By Kathy Hosler
Last fall, Superstorm Sandy devastated the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Earlier this year, parts of Canada experienced massive flooding, and a massive tornado tore through Oklahoma, carving a path of death and destruction as it went. Many groomers were hard hit by these events and saw everything that they had worked their entire lives for disappear in an instant.
After these disasters, many unaffected groomers went above and beyond to get resources together to help the other groomers who had lost everything: their homes and salons or mobile vans. Even if their workplaces survived, many of the storm-ravaged stylists could no longer make a living because all of their customers had also lost everything, and getting their pets groomed was not a priority or even a possibility.
As hard as those well-meaning groomers tried, there was little that each of them could do alone faced with the overwhelming circumstances. Some of the groomers who were most affected by these disasters were in desperate need of help and did not know where to turn.
Ileana Nogueras, a groomer from Delaware, experienced the utter destruction of Superstorm Sandy. She personally knows many of the groomers that were in really bad situations. They had lost everything and had no way to make a living. Ileana was one of the big-hearted, caring groomers who tried to help everyone possible, but there was little structure or organization to their efforts.
This past Fourth of July, Ileana put a plan in motion that had been brewing in her thoughts for a long time—the formation of a fund to assist groomers that are affected by emergencies or disasters. “I’ve been thinking about it and talking about this concept for a while now,” says Ileana. “I feel strongly that this is something that really needs to be created. What I want to do is have a starting point so people will know that the group is there.
“I began to get things organized,” says Ileana enthusiastically. “We already have a board of directors in place, which is made up of seven highly respected members of the grooming industry. The board of directors works entirely on a volunteer basis—no one gets paid. All of the money collected will go directly to recipients, except for necessary costs like postage and PayPal fees.
“The wheels are turning,” shares a determined Ileana. “We have applied to be a 501(C) non-profit organization, and we will be known as the Groomers Emergency Assistance Fund. The weather is crazy, and emergencies are going to happen. When they do, groomers will have the GEAF to contact. When a request comes into the GEAF for assistance, the board will vote on it and make a decision.
“I have to be candid,” Ileana continues. “Not having money to make your car payment is not an emergency, but if you experience a disaster and lose your home, salon, or grooming van, that’s a different story. And we are learning how to do things better as we grow.”
In the aftermath of the twister that tore through Oklahoma, groomers needed box fans to dry dogs and to move air in their grooming locations. Lori Craig made that need known on Facebook. Several groomers went online and purchased box fans from the Wal-Mart closest to Lori’s location, and Lori was able to pick the fans up that very day.
Another idea that is in the works is to have a contact in every state, which could store donated grooming equipment. If someone needs it, they can get it to them quickly, and they can be back in business and put food on their table once again.
Ileana also sees a great need for every groomer to plan ahead and prepare for disasters that can be avoided. “As an industry, we have come a long way,” affirms Ileana, “but we have a long way to go. I would like to get groomers thinking about taking better care of themselves and to continue educating themselves. I think it is a real crisis that the great majority of groomers don’t have health or disability insurance—or a nest egg to fall back on. If they don’t work for a week, they don’t get paid. When things like Superstorm Sandy, destructive flooding, and the Oklahoma tornado happen, that’s when these things hit home.”
People ask Ileana how much help the GEAF is going to be able to give. “Every bit helps,” says Ileana enthusiastically. “We have really generous people in the grooming industry who will gladly give what they can, even if it is a small amount. And anyone can make donations to the group at any time, not just when there is a disaster,” says Ileana. “At this time, the best way to make a donation is through PayPal. The organization’s email address is [email protected].
“We are working hard to spread the word about GEAF by sending information to Facebook groups and other groomers associations,” she continues. “We all know different people—the more you put it out there, the more people you will reach.”
Going the extra mile is a way of life for Ileana and everyone who is associated with the GEAF. They know that groomers everywhere are willing to help when there is a need. “We cannot do it without lots of help… time, money, ideas—there are countless ways that everyone can help,” encourages Ileana.
You will find Ileana and the Groomers Emergency Assistance Fund booth at Groom Expo in Hershey, Pennsylvania, this September. Stop by and see what it’s all about. “