Sunday, November 10, 2002

East End women

Putting on their game face


It's possible I am making too much of this. It is, after all, merely cosmetic.

About two dozen women were dabbing on foundation cream, brushing on mascara. Timidly at first, then with a certain joyful abandon. Lipstick in every slithery color, eye shadow, blush.

The women were supervised by makeup artists and color consultants. "Careful," said one. "Don't use too much and blend upward."

Great concentration. Along with laughter and gentle jibes. "Woo hoo, Mary. You look like a movie star."

Mary peered into a hand mirror into her own tired eyes. The dark circles under them had been smoothed away. A skillful streak of color accented very good cheekbones. She smiled uncertainly.

Practical magic

This temporary beauty salon Friday was in the East End Christian Church on Eastern Avenue. The congregation there is generally urban Appalachian, generally poor. But on this day, generally having a pretty good time. On the first floor.

Upstairs was the business end of the day. Job application forms from McDonald's, Busken's, the IRS, Cincinnati Gardens. Counselors to help the women fill them out. Dave Jones, a retired businessman from Wilder, Ky., surfed the 'Net for employment possibilities for the women.

And anybody who gets to that next step - an interview - will know how to put on her game face. Oh, and she'll be given a nice outfit to wear to the appointment.

"We wanted to help women get back on their feet, something practical," says organizer Jennifer Cowgill, the thoroughly optimistic director of outreach for Mount Washington Church of Christ.

She and 20-plus volunteers, she says, have been squirreling away hair care and personal hygiene products for a year. "It doesn't do anybody any good to tell them to brush their teeth and wash their hair if they can't afford shampoo or toothpaste." Bulging gift baskets will be handed out to the women as they leave.

Pat Kennedy from Anderson Township is helping out in another room with Teresa Youngstrom, a registered nurse from Milford. Dental hygiene will be taught. Oh, and also fingernails will be painted.

This is not Pat's customary assignment. She keeps track of inventory, the big stuff that the Mount Washington Church delivers in its creaky old Ryder truck to outreach clients. Cribs, beds, washers and dryers, sofas. Donors can call 231-9482.

"We'll make pickups if it's nearby," Pat says. They're trying to minimize wear and tear on the truck, which has more than 200,000 miles on it.

"Right now, we could really use blankets, sneakers, coats." The wish list changes seasonally. Clients change. Get back on their feet. Move on. What never changes is the grinding need.

Some of the women probably came Friday just for the makeup. The eye shadow. The lipsticks. Which is not trivial, really. Sometimes a person needs a temporary pick-me-up.

But for others, it might be the first step to something bigger. More permanent. Pride. A job. Independence. It's possible.

E-mail or phone 768-8393.

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