By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
Beauty Bus Foundation, founded by longtime Palisadian Wendy Marantz Levine in 2009, has recently adjusted its regular operations to continue supporting clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nonprofit was founded in memory of Levine’s sister, Melissa Marantz Nealy, who passed away at the age of 28 from a degenerative neuromuscular disease. As Nealy’s disease progressed, she became homebound, and her family would lift her spirits by arranging in-home manicures, haircuts and facials.
“Melissa was a fiery redhead, total girly-girl, loved to get her hair done, loved to go to the spa,” Levine said to the Palisadian-Post. “When she got sick with this … disease, she wasn’t able to get out to do those things.
“We were able to have people come to the house for Melissa, and she said it just made her feel like herself, made her feel human again.”
After she passed away, her family thought there must be an organization that provides these services to others who are ill—and were surprised to discover that there wasn’t.
Thus, Beauty Bus Foundation was born.
Beauty Bus Foundation would provide its services in a number of ways during normal operations. Sometimes a team of six to 10 beauty professional volunteers would create a pop-up salon in hospitals or other social service agencies to serve patients within a three- to four-hour window, occasionally seeing up to 100 people per visit—all for free.
The organization has served well over 20,000 people in its 11 years of existence, Levine said.
“It’s just really fun … people can get a haircut, a hairstyle … they can get their makeup done, a manicure, a facial,” Amy Straus, communications manager of Beauty Bus Foundation, said to the Post. “It gives them a moment of escape from whatever illness or disease they’re dealing with, and connects them to their sense of self.”
Straus explained the organization provides services not only to patients, but also to their caregivers, like the mother of a child or a spouse. Beauty Bus Foundation serves men, women and children.
Beauty Bus Foundation would also have beauty professional volunteers visit a location once per week and offer patients a service of their choice, like a manicure or haircut. The organization is partnered with 16 hospitals around Los Angeles, including Saint John’s, UCLA, City of Hope, Children’s Hospital LA and more.
Levine explained that although they are not able to offer their in-person services, they have found new ways to serve their clients. Beauty Bus Foundation has been offering a virtual program recently, available to the general public, where a beauty professional leads a tutorial on Zoom.
From makeup tips to hairstyles, facials and more, Levine said that it has allowed everyone to connect again.
“In addition to teaching each other tips, the conversations they are having and the giggles and the sense of community that we’re able to build, even online, has been really extraordinary,” Levine said. “We’re really trying to keep the sense of community that Beauty Bus is all about, even in these virtual times.”
Beauty Bus Foundation has also gifted over 1,000 Bags of Beauty to frontline healthcare workers in hospitals across Southern California and have created a car parade where staff and volunteers decorate their cars, “hoot and holler,” and drive past patients’ homes to greet them.
“Really it’s a pick-me-up for everybody,” Straus said. “It lets our clients know that we’re still thinking of them and that we’ll be back to see them soon.”
The organization’s next event will be a virtual cocktail party. The “Hinoki and Cocktails” event invites participants to purchase a dinner online and visit Hinoki & the Bird in Century City to pick up their dinner, cocktails, Krispy Kreme donuts and swag bags on the evening of Saturday, October 10, before hopping onto Zoom to mingle.
The organization has collaborated with Palisades-based Dollies Making A Difference and the Rotary Club in years past.
“We’d love to do more services in the Palisades,” Levine said. “A lot of our supporters and a lot of our volunteers come from the Palisades.”
For more information, visit beautybus.org.
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