The Healing Touch of Beauty Bus
November 24, 2014
Giving back is more than a key value to longtime Foundation donor Wendy Marantz Levine; it is an integral part of who she is, how she lives, and is a long-standing tradition in her family. "My grandparents were role models," Wendy recalls of Gertrude and Leo Marantz, who established a Family Support Organization in 1986 at The Foundation as a vehicle for their family's philanthropy.
Formerly the director of litigation for Bet Tzedek advocating for low income clients, Wendy transitioned in 2010 to her current full-time mission-supporting and lifting the spirits of those who are chronically and terminally ill-a mission that is very near and dear to her heart.
Wendy, along with her cousin Alicia Marantz Liotta, established the quality of life-enhancing Beauty Bus Foundation, delivering dignity, hope and respite to chronically or terminally ill men, women and children and their caregivers through beauty and grooming services. They founded this nonprofit in the aftermath of the loss of Wendy's sister Melissa at age 28 to a degenerative neuromuscular disease.
A Foundation of Support
"After Melissa died in 2005, friends and family wanted to make memorial gifts to causes of our choice," Wendy said. The family ultimately established both a Donor Advised Fund and a Family Support Organization at The Foundation---the Melissa Marantz Nealy Memorial Fund and the Melissa Marantz Nealy Foundation-so people could make donations in Melissa's memory. Wendy's husband, Eric Levine, is the president of the Family Support Organization, which initially made grants for organizations in medical care, education and a park with a beautiful lookout point named Melissa's Vista at Wilshire Boulevard Temple Camps.
"Several years later, the idea for Beauty Bus was percolating," Wendy explained. She described the inspiration. "When Melissa was sick, our cousin Alicia arranged to have stylists come over to do her hair, makeup and nails. This was quality time we spent together. It gave her some time where she wasn't 'Melissa the patient,' but just Melissa. It meant so much to her."
"In December of 2007, Alicia and I discussed what a difference beauty treatments and pampering meant to Melissa and how we might bring these services to people who are chronically or terminally ill," Wendy said. "Alicia had done public relations for beauty product companies and I am a lawyer, so actualizing this idea happened very quickly. We thought this was such an important service and a perfect way to honor my beautiful sister." Today, Beauty Bus gives this same kind of support and loving kindness to others who are battling illnesses.
Wendy started with just one telephone and stored the donated beauty and grooming products in Alicia's garage. After two years of planning, they had their first client in 2009 and from there, it snowballed. Now is in its sixth year of operation, Beauty Bus has five employees and has served thousands. "And The Foundation continues to help pave the way," says Wendy, "lending expertise, providing sound advice, and helping us make important connections."
Salon To Go: A Beautiful Thing
"We offer a compassionate touch for someone who is sick," says Ronda Wilkin, Beauty Bus' CEO. "We also provide haircuts, manicures, and facials for caregivers as well, because they need relief, too," she explained. Beauty Bus books a volunteer beauty professional for each visit, as well as a volunteer "Beauty Buddy" to assist.
"It is so important to help make someone who is sick feel special and cared for," says Ronda. Beauty Bus also organizes "Pop-up Salons" in hospitals and social service agencies, bringing teams of volunteer hairdressers, manicurists, estheticians and Beauty Buddies who provide services for up to 80 people or more in one day. Beauty Bus also mails thousands of beauty and therapeutic products to clients through their national Bags of Beauty program.
"For some clients, we are providing an important kind of touch therapy," Wendy notes. "The medical routine of check-ups and treatments includes probing and pricking. In contrast, the contact for the purpose of beautifying is pleasant and nurturing."
"The cosmetics industry has been generous, and supporters such as The Foundation help make our work possible," explained Ronda, adding that "all services are free, so we are so grateful tor all of our supporters."
Legacy of Love
"When my sister Melissa was three years old," Wendy concludes, "she would put makeup on our grandma at Passover Seder. When she had the chance to experience beauty treatments when she was ill, I saw what a great difference it made in how she felt. We want that same positive impact for as many people as we can reach."
"Our goal," Ronda summarizes, "is to reach many more people. There are so many lives that can be enhanced through Beauty Bus. This is our passion."
To learn more, please visit www.beautybus.org.