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Volunteer stylist marks 20 years of haircuts, morale boost to Salt Lake's homeless

SALT LAKE CITY — Pulling a knitted beanie off his head, Danny Samuelsen blurts out that he really needs a haircut.

"I just started a new job. My beanie is not appropriate," he said, sliding into the barber's chair Monday at Catholic Community Services' Weigand Homeless Day Center.

With that, stylist Stuart Stone went to work taming Samuelsen's unruly locks to give him a more professional look for his job at City Cab. Samuelsen lives at The Road Home shelter.

"I hope to be out of there very soon," he said, adding that he hopes his new start — aided by a new 'do — will be the start of better days.

Samuelsen's haircut is among tens of thousands that Stone has provided for free over the past 20 years.

Every Monday, when the Salt Lake stylist's own shop, Salon 267, is closed, Stone volunteers at the Weigand Center, providing haircuts to homeless men and women. He averages 10 haircuts a day, with clients signing up early in the day for one of the coveted spots.

Stone had cut Samuelsen's hair before, and "he did one of the best jobs I've ever had."

"My hair is very thin, and I have cowlicks everywhere," Samuelsen said.

Stone said he started volunteering 20 years ago, essentially to fill up the empty hours after his partner, John, died in 1993.

"I'm such a creature of habit," he said. "That's why I'm still here. I don't even think about it. It's Monday, and I'm here."

On Monday, his clients' requests ranged from a close buzz to a woman who wanted all but 2 inches of hair cut from her head. One man produced a newspaper clipping of Robert Redford and requested a like hairstyle.

Plopping down in the chair, Heather Hertig announced she simply needed a new look.

"I don't like long hair. I'm tired of it long," she said. "It's easy to take care of when it's short."

Hertig said she has lived at The Road Home for 14 months after being displaced from the family home following the death of her father and her mother's move to a nursing home.

Her plan is to transition out of the shelter, but first, "I just got to get my stuff back in order."

Hertig said she also wanted a haircut to help set her apart from her sister, who is also living at The Road Home.

Stone does an especially good job styling hair, she said.

"He's the only person I let cut my hair. Every person here should pay him. He's that good," Hertig said.

Stone receives no compensation for his service, but many clients offer their heartfelt thanks.

"Some people do appreciate it. It does make them feel better," he said.

Danielle Stamos, spokeswoman for Catholic Community Services, said the nonprofit relies on volunteers' gifts of service.

"It's the only way we can run. It's people like Stuart who come back every single week. It's just incredible," she said.

Nelson Kilafwakun, who has been living in the homeless shelter while his diabetes is stabilizing, said he considered the haircut — and Stone's gift of his time — "a blessing."

"When you have no money, a haircut's one of those simple things that makes a huge difference in one's life," he said. "It increases your hope of getting out of here and having a normal life."