Olivia Braido is a vivacious, energetic hairstylist and entrepreneur who has owned and operated Lavish Salon, located at 807 Queen Street East, for nearly a year, with hopes and plans to expand and hire more staff.
But for nearly two years, the Sault woman has also provided free haircuts to Neighbourhood Resource Centre (NRC) clients at 138 Gore Street out of love for her community.
“It’s the highlight of my week, it’s awesome,” beamed Olivia, who provides basic haircuts at no charge for male and female clients at the NRC (mostly adults, some children, also offering beard trimming for men) from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Wednesday.
“I see between seven and 12 people every Wednesday. It’s busy, there are a lot of people who utilize the NRC who really need it.”
The Neighbourhood Resource Centre is manned by staff from several community agencies to provide community wellness for those in need.
“I discovered the NRC by chance,” Olivia told SooToday.
“Two years ago I was working in a different salon, and one of my customers who was a social worker said the hairdresser they had was no longer there and they needed somebody, so I said ‘I’ll come in for a day, I don’t mind filling in,’ and I never left. I’ve been doing it for two years. I just love it.”
Along with herself, Olivia employs hairstylist Meghan Billingsley and Caitlin Peel, a licensed esthetician and certified lash technician at Lavish Salon.
Caitlin, Olivia said, has started accompanying her to the NRC to provide free nail care to both men and women.
Olivia cherishes the interaction between herself and her NRC clients.
“Honestly, it’s indescribable. The relationship I have with a lot of those people is closer than the relationship I have with some other people in my life. Most of them I’ve known for two years.”
“If I have to miss a week for personal reasons, they’re always understanding and sweet.”
Listening to Olivia describe her work and clients at the NRC, it becomes apparent she seems to enjoy providing haircuts just as much, if not more, than her clients do receiving them.
“I feel selfish that I love it so much. It’s a really beautiful thing to be in a position where I can do this.”
“I just feel at peace there. It’s a special relationship I have with my clients at the NRC. As long as I can keep doing it, I will. It’s mutual respect and mutual gratefulness.”
The haircare is always free for those who need a little help getting back on their feet.
“I won’t take anything. Some people will try and give me money but I never take it,” Olivia said.
In November, Olivia organized and hosted a ‘Lavish Loves You’ formal dinner at The Grand Gardens on Dennis Street as a NRC fundraiser, the event attracting 300 people, raising $3,000.
“I wanted to do more, and they (the NRC) can use more. I thought ‘what can I do to raise a good amount of money and also to get the word out there, what the NRC does and why it’s important’ because a lot of people have no idea what it is.”
There is a reason why Olivia called the event ‘Lavish Loves You.’
“Something I do at the Neighbourhood Resource Centre is, when I cut their hair, I tell them I love them.”
“I’ll always say ‘be safe, I love you.’
Olivia remembers one heartwarming moment in particular.
“Last summer I took a couple of weeks off, and when I went back, one of my clients said ‘I missed you’ and I said ‘oh, I missed you too’ in a very lighthearted way, but he said ‘you’re the only person in my life who consistently tells me you love me.’”
“He said ‘I don’t have anyone who tells me they love me, cares about me and hopes I do okay.’”
“That was really heart wrenching. I realized a lot of these people don’t have a lot,” Olivia said.
The hairstylist credits her parents and extended family members for passing on a caring nature to her.
“My parents are among the most selfless people I’ve ever known, my uncle too, who gives back a ton to the community, business wise and socially.”
Olivia’s work did not go unnoticed by the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service, which has an officer on duty at the NRC to help out.
Sault Police notified Olivia she would be receiving a plaque in appreciation of her efforts at the NRC, and was awarded the plaque at the 32nd Annual Police Community Programs Night held at The Delta Feb. 27.
“I can’t believe that happened, to be honest,” Olivia chuckled.
Deeply moved to learn she would receive an award from Sault Police for her work at the NRC, Olivia said “I bawled my eyes out. I love what I do there. It’s really cool.”
“The people at the NRC give a lot of their time, like the police, dental and medical staff, it’s a lot of really great people who make it happen.”
“Our community is a really great community and it has a lot of positive things about it, but we’re also struggling. We have a lot going right now that needs to be addressed. People might not think that doing little things help, but little things do add up…when you live in a community you care about everyone in it. You’ve got to take care of each other.”