Whether cheering up deployed military members with care packages, holding food drives or cleaning up the environment via hair clippings, Powegian Ronnda Michaelis said she’s always finding a cause to support.
Michaelis, who has lived in Poway for 35 years, gets others to support her efforts by promoting them at her workplace, The Salon at the Vineyard. She has been a hairdresser at the Bernardo Winery-based salon for 20 years and prior to that worked at a Rancho Bernardo salon for 13 years.
“The joke around here is ‘Now what’s her cause?’” Michaelis said, crediting employer Elaine Budde for making her fundraisers possible by allowing their promotion at the salon and clients for their generosity.
Her current endeavor is collecting non-perishable foods for North County Food Bank and other charitable organizations. She has organized the holiday food drive for the last five years after finding clients were more inclined to bring in a box of macaroni or can of vegetables from their pantry when getting their hair fixed than buying a toy for the toy drive she organized one year.
Her son, Brad, who is in the Navy inspired collecting care package items when he deployed aboard the USS Lincoln, Michaelis said, recalling he told her many care packages are sent to deployed troops, but most do not make it to the carriers.
“We adopted the carrier through the salon, invited customers to bring things in and I mailed (the boxes) at my expense,” she said.
Michaelis said she especially sought donations of fuzzy socks, glittery nail polish and other girly items to cheer some of the 300 female sailors, who received items in pink boxes.
A few years ago Michaelis saved hair clippings and got others to help her fill old pantyhose with the hair so they could serve as oil booms. When placed in oil-filled water, the booms — because of the hair — attract the oil, thereby cleaning the water, she said. She also gave demonstrations to educate the public on the technique.
Because some clients have lost jobs in recent years, Michaelis said she occasionally gives them a free haircut, especially around their birthday. She also tries to give them job leads.
“I had three clients who were unemployed who got jobs,” she said. “I keep my eyes and ears open (about job openings).”
Michaelis said she started her charitable work around 35 years ago when she got involved with the American Cancer Society by serving as a bike-a-thon chairwoman. It was in honor of her father who died of lung cancer. Later she participated in a 5K Alzheimer’s walk in honor of her father-in-law.
“I like to do different things,” Michaelis said, mentioning a baby shower she threw to collect baby items for military wives and recent sponsorship of a competitive cheerleading team in Ramona. In the past she volunteered for her children’s schools, Scout troops and sports teams.
As holidays approach, Michaelis said she knows clients will give her gratuities. Those who have known her awhile give money instead of other gifts because they know she donates 10 percent of what she receives to charity. Last year it was in support of juvenile diabetes and in other years to help Hospitality House in Tennessee. Similar to the Ronald McDonald House, Michaelis said Hospitality House helped her and her sisters when their mother was hospitalized.
“I find that 10 percent of my gratuities can make a little bit of difference,” she said.