years and that Jane was 90 years old. The way they still flirted with each other and the twinkle in their eyes when they looked at each other was enough to write a love story! We also laughed at their candor with one another and their flirty banter back and forth. Once the stylists were finished and Jane checked herself in the mirror, Bob grabbed her hand and looked at her with a big, sincere smile on his face. “You don’t look a day over 80!” he remarked with a loving sarcasm in his voice. She beamed back at him and we all melted. It was beautiful!

The day continued with a resident who had already gotten her hair done, but was excited for her makeup as she was getting her picture taken for her church later in the day. Another was a sassy lady with an armful of fun bracelets and dangly earrings whom the staff called “Fashionista!” We brightened another’s day with our services and later learned that tomorrow she was attending her husband’s funeral, and that her mini make-over was helping her to get by. We gave her long, silver curls an extra spritz to keep it styled for the funeral! She left the room with a lovely smile and a spring in her step!

My favorite moment of the day, and don’t get me wrong, the entire day was incredible…but a moment that I would like to share was with resident that we will name Marjorie. Her husband accompanied her into the room and helped her into one of the stylist’s chairs. It was difficult for her to speak and move, however, I could tell that she was aware and comprehensive. The stylists worked her hair and made up her face as her husband watched with an anxiously peaceful expression. We placed the mirror in front of Marjorie as the stylists completed, and an overwhelming smile came across her face. A joyous smile! I looked over at her husband, as did some of the others in the room, and you could see his eyes welling up with happiness. He collected his beautiful wife and they exited the room, as we thanked them for spending time with us. Just then, Marjorie’s husband turned to me and said “Thank you!” with a quiet pride in his voice—pride for his wife. We later learned that Marjorie had suffered a stroke about a year prior. Up until then, she enjoyed the part of her morning routine of doing her own hair and makeup. We also learned that her smile—the joyous smile that we had witnessed earlier–was the first time she had truly smiled since her stroke.

It was a truly rewarding and inspiring day hanging out at Wesley Acres with the residents and staff, as well as my fellow Dream Catchers. When I joined this foundation, I was excited to have the opportunity to help others and to give back to my community. What I wasn’t expecting was to receive a gift as well—the knowledge that not much else matters unless we take care of each other however we can. Every person matters and deserves to feel loved, and also a little pampering goes a long way. I truly cannot wait for the next event!

Welcome to Dream Catchers

In some Native American cultures, a dreamcatcher is used to change a person’s dreams. Legend has it that only good dreams would be allowed to filter through. Bad dreams would stay in the web and disappear with the light of day.

Welcome to Dream Catchers Foundation. It is our intention to “Dream the world beautiful!” How does one “dream the world beautiful?” Well in our case, we are looking out for those who are suffering. We are advocates for men, women and children who may or may not be feeling so beautiful these days. We want to do what we can to filter out some of those negative emotions and invite in beauty.

Beauty. “It’s not what you look at, but what you see.” – Henry James Thoreau

We are currently gathering a network of licensed beauty professionals to provide complimentary beauty services to the chronically and/or terminally ill. When you’re fighting for your life, you deserve to feel beautiful…you’ve earned it! Your fight isn’t inexpensive, let us relieve you of at least one financial burden…you deserve it! There is this incredible light inside you that is meant to shine, so let us help you light the way…we can dream the world beautiful, together.