“Volunteers aren't paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless".
We met up with Gerri, who has been with us as a volunteer from the day we opened our doors in January 2013.
Gerri brings her warmth, her kindness and her compassion to the various spa services she provides every month at Cut out Cancer- facials, manicures and pedicures. Her gentle hands have soothed many faces and feet at Milano’s. Beyond her expertise in skin care, her caring personality creates a gift beyond the physical, witnessed by the glow on the faces of those who have benefitted from her services.
We caught up with Gerri away from her chair at Clyde St Amand’s Hair Design in Avon and learned a little more about her. Beyond being a skilled esthetician, she is mother to two accomplished daughters and “YaYa” to four young grandchildren.
We are deeply grateful to Gerri for her many hours of volunteer service to Cut out Cancer and her dedication to helping so many clients.
What motivated you to get involved in Cut Out Cancer?
I went to see the movie Mondays at Racine, about the hair salon in Long Island for women dealing with cancer treatment. I understood that this movie inspired the women who are on the Cut Out Cancer board to create a similar spa service in our area. After seeing the movie, I totally wanted to get involved and I waited and waited until someone called to say they wanted me to help. I was so excited!
I now can never envision giving this up. Cut Out Cancer has become such a meaningful and important place to me. When I walk in the doors, I feel like I’m coming home. It is like one big family and a place where people leave feeling good- both the clients and we the volunteers too.
In my business, we use touch as a way to care for people. I so admire the courage of the women who come into Milano’s for treatment. I hope to put them at ease, and hope they will feel some comfort after they leave. I often reflect how Mondays at Milano are both great and bad, and both wonderful and sad. Since we will never rid our world totally of cancer but hopefully we can make a difference by creating a day that helps our clients have even more courage and have more hope.
What is something that many people don’t know about you?
My husband serviced in the US Navy for many years deep under the ocean on a submarine. I was selected as the Ombudsman for the command by the Admiral in the navy and also was the onshore wife that took care of many of the wives who needed practical and emotional help when our husbands were underwater and out of communication for months at a time. Sometimes, it was just a shoulder to cry on, sometimes it was helping them to figure out financial or family problems. Meanwhile, I was a mom of two young girls all on my own too.
What is your dream day off?
I love peace and quiet. Being alone, having no agenda, no one telling me what to do.
I also have loved traveling to Tuscany with the “Tuscan Mamas” where I had the opportunity to cook, to learn to cook better and to see where all the great ingredients come from. My family came from Sicily, so I enjoyed learning about other styles of Italian cooking.
What advice do you give to people dealing with cancer?
You can sit at home and cry or get mad but in the end the best strategy is to try to move on and try to feel positive. If you believe you will feel better hopefully you will!
Sergio & Valerio Gurciullo
This month we present our most cherished volunteers, brothers and joint owners of Milano Salon and Spa, Sergio and Valerio. Sergio and Valerio’s willingness to open up their salon in January 2013 to Cut out Cancer has made our mission a success. As the most generous partners and participants, both Sergio and Valerio have embraced this project with love, selflessness and kindness. Each month one or both of them are found styling hair, taking the time to listen, and giving a hug. We are all forever indebted to them for their generosity.
In a recent interview, we got a chance to know a little more about the men who have made it all happen!
What motivated you to get involved in Cut out Cancer?
Valerio: I love people. I love helping lift up the spirits of the clients who come in to the salon and helping them feel a little better. We have been touched by cancer personally in our family so I can say in a small way, I know what they are going through.
Sergio: It feels good to do a good deed especially when talking about cancer, since my family can say we know the impact cancer can have.
How did you get started being a hairdresser?
Sergio and Valerio: Our dad had a hair salon in Sicily. It wasn’t just a hair salon, but more like a community club where we knew all the customers. As boys, we would hang out there and when we were just old enough- 11 and 13, our dad would let us help. We grew up faster there in Italy. We would stand on a stool, lather up men’s faces and with a straight edged razor, we would give shaves. Imagine that! We immigrated to Middletown CT when we were young teens. Unfortunately, our dad couldn’t get work as a hairdresser in the US so he started in factory work . We eventually carried on the family tradition and opened our salon together in Bloomfield 30 years ago.
What is your dream day off?
Sergio: Sipping a drink under a palm tree in the Caribbean. Some beautiful women around might be nice too.
Valerio: A quiet day hanging at the beach. Maybe in Newport. A glass of wine in my hand, the sun shining….what could be bad?
What has touched you from your involvement with Cut out Cancer?
Valerio: I would say I’ve learned even more to appreciate what I have and not to take anything for granted. I have been so moved by the strength of the clients we work with and by their gratefulness for this project. One of the unique aspects of our work is that we are allowed to touch our clients. So when I am working with a client and hearing about the challenges of their cancer, I can give them a hug and a kiss when I say goodbye. It feels good to have this bond- to be a part of the cancer journey with them. And to hopefully ease some of their pain.
Sergio: I have been touched by so many clients. One in particular stands out. I cut and styled her hair for a night out with her husband, which turned out to be one of her last nights alive. I was deeply moved and felt so great that I could do a little something to make her smile at this time in her life and to know how grateful her husband was too.
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” Maya Angelou
We could not do what we do, or do it so well, without dedicated individual volunteers and businesses who donate their time, their services and their professional skills to make each Mondays at Milano such a special and supportive experience. We can never say thank you enough. We hope you will enjoy getting to know the people who make our project work so well as we feature our volunteers here.
Q:What motivated you to get involved in Cut out Cancer?
I have many family members who have had cancer and I have gone through the journey of their illness with them. Watching them go through this is close to my heart. When I happened to hear about Cut out Cancer, I was immediately drawn to this opportunity to give back and help make the journey a little less painful.
Q:Tell me about a meaningful/memorable experience during your volunteering at COC
I gave a client a massage, and she was quiet throughout the massage. At the end, she gave me a huge hug and said,” You have made me smile again.”
Q:What is something you are proud of that few people know about you?
I was the star of a 2 woman play called, Marla’s Devotion and I starred as Marla!
Q:How do you feel after a day of giving massages at Cut out Cancer ?
I am honored and blessed to have a career that is something that I love to do. I feel giving massage is sacred work. If I can make a difference in someone’s life with the work I do with my hands, then I am completely gratified. I have been so moved by what is happening at the incredibly upbeat Monday sessions at Milano Salon. It is just amazing. Observing women who are laughing, supporting each other and benefiting from being in a safe and trusting space is so gratifying. I love watching women who literally are transformed while there. This isn’t a doctor’s visit. It is a chance to feel normal and pampered.
You can find Yvette at:
All About Balance
Hartford Courant (Read More)
Connecticut Magazine (Read More)