WENATCHEE — At a shelter in California, a man named Fred excitedly told Tiffany Bruehl the haircut she gave him would land him a job.
She didn’t think much of it, but appreciated his gratitude.
“The next month when I came back, Fred had a job,” she said. “I walked in and he ran to me, gave me the biggest hug, cried his eyes out and just thanked me profusely. That was huge.”
After moving back to Washington, Bruehl opened The Hair Loft on Wenatchee Avenue, a couple of doors down from Lighthouse Christian Ministries. Both have since relocated to Orondo Avenue and Columbia Street, respectively.
“I was a struggling single mom but managed to open a shop again,” said Bruehl, 39. “They kind of came and welcomed me into the neighborhood.”
She volunteered to cut hair there, as she did in California. Her sons, then elementary school age, would eat snacks while visiting with the clients, who became close friends with the family.
That was 2010, and Bruehl has been helping at the ministry — whose services also include meals and shelter for those in need — ever since.
As The Hair Loft grew, her employees got on board. They started out cutting hair at Lighthouse once a month but eventually put in stations and expanded their free services to twice a month. Bruehl’s goal is to increase that to once a week.
She’s also gotten other salons involved, including A Shear Obsession in Wenatchee, Lisa’s Sunshine Salon in East Wenatchee and A Cut Above in Cashmere. Others have signed up but haven’t yet volunteered.
On Tuesday, Bruehl chatted with Dean Hummel about everything from golf to online dating as she styled his hair.
Hummel, 58, said he’s been with Lighthouse for four or five years and is usually there every other day. This was his first time getting his hair cut at the ministry.
“I’m not getting younger, and I want to look clean-cut,” Hummel said. “You don’t look better being old and scruffy. The old scruffy look doesn’t work for me. I like it short on the sides and longer on the top.”
Tuesday was also the first time Linda Garibay got her hair cut at the ministry.
Garibay, 68, said she and her husband have been going to Lighthouse for seven or eight years and she’s there each day for breakfast and dinner. She brought her high school senior picture to show the haircut she wanted.
Heather Collins, an employee at A Cut Above, complied, giving her a shorter style with bangs.
“I look better that way, with short hair,” Garibay said. “I haven’t had bangs for so long.”
Collins said she’d been searching for a way to contribute and a Facebook post from Bruehl inspired her to get involved. Tuesday was her first time volunteering at Lighthouse, and she plans to continue.
She said she enjoys meeting new people and hearing their stories.
“I’ve never really struggled, but I’m trying to teach my kids that everybody deserves a chance ... and this is one way I can do that,” she said. “Plus, when you have people in your chair, you are really able to talk to them and connect with them.”
Along with Lighthouse, Bruehl supports The Beyond Project in Seattle, which offers beauty services to those in need; Project 248, whose missions include helping orphans and human trafficking survivors; and Alatheia Riding Center in Wenatchee, which provides therapeutic horseback rides for people with special needs.
In 2016 she joined Justice and Soul, which teaches cosmetology to survivors or those at risk of human trafficking in the United States and Cambodia.
Bruehl said she taught at the Cambodian academy for five weeks and has returned for every graduation since, teaching for a day or two during her trip. She also holds an annual fundraiser for the organization, most recently a Cambodian barbecue this summer.
Giving back is important to Bruehl because she’s been in need before. As a kid she ended up on the streets several times, and as an adult she worked four jobs to make ends meet.
“A lot of people think they’re immune to it, but none of us are,” she said. “It could take one traumatic incident — a death or a job (loss) — and any of us could be on the streets. Any of us could be not able to afford groceries, not able to afford basic needs. For me, a lot of it’s remembering where I came from. It helps me stay humble and kind because I don’t ever want to be that person that thinks I’ve got it all together and I can look down on other people.”