CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Ash Fortis has a huge following on Instagram: more than 200,000 people. So, when the Chesapeake salon owner speaks up, people listen.
“I’m a person who likes big gestures,” said Fortis, owner of XO Hair Lab off of Volvo Parkway. “But I know that one box will make a big difference.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Fortis started hearing about a shortage of nitrile gloves at local hospitals. Unlike latex disposable gloves -- which are made from natural rubber -- nitrile gloves are synthetic, which helps prevent rubber allergies.
Before temporarily locking her doors, Fortis took steps to get ahead of the extended closure. One of those steps was taking inventory.
“I looked in the back, and sure enough, we had ample amount of nitrile gloves,” says Fortis.
For her, helping the hospitals by donating them was an easy decision.
“Hairstylists... have a huge opportunity to make a big difference,” said Fortis.
She put together a haul of boxes totaling more than 1,650 pairs of gloves, then she dropped them off at Sentara Princess Anne, Sentara Virginia Beach General and the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk.
She continues to gather more supplies and supporters to donate even more.
Fortis hopes to start a national movement, too, calling on all salon owners to donate their nitrile gloves and switch to reusable gloves.
“I think we are going to be smarter about our savings and our businesses,” said Fortis. “And prepare for anything that could possibly happen.”
Fortis says the donation was a small gesture that she hopes sent a big message to local healthcare professionals.
"We have to do something to take care of our people. They're trying to take care of us," said Fortis. “And I'm not at the same mental risks. I'm not at the same physical risks. I'm not at the same burnout risks. We have to find every way to support them.”
XO Hair Lab is located at 1036 Volvo Parkway in Chesapeake. During the closure, you can keep up with the salon on Instagram @xohairlab. Fortis is on Instagram @xostylistxo and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ash.fortis.