Giving Can Lead to Joy, Passion and Reward

By Lylanda Edwards, Gabrielle’s Salon & Extensions Boutique, Austin, Texas

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Giving back to the community was an integral part of my upbringing. I remember watching my mother, Dianne, be the poster child of cheerful giving, whether through church or simply providing a hot meal to a neighbor.

This “giving mindset” rubbed off on me, and I  found myself being intentional about extending an open hand. It wasn’t until my time in high school as a Special Olympics volunteer that I realized how much serving my community infused me with joy, passion and reward.

As the founder of Gabrielle’s Salon & Extensions Boutique, I knew from the start that community and service would be a big part of our salon culture. I even included a few community service projects in my business plan.

We are a full-service salon in Austin, Texas, specializing in hair extensions and hair loss services. Our tagline, “a purpose bigger than hair,” is displayed every time we share our gifts and time with the community. During the 16 years we’ve been in business, we’ve found a variety of ways to give back and raise awareness for the need to serve.

Volunteering With Local Organizations

Volunteers are the heart and soul of most nonprofit organizations. We help bring these organizations’ missions to life. At Gabrielle’s, we seek opportunities to provide direct support to organizations manifesting positive change across our community.  During our 15-year anniversary celebration, our team served at The Central Texas Food Bank, the largest hunger-relief charity in Central Texas. Its mission is to nourish hungry people and lead the community in the fight against hunger. Through our team’s joint efforts with other volunteers, hundreds of ready-to-eat meals were assembled for those in need. Those meals were distributed to warming centers, shelters and schools.

Monetary Donations

Another way we make a difference is through monetary donations. Charitable contributions from businesses to nonprofits can qualify for tax deductions. Donate to charity because you feel a connection to an organization, not because you want a tax deduction. Two of our recent donations include nonprofits that are near and dear to my heart, St. Jude and Grambling State University Alumni Chapter, which supports historically Black colleges and universities.

Hosting Events and Drives

We also find that hosting educational events and collaborative drives are other ways to plant positive change in the community. I’ve had the pleasure of co-facilitating several events with my twin sister, Dylanda, who shares a love for serving the community. In our opinion, two of the best events held at our salon were Financial Peace University and our Youth Empowering Camps.

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University is a nine-lesson course that teaches you how to save for emergencies, pay off debt fast, spend wisely, and invest for your future. As facilitators, we have witnessed this financial literacy program change the trajectory of a family tree.

Our Youth Empowerment Camps were interactive experiences where middle and high school girls were empowered to be bold, effective communicators and authentic leaders in their communities. One of our primary goals was to inspire them to access their innermost potential and discover greatness while practicing a growth mindset. In addition, the camps promoted sisterhood, self-love and high self-esteem.

We’ve also organized Toys for Tots drives, clothing drives and a holiday gift card drive for single moms. In addition, we’ve hosted contests for single moms and teachers to win full makeovers during the holidays.

Choose Projects That Align With Your Personal Interests and Experiences

People tend to enjoy serving in capacities that align with personal interests or experiences. Shortly after opening the salon, our team set up a pop-up salon at the Ronald McDonald House, offering manicures and trims. The Ronald McDonald House provides lodging and services to families with critically ill and injured children. I have a special interest in serving those families because I’ve lived in their shoes, having a daughter who was a resident at the Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin numerous times throughout her life.

Make it Fun

After all, doing it with friends is the only thing better than community service. A couple of years ago, our salon hosted a Thanksgiving dinner and invited employees from surrounding businesses. Great food, good fellowship, and lots of laughter are all reasons to build a community outside of your four walls, and it’s a great opportunity to build relationships with neighbors who can introduce potential customers to your business. Our team has also indulged in live music and other family activities through our efforts to participate in Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations and Relay for Life walks.

Be Community

Doing without the being can dumb down our impact. Remember, little things can sometimes make the biggest difference. Practice daily meditation and mindfulness to increase your ability to distribute more love in the world. We can only give to others what’s already been deposited inside of us. Feed yourself positivity and frequently purge anything that is not good. Never discount how much your smile, kindness or acknowledgment can mean to someone else.

Life presents so many opportunities to generate positive change. We are all used as conduits to build community. Remember there’s strength in numbers and your team can make a difference. Our family mantra, “To whom much is given, much is required,” serves as a reminder that we have a responsibility to give back because so many blessings have been given to us.

Gabrielle’s team will continue to look for fun innovative ways to serve our community at large and we encourage you to join us. Get your team involved!  Get your families involved and let’s be the change that we want to see. I promise.