After giving birth to three children and escaping her abusive husband with only $1.75 in her bank account, Vanessa Howard sure came a long way from home, making a name for herself in the beautifying industry and charitable community.
She escaped the “illegal substance-infested” neighborhood she formerly lived in Tampa Florida after falling victim to domestic abuse and decided it was time for her to make it on her own.
Then, she met the man who would soon become her landlord, despite the fact she had absolutely no means of supporting herself. Having a roof over her head was a luxury she could not afford – but her landlord let her stay in his apartment rent-free, backing his kindness with nothing more than a hunch that it was his duty to help this young single mother and her three daughters.
Life has a funny way of working out – and it did for Vanessa, too. Given one opportunity after the next, Vanessa was offered a job in a hairdressing salon, where she was able to master all the newest techniques in the field and become an expert in anything hair-related. Only decades later, however, did Vanessa save up enough to start a business of her own, one she proudly named Giving Hands Hair Salon.
“I believe everything we go through we go through for a purpose. I truly believe that nothing happens by coincidence,” Howard told CBS News.
Now 62-years-old, Vanessa decided it was her turn to give back to the community, which she does by inviting women who live in poverty around Tampa to receive free styling and services. When some of them offer to pay her with what little money they may have, she refused to accept any form of payment.
“I would encourage other broken women, business owners — all of us have a story and I believe that we should use what we’ve been through to help others,” said Vanessa.
To this day, more than 300 women and girls living in homeless shelters and transitional housing have benefited from Vanessa Howard’s philanthropic offering.