By Seth Daniel
On a busy Tuesday morning this week at Rosie’s Place, several of the female residents of the overnight shelter were gathered around a table of nail polish – with nearly 15 to 20 different choices from bright red to a subtle brown.
Angela decided she would get a burgundy color with one of her index fingers painted purple to signify support for domestic violence victims.
Mary wasn’t sure what color she wanted, so she let Nail Tech Dani Nash choose.
Another resident simply was happy to have her nails treated, and chose a simple clear coat.
It’s not a decision that the women who stay at Rosie’s Place in the South End get to make very often. Mostly, they are concerned with more pressing matters in their lives – such as family situations, finding a place to stay and getting food.
“I think it’s tremendous,” said Mary, as Nash painted her nails a dark brown shade. “I couldn’t do this myself. It’s something you don’t expect or just can’t get done when you’re in my situation. The things they do for us here at Rosie’s are incredible. I’d never expect to get a manicure here. I don’t take care of myself like that. Everything else has to come first.”
For the last five years, Nash has operated her own business – a traveling nail salon business she calls PopUp Mani by Dani. After finding great success with her business, she decided she wanted to give back to this in need, and while she also volunteers her time at other places via PopUp Mani for a Cause, Rosie’s Place was the first spot on her list.
“When I found my business, part of what I wanted to do was to do manicures at the shelters, but trying to solicit business at a shelter that’s a non-profit is something that isn’t always in the budget,” she said. “I decided I was going to do it out of my own pocket and a friend said she wanted to sponsor the manicures. She said she wanted to sponsor 10 manicures and it worked out. She told me that it could become a thing and that other people would want to sponsor manicures. That’s when we came up for PopUp Mani for a Cause…I was raised to make sure you always gave back. It’s kind of giving in advance and in return. I was raised to always pay it forward and give back.”
Even now, despite some sponsorships and donations, Nash said a lot of the manicures at Rosie’s Place come out of pocket, but she doesn’t mind.
“It comes back to you in other ways,” she said.
And she didn’t just pick Rosie’s Place out of the phone book, but in fact wanted to give back to the organization because it had helped her to pay for nail tech schooling.
In 2010, she said she was working at Cambridge Savings Bank and had been there five years, but it wasn’t her calling. She had dreamed since the age of 5 to be a nail technician and own her own business. She decided to enroll in nail tech school and in doing that, she had to quit her job. Trying to pay for schooling while only having unemployment payments coming in was a challenge. That’s when she heard about grants from Rosie’s Place.
“When I was transitioning into going back to school, I heard that Rosie’s Place gives grants,” she said. “I didn’t think they would do that for nail school, but I came and singed up anyway. They were actually able to give me a $1,000 grant towards my $2,000 tuition payment. I was only getting unemployment and didn’t know how I was going to pay for school. It was such a big help. I knew the first place I had to give back when I could was here at Rosie’s Place.”
Michele Chausse of Rosie’s Place said the organization distributes its Sawyer Grants through its Women’s Education Center. That was the grant Nash received towards her schooling.
“It’s part of the Women’s Education Center… and we have money available for people who are looking to train to be personal care attendants or a certificate program that they need to get a leg up,” she said.
Because of the grant, Nash said she was also able to come out of school without any debt to pay – which freed her up to start the business and put money into it instead of into her school debt payments.
Chausse said the Education Center teaches all kinds of skills, from English to computers. She said they are seeing more and more women now coming to the Center at age 50 or 60 to begin learning English so they can find a job more easily.
In the case of Nash, she has now come three times since July to give manicures to the women at the overnight shelter. Each time, she works her way down a list of about 20 women who hadn’t even thought about a manicure for many years.
“It makes me feel special because it builds up my self-esteem,” said Angela. “This is the third time I’ve had it done. It makes you feel very special, especially at this time of year. They say you have to treat yourself. Dani coming in and doing a manicure for us is a treat. It is a treat.”
Meanwhile, as Nash finished applying the polish to Mary’s newly manicured nails, the 67-year-old woman raised her hands in the air and announced, “Now I’m beautiful everyone. Eat your heart out.”
Nash could only smile.