MIRAMAR BEACH — Mary Cornelison-Bross remembers hitting rock bottom — but she also remembers the ladies that helped pick her back up and get her life back on track.
“When my son was 3, we actually lived out of my car and really went through a lot of hard times back then,” she said. “I was a single mom and I had somebody offer me a makeover. ... I’ll never forget walking out of the salon, looking at my reflection in the window and I felt so pretty.”
Cornelison-Bross said that kind gesture gave her the confidence she needed to take control of her life, and it gave her the desire to extend the same kindness to other women who may need a hand.
“I had so much confidence after that. I realized how much it really matters to make women feel good about themselves,” she said. “If it wasn’t for the people that helped me when I was in that situation I would not be in the place where I am now.”
Five years ago Cornelison-Bross founded You Shine, an event that offers free makeovers to women along the Emerald Coast. You Shine is applying for nonprofit status and runs on community volunteers who donate time, goods and services.
“We make over 17 to 25 women about every three to four months depending on how many volunteers we have,” Cornelison-Bross said. “We blast out posts on social media telling people if they know of a woman in need in the area going through medical issues or adversity or dealing with homelessness or just down on herself. We tell people to send us letters of their story.”
You Shine looks different each time the event is held, but Cornelison-Bross said the gratitude from the women they serve is always the same.
“Literally in one day their whole life is changed,” she said. “At the end of each event, after they see how beautiful they look, a lot of these women cry and can’t stop looking at themselves. Some of the women that are made over end up coming back to volunteer at the next event.”
Cornelison-Bross said it's not just the women served, but the volunteers that are affected.
“It humbles me and blesses me at the same time because I never forget where I came from and the struggles I had,” she said.