In 2008, just days before Thanksgiving, Chicago Envoy Agent Luz Ciupeiu and her family were driving home and noticed a lot of commotion and fire engines on their street. Luz said that she remembers holding her child in her arms, getting out of the car, and upon seeing her home decimated by fire, she went blank.
“I fell to my knees and saw that we lost everything,” Luz said. “It was devastating. When you have so many kids to take care of, and all of a sudden, you don’t have anything for them.”
Luz and her husband had seven children under the age of 18 at the time, so with so many mouths to feed and bodies to shelter, their life had taken a tragic turn. That’s when the local Salvation Army organization stepped in and provided the much needed food and clothes their family needed.
“We were able to provide a lot of the material needs they had lost,” said Pamela Church, Community Ministries Director at Salvation Army Norridge Citadel. “As well as the emotional and spiritual support mainly.”
That Thanksgiving was shaping up to be sad and dismal given how much Luz and her family had lost in the fire. Yet, the Salvation Army was there to even provide a Thanksgiving meal to Luz’s family.
Paying it back one haircut at a time
While returning to work at Envoy, Luz also attained a cosmetology license and began providing free haircuts to patrons of the Salvation Army — her way of paying it forward.
“When the house burned down, it was overwhelming that all the help we got from different entities, so I said, ‘I’m going to donate some time,'” said Luz. “That’s when I talked to the Salvation Army and said, ‘Listen, I think it’s time for me to give back.”
So she did. Now on nearly every Wednesday, Luz donates her time to cut hair for the community. Instead of charging her customers, Luz asks that they give a dollar or two to help other people in the community.
“My heart is full of joy,” said Luz. “It feels good. It feels amazing, because I have a purpose in life. I need to change this world. I need to help out others, and we can all help change the world. I think we all can do it.”