Beth Nilssen
January 20, 2013 / Company News

Working with injured soldiers changes franchisee's life

Great Clips does much more than simply give terrific haircuts. We give time and money to help foster hopes and cures, and we do that in many ways—all under the umbrella program of Great Deeds.™

Our salon owners are independent business people who live and work in communities across North America. Every day they join their staff, customers and neighbors to help those communities. This is the story of one Great Clips franchisee who is contributing his time, talents and resources to a worthy cause.

Five years ago, Army Col. Hank Tuell (Ret.), wanted to bring a few injured soldiers to Red Lodge, Mont., for a fishing and rafting retreat. Hank reached out to Dennis Stevens, a Great Clips franchisee in the Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and Nebraska markets, because he needed someone who knew how to ride horses. (In addition to owning 13 Great Clips salons, Dennis is a rancher in Red Lodge, Mont.)

Dennis was happy to help, but his feelings during his first excursion with soldiers on horseback were unexpected. “Before we were halfway up the mountain, I felt that my life would change,” said Dennis. “I knew this was something I wanted to be part of.”

Working with Operation Second Chance, a non-profit organization that helps active and retired soldiers recovering from traumatic injuries, Dennis, his wife and business partner, Nancy, and several other franchisees and Great Clips, Inc. staff members turned that “something” into restorative retreats for soldiers, and most recently, military wives.

Dennis, what was it that made such an impact on you the first time you were with these soldiers?
Being at these retreats is a total transformation for these soldiers. You can see the difference from day one to day five. Many of these people have been in the hospital for years, living from one doctor appointment to another for so long that it becomes a way of life. When they are able to get away from that, it’s life changing.

How do these retreats operate?
We work with Operation Second Chance to reach out to soldiers and then we make sure everything is taken care of. We ask local businesses to donate meals or hotel rooms; a gentleman in town has an airplane so he flies some soldiers from Washington, DC.; and, the lady at the local bakery found out about the retreats so she donates baked goods. Even the state of Montana waived the cost of hunting licenses for the soldiers while they’re at the retreat.

The military wives got to do the same thing the veterans do, but we also made sure they got special treatment with shopping expeditions, and manicures and pedicures, offered completely free of charge by our stylists. (Read more about this retreat for military wives here.)

What are your hopes for these retreats?
Obviously, Nancy and I think this is a valuable program and we’d love to see other franchisees and community leaders get involved. We think it’s a good match with our salon business because so many of our employees and our customers have loved ones who are in the military. This is a great way to connect our stylists and our customers in a common need.

Nancy and I are big believers in giving back. This gripped us. We want to show what’s important to us and this is one way we do it. My heart goes out to these men and women and all they’ve done for our country. They’ve made the ultimate sacrifice. It is a real gift to spend time with them and realize that we can make a difference.

More stories about our efforts to support our local communities

Beth Nilssen By Beth Nilssen on January 20, 2013
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