Debbie Glazer starts Comfort Salon Foundation, combining her passions for caring for people — and the world of beauty.
Photography provided by Debbie Glazer/Comfort Salon Foundation
As far back as Debbie Glazer can remember, she wanted to be a doctor.
“I wanted to cure cancer,” she says. “Being exposed to the world of disability and medical issues impacted me and shaped what direction my life would take.”
But as she got older, she started honing in on the differences between “caring” versus “curing” and realized her personality and passion were more predisposed to the former. During high school at Andover in Bloomfield Hills and into college at the University of Michigan, she considered athletic training and physical therapy.
“I wanted to help people feel better from whatever they were living with,” says Glazer, 41.
To that end, she tried out a nursing class at U-M — and loved it.
Glazer graduated with a degree in kinesiology (the study of the mechanics of body movements) before attending nursing school, also at U-M. Between degrees, Glazer took the opportunity to pursue another one of her passions, but this one was just for fun — she took a crash course in manis and pedis, earning her nail technician license.
Back at U-M for her nursing degree, she completed clinical rotations in the trauma and burn intensive care unit, hospice nursing and other specialties.
“I loved the intimacy,” Glazer says. “Being able to just be with the people, I could focus on making them comfortable and feel better. I could help their families. I didn’t have the pressure of trying to fix them.
“It’s such a gift being invited into that part of someone’s life.”
Armed with her nursing degree, Glazer worked in hospice and oncology nursing, orthopedic nursing and taught medical/surgical nursing at the Oakland Community College Highland Lakes Campus in Waterford, where she’s still on the adjunct faculty.
She’s also been raising her two young daughters with her husband, Seth. Although Glazer grew up attending Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, she and her family are now members of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, where they live.
“I feel like everybody has roles in their family and in society,” Glazer says. “I’ve always been a nurturer. I ask first, ‘What can I do for you?’ And my kids are also like that. They’ve been exposed to what I do enough that they understand the importance of being patient and being there for others.”
A New Passion
Despite her very full life, Glazer still had a nagging feeling that she could be doing more. In 2014, still doing nails for friends and family on the side, she was asked to do a favor for a friend: The friend referred her to a woman who was homebound with end-stage lung failure from a rejected bone-marrow transplant.
“I would go over, do her nails at her house,” Glazer says. “She was fatigued; she had an oxygen tank. I visited her for about four months, until she passed.
“That experience was so much more profound to me than any other patient-nurse experience I’ve had,” she says. “It was so much more intimate; it had so much more meaning. My brain started thinking — I really enjoyed this. I’m giving a gift but I’m also receiving a gift.
“It was life-changing,” Glazer says. “It changed my whole path. I knew this was my passion.”
From that first experience came others, through word of mouth. She was approached by someone whose mom had brain cancer, another whose friend had dementia and another close childhood friend whose mother had pancreatic cancer.
“My time with her was very important,” Glazer says. “She was a guidance counselor, professionally. And she’s always guided me. But that experience with her solidified what I wanted to do.”
In 2017, Glazer helped create a salon enrichment program for Jewish Hospice & Chaplaincy Network. And, in 2018, she founded Comfort Salon Services, providing mobile salon services to clients who are unable to come to the salon due to their physical or medical limitations, whether it’s a senior who needs his nails cut, a mom-to-be on bed rest or people with chronic long-term diseases.
In March 2019, Glazer received her 501(c) (3) status and launched the Comfort Salon Foundation. “By starting my own nonprofit, I could help more people,” Glazer says.
The foundation provides hair, nail, makeup and facial services for children and adults who are seriously or terminally ill — to enhance quality of life and provide comfort to those suffering from debilitating and devastating diseases.
Foundation services are offered free of charge — at home, in the hospital, at senior care centers or anywhere else services are needed — thanks to a phenomenal team of volunteers, including licensed cosmetologists, a social worker who loves polishing nails, and board members offering financial, marketing and other services at no charge.
“It brings together my neuro, orthopedic and oncology backgrounds — plus my love of beauty services,” Glazer says. “It’s very nerve-wracking, exciting, scary. It’s been a lot of learning. But it’s been amazing.”
Glazer is constantly recruiting volunteers for Comfort Salon Foundation while also building new events — visiting hospitals, residences, senior communities, group homes and more. Her hope is that the foundation — which for now is funded entirely through donations, sponsorships and grants — can be a part of various supportive oncology programs, hospice and homecare agencies.
“Self-care is a huge component of mind, body and soul. They have their treatments, their medicines, different therapies,” she says. “That’s where we come in to complete the circle.
“Approaching it as a nurse, I’m comfortable in a medical environment, with walking into a hospital room and not knowing what you’re going to get, with making sure everything is sanitary and helping the family feel safe. And the people we’re servicing — they have enough to deal with. They should know they’re in safe hands, too.” Glazer says. “The oath I took as a nurse is how I live my life. I still get choked up talking about it. I love it.”