By Dale Hemmila
When you step into Salon PiZazz in downtown Port Huron, you are greeted by the gleaming chrome, glass, and mirrors that hair salons feature. But if you look beyond that typical luster, you will find an owner with a heart as glowing as the salon she owns.
Salon owner Kelly Strilcov stands out as a volunteer who has melded herself, her business and her team of employees into a caring model of giving back, and for that, she has been named Blue Water Woman Volunteer of the Year. She was nominated by Tracy Willard.
Owner of the salon since 2005, Strilcov has fostered unique programs that benefit area non-profits and other organizations. It was an incident while working in a salon early in her career that illustrated the impact a kindness can have. She explained:
“There was a flower shop in our plaza where the salon was, and if a client came in and she had a birthday that day, I would send the receptionist to grab a carnation and I would give it to them.
“A client came in and she was a little bit older, and I gave her the flower and said, ‘Happy Birthday!’ She said thank you and out she goes. Well, years later she’s sick, and I’m going to visit her and doing her hair, and we’re talking, and in our conversation, she starts crying and she said: ‘I just want you to know that the day you gave me that flower for my birthday, up to that point no one had ever given me flowers, and you can’t believe how that made me feel.’ Something so insignificant to me, but for her, it was something that stayed with her forever. I think it was the first time I realized something so insignificant can mean so much.”
So fast forward to her owning Salon PiZazz, which is located in a high traffic area downtown, and in the middle of the footprint of the annual Blue Water Fest. Strilcov and her 10-person staff found they couldn’t do much, if any, business during the week of the festival. She was brainstorming with her staff about what to do during the downtime.
“One of my employees said, ‘Why don’t we dress some people up and put them in the window?’” Strilcov recalled. “So the first year, we dressed people up, and put them in the window, and I decided if we put a little voting box outside, people could put money in it and vote for their favorite person, and we can give that money to Muscular Dystrophy.”
Thus began Mannequins Making a Difference, which now takes place outside the salon on Thursday and Friday evenings of Boat Week.
During the event, 18 volunteer “mannequins” are prepared by Strilcov’s staff. They are dressed in eccentric costumes with unusual hairstyles, and they stand outside, barely moving, for hours. Each mannequin has business sponsors and represents a local non-profit. Passersby vote for their favorite mannequin or non-profit, and at the end of the two days, the non-profit with the most contributions receives all the donations made during the weekend. A typical year would raise about $3,000 for the successful non-profit.
“It’s a really fun event, I love everything about it,” she said. “The response has been really good and it has really snowballed more than I ever thought it would. It’s really awesome for us to be able to take the winner their check and walk through their facility and find out what they do.”
It is not just one week or one event that Strilcov has championed, however.
During the year, the Salon does pink hair extensions for breast cancer awareness and blue hair extensions in support of Autism Speaks. The salon also sponsors a program in March offering specials for clients who come in and donate items for specific non-profits.
For Strilcov, it’s about making a difference.
“My mom used to say one person may not be able to do a lot by themselves,” she said, “but together that one person and one more person and one more person can make a huge difference. When you make a difference for someone else it makes a big difference for them, but it makes a big difference in your heart that you can’t really explain. It makes me feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”