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Jun 04, 2014 | Luke Blount

Girl Scout’s Homeless Spa Idea Leads to Renewed Hope

[Diolog Magazine] Last year, 10-year-old Caroline Paden wrote a letter to Dean Barkley Thompson suggesting the addition of a spa to The Beacon, Christ Church Cathedral’s homeless day center in Downtown Houston. 


“It might sound silly,” she wrote. “But think about it. With a little extra funding, you could make, say, an unused room into a relaxsanctuary (good one, huh?). People on the streets need a little relaxation.” 


Impressed by the idea, Thompson passed the note to Charly Weldon, executive director of The Beacon, and plans began to take shape. With Weldon’s blessing, Caroline and her mother, Jennifer, enlisted The Upper Hand Salon and Red’s Barbershop to offer free manicures, makeup and haircuts.


Jennifer suggested that Caroline use the project as an opportunity to earn her Girl Scout Bronze Award, the highest honor that a Girl Scout Junior can receive. “Caroline never thought about any reward or award for something like this,” Jennifer said. “That was my idea.”


In anticipation of the event, the Girl Scouts created pink and purple paintings to decorate the gray room designated for the event, creating a more relaxing environment. 


As the homeless women entered, the Girl Scouts greeted them with Girl Scout cookies, breakfast and magazines, and many of the women marveled at the service they were receiving. Later, the Girls Scouts served a spa lunch, complete with sparkling grape juice in plastic cocktail glasses. 

Caroline, now 11, said her twin brother gave her a bit of a hard time for thinking of such a “silly” idea, but she saw it differently. “In a way, being homeless is the toughest job there is,” she said. “And these people deserve a day like this more than anyone.” 


One spa participant agreed. “This is the hardest job,” said Terry, a woman who recently became homeless after more than 30 years as a nurse. “The hardest thing is accepting loss. That’s the hardest thing. I considered suicide. Some people just go over the edge. The hardest thing is not going over the edge and not giving up hope.” 


As the day progressed, the ladies slowly let their guard down and smiled as they raised their glasses for toasts. One woman named Daphne said she had never worn makeup before in her life until that day. After lunch was served and the ladies began to feel pampered, Terry reached into her purse and pulled out a fine wig, telling her new friends that this was the first occasion in ages that she felt good enough to wear it.


“This lets you know the world hasn’t forgotten about you,” Terry said. “I fight to keep my happiness and my pride. This is an experience I’ll never forget. It makes you forget about your problems.”


Just a day before the spa day, another young person took some initiative to help the homeless in Houston. After working on a science project about how wealth affects giving to charity, 10-year-old Sydney Cotto raised enough money to purchase 723 cheeseburgers for the homeless. 


Witnessing the ingenuity of these young people inspired all of the adults at The Beacon, homeless or otherwise. Weldon, The Beacon’s director, said that it is moments like those that help her move forward with hope. 


“Don’t get me wrong,” she said. “I absolutely love the companies that will write me a check for $50,000, but when you see someone that age thinking about the homeless, it’s amazing.”