She does not pretend to be a model for others and she’s no saint. Patrina Lemorslui is, however, considering attending church consistently following a life-altering experience in the past few weeks.
She was one of 16 single mothers from Nazareth House – an eight bedroom facility for homeless women and children – who were pampered through the unique “Project Beautiful” program conceived by Judith Meikle, director of Rhema Christian Ministries Empowered Ladies Union.
Azan Beauty Salon provided the participants with a complete beauty make-over and counseling two weeks ago and, last Sunday, the beautifully transformed women in stylish dresses were celebrated during the church’s Mother’s Day Sunday service.
“This is quite uplifting and it puts me in a good frame of mind,” said Lemorslui. “I feel like a Queen today and it’s good to know that there are people out there who are warm and welcoming.”
Life has been a constant struggle in the past few years for the mother of four.
Fighting to kick a drug habit, Lemorslui lost her kids – whose ages range from 17 to nine – to the Children’s Aid Society and she ended up at the Toronto shelter three months ago after being homeless.
“I have made some bad decisions and endured a few rough experiences,” she said. “I am however in a rehab program and trying to keep busy so I can stay on the right path. You miss not being with your children on Mother’s Day, but it’s spiritually and emotionally uplifting for me to know others care. This is a memory that will not fade after today. Instead, it will last for the rest of my life.”
Annalee Cunningham was among four women not in the shelter who took part in the initiative.
The mother of three boys acknowledged that last Sunday was the first time in nearly seven years that she wore a dress.
“This has been such a great experience for me,” she said. “I feel good.”
Meikle said there is an inner beauty in all women that is often masked by curve balls thrown at them and other self-inflicted challenges.
“This project came from my heart and it’s something I wanted to do in the community,” she said. “As a church, I wanted us to reach beyond our four walls and really touch people in a positive way.
“So many women have gone through so much in their lives that they have been reduced to ashes. Through this initiative, women received hope and encouragement, empowering them to harness their experiences and use it to propel them forward.”
Limousines picked up the women at the shelter and other locations and transported them to Azan for their manicures, pedicures and counselling done by certified professionals who donated their time to the cause.
Kemeel Azan, the proprietor of Toronto’s oldest Black-owned salon that has created sizzling styles for individuals with ethnic hair over the past 40 years, said he and his staff appreciated the opportunity to be part of the project.
“I really don’t think a lot of people understand the deprivation of a lot of women and it doesn’t only come in race, colour or religion,” he said. “Right across the board, women are put into very precarious positions. So if we can make their lives better for a day, it’s always something I would want to do.”
Michelle’s Sunrise Café provided breakfast and lunch for the ladies and staff for the day.
Meikle made it clear her organization’s relationship with the women participants didn’t end last Sunday.
“We can go to the shelter and provide counselling and help the women build employment skills,” she said. “We would also like to do the same through community organizations.”
Meikle said the Empowered Ladies Union plans to run the project twice a year.