More than a manicure: VHS cosmetology students give their time, friendship to nursing home residents

Jeff Bobo • Sep 20, 2019 at 3:15 PM

CHURCH HILL — Doyle Derrick recently discovered a pleasure of life that had eluded him throughout his previous 82 years on Earth.

Derrick really enjoys getting his fingernails painted. But he also doesn’t mind the attention he’s getting from the girls who do the painting.

Derrick, a resident of the Church Hill Health Care Center, got a clear coat Thursday morning courtesy of the Volunteer High School cosmetology class.

The CHHCC, which is more commonly referred to as the Church Hill Nursing Home, receives at least one visit per month from cosmetology instructor Tammy Turner’s students, who offer free manicures to all residents.

“I’m 82, and two times they’ve done it,” Derrick told the Times News Thursday. “It feels wonderful. They do a good job.”

Manicure day is one of the highlights of the month for residents who not only appreciate glossy fingernails, but also a little bit of company and conversation.

Carrying on a long tradition

Turner is a graduate of longtime Volunteer cosmetology instructor Shirley Jarnagin’s program.

Back in Turner’s day, Jarnagin brought her students to the nursing home to cut hair.

These days the nursing home at 701 W. Main Blvd. has an in-house hairdresser, so when Turner became cosmetology instructor six years ago, she contacted the nursing home about offering manicures instead.

“I try to bring the class at least once a month, and we go around to the rooms and ask everyone if they’d like to have a manicure,” Turner said. “They love it.”

“We just make their day a lot better”

For some nursing home residents, the sad reality is that manicure day provides the only visit they receive all month.

Volunteer senior Emily Mullins believes her monthly visits give residents something to look forward to.

“A lot of people, their family sticks them in here, and then they just don’t come to see them,” Mullins said. “We get to go around and visit with them. We just make their day a lot better.”

“Not just painting fingernails”

Mamie Rutledge, 94, is fortunate to have a daughter and sister who alternate days so someone comes to spend time with her every day.

Mamie’s daughter Jane Peters sees firsthand some of the residents who don’t receive many visitors and the positive impact that the cosmetology girls have on them.

“They look forward to these girls coming, and not just painting fingernails,” Peters said. “It’s the quality time they’re spending. They love it.”

The cosmetology visit brightens their day, Peters said.

“The girls do so good with these people,” she added. “They’ll go around for the next week showing you their fingers.”

“It’s about the relationship”

Turner gets emotional when she talks about the nursing home manicure program, which unfortunately loses customers occasionally.

“We had a lady who passed away a few years ago,” Turner said. “Her name was Ms. Tina, and the kids would cling to her room. They loved her. She would buy them gifts. They would buy her gifts. They would come visit when we weren’t here (as a class). That’s when I realized that it’s more than manicures. It’s about the relationship.”

Senior cosmetology student Autumn Hurd recently lost her favorite customer, Maya, who loved to talk about her family, and at the age of 96 still wanted her nails painted bright pink.

Hurd said she hopefully helped make Maya’s life a little happier when they were together.

“It was sad,” Hurd said. “You get attached.”

“We’ve made a lot of friends”

Sophomore Addison Shanks established a special friendship with Lois Salyer, a former Surgoinsville alderman who is recovering from a broken hip.

“It’s so fun to do their nails because they’re really sweet,” Shanks said. “Most of the time we talk about their family. Their grandkids. They love to talk about their grandkids. They get really happy when we do their nails.”

Thursday was bingo day at the nursing home, which is the only thing that can overshadow a visit from the cosmetology girls. It was a double treat for some residents.

Turner’s students were waiting out in the hall. The moment bingo ended, residents were swarmed by the girls.

Everybody was a winner. 

“I would encourage everybody to come visit,” Turner said. “Come sit with them. Come listen to their stories. Talk to them. This is my sixth year, so we’ve made a lot of friends.”