December 2, 2004
Sandra Penek’s Scottsdale spa turned away the likes of wealthy professional athletes and doctors Wednesday, so for one day her business could be exclusive to former drug addicts, homeless and women deemed unfit to raise children.
Penek’s embrace of the down and out was a holiday gift to a shelter that turns around the lives of women who have hit bottom — and who she thought were in desperate need of pampering.
The day included massages, facials, manicures, lunch, scrapbooking and smoothies.
These luxuries are no big deal for most of Penek’s clients at her Body and Soul Spa, but some of the women she reached out to hadn’t enjoyed even the simplest of these treats.
"I didn’t even know what a smoothie was," said Alisa Zorne.
Zorne was one of 24 women who Penek pampered from the Home of Hope, a faith-based shelter in Casa Grande that takes in women who are rebuilding their lives after leading a life of addiction, prostitution or being in an abusive situation.
Most of the women never had a massage.
One of the few who did was Lindsey Tharan, a former Scottsdale resident who said the day triggered memories of luxuries she had to give up when she lost her job and an inheritance to drugs.
"When I had that massage, I remembered all the good things I did before drugs," Tharan said. "It’s definitely a blessing."
Penek gave up an entire day’s revenue for the event and got her staff to donate their time. Several neighboring businesses also donated products to the women.
Penek said she felt compelled to help the women because of her faith, her experience as a single mom and her work with female inmates in Maricopa County’s Estrella Jail in Phoenix.
The women said the massages were a welcome break from the struggle they’ve gone through to rebuild relationships with their families, friends and children.
The day will give Tharan a different way to look at a newspaper.
"I used to watch for my friends in the paper to see who was going to jail," Tharan said.
One friend got 25 years in prison. Tharan, 26, feared that would happen to her, as she became wilder and got into drugs. The addiction cost Tharan her job, she said.
Panek plans more days like this. She said she was touched to see the women step off a bus Wednesday morning to learn of what was planned for them. The event was a surprise and prompted most of the women to cry.
"I will always remember this day. I’m almost 50 and I have never been pampered like this," said Terry Gates, 49.
Gates has been in the program nine months to kick her addiction to drugs and alcohol. Gates said she’s anxious to see her family for the holidays because it will be the first time her grandchildren see a sober grandmother.
"I haven’t seen my family in two years," Gates said. "The last time they saw me, I was drunk or high. They’re going to see a new person."