While we often talk about the relationships formed within our programs, it’s less often we get to spotlight those formed between participants and community members.

Hair artist Joe Duarte has been visiting Ranch homes for many years now, bringing everything he needs with him to help each participant look and feel their best.

Joe’s time at the Ranch started nearly 18 years ago when he worked with now unit manager Scott Waters in a different industry entirely.

“When I became at Wilson house about 18 years ago I was still working part-time in the night club industry. Joe had previously mentioned he also is a hairstylist, and I asked him if he'd be interested in coming to Ranch Ehrlo to cut some of our guys hair,” Scott recalled. “He was more than eager to come in, he was excellent with all the participants!”

The rest, as they say, is history. Joe has worked with participants in more than five group homes in our southern programs, and as soon as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, he was welcomed back into the fold.

“(The participants) have come to understand that even though I’m not staff, I’m still to be treated with the respect that they treat the staff with – and possibly even a little more, because … I’m from their neighbourhood, I’ve gone to their schools, I have Indigenous heritage. From that point on, they connect with me, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a male or a female, there’s always something that we can talk about,” Joe explained.

One of the unique advantages that come with Joe visiting the homes is that staff and other participants are free to continue on with their regularly scheduled activities – whether that be group therapy, supper, or simply recreational time. There’s no need to coordinate schedules for staff to take participants into the community for hair cuts.

“Joe has the kind of people skills that we covet here at the agency, and I have no doubt that if he ever decided a career change was in order he could work here in an instant,” Scott added.

What Joe has built with the youth he serves goes far beyond hair. He has attended many Ranch outings, watching participants at Winterfest and the 3-mile races, and been invited into the homes for holiday meals. He still welcomes former youth to his chair – they have looked him up after leaving the Ranch to continue the relationships built as a hairdresser and a friend.

“What’s been really great has been watching the participants excel at the things that they have passion for – things that are the right things for them to have passion about,” Joe added.

“I’m very proud to be a part of it.”