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Hair to help: Assisting cancer patients, one head at a time

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Tucked away on a small lot in Greenwood is a quaint house where Fran Barnett has run her business for 14 years.

Located on Madison Avenue, the tiny dwelling welcomes its guests with a colorful scarecrow that stands proudly at the front door and vibrant flowers that await the lurking frost. From the roadway, Barnett’s sign tells passers-by what her specialty is. She helps both women and men find a wig that is just right for them. She owns and operates Wigs We Care.

Barnett has been a hairstylist for five decades. She recalls seeing people pass through her shop well over a decade ago who were battling cancer. Many were seeking answers and reassurance that the monumental problems they faced could somehow be overcome. She saw a real need to start a business that would help people as they faced the most challenging of times.

People of all ages come to Barnett’s shop. From tots to the elderly, clients come looking for answers. Their appearances have changed. How does one deal with that?

The shop is lined with wigs of all colors, styles and sizes. Barnett or Patti Wood, a lifelong friend of Barnett’s, help clients try on wigs to see what works for them and what makes them feel the most comfortable. Wigs are then ordered based on size and color.

“It’s comfortable here,” Barnett said. “It is as much rewarding for me as it is rewarding for them.”

Barnett is convinced God has a hand in all of her ventures.

“It is like a patchwork quilt here. People share information with each other and gain strength from each other. It is amazing what goes on here. I really believe God sends people in to minister to each other. Some people really need it,” she said.

Barnett and her volunteers provide a multitude of services to those who walk through her door. Depending on the need, she shows her clients how to wear scarves, put on false eyelashes when the natural ones fall out, and wear hats in a fun and classy way.

“It is amazing what can be done,” she said.

One of Barnett’s customers is Greenwood resident Werner Brummett, who, like many of Barnett’s clients, is battling cancer. Losing one’s hair can be just as heart wrenching for a man as a woman, Barnett said.

Brummett entered Barnett’s shop a few days before anyone could tell he was undergoing chemotherapy. At the time, his hair was thick and healthy. Knowing his hair would soon begin to fall out, Brummett spent time with Barnett to discuss the best possible options for him.

A few days later, Brummett had a new wig, one that had been cut especially for him and could readily pass as his own hair.

“The minute you walk in there, you feel at ease,” Brummett said of Barnett’s business. “I just can’t say enough about her. She knows you’re there for a reason. I think she offers a great service to the community.”

Brummett said people can be timid about going into a wig shop.

“It always helps to see that person who’s willing to help you. Some people complain about their own hair — it won’t do this or whatever — and then you see all of these people who have no hair at all,” he said.

Barnett has come to love the talks she has with her clients. They often talk of God and his plan for them.

“Nine out of 10 times, people who go through cancer turn to God for their strength,” she said. “We talk a lot about faith. It is a type of ministry for us. We give healing hugs. We tell stories. We even have head-shaving parties.”

The people who walk through the front door inspire Barnett and keep her going.

“My sister had breast cancer. I just want to help,” she said.

Carol Edwards is a fourth-grade teacher and has taught at Greenwood schools since 1978.

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