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Uniontown salon owner believes in Power of Work

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Evan Sanders | Trib Total Media
Vinny Weaver III, owner of Vinny's Hair Design in Uniontown, recently won his second Goodwill “Power of Work Award.'

For a second time, Uniontown’s Vincent Weaver III will be honored by Goodwill Industries of Southwestern Pennsylvania with a “Power of Work Award.”

Proprietor of the popular Vinny’s Hair Design, a salon and full-service spa that has been located on Bouquet Street since 1983, Weaver’s small business seems dwarfed by this year’s other three awardees: Construction Junction, Highmark Inc. and Pennsylvania’s largest employer, UPMC.

So how does a small business located in a small city come to be singled out along with the region’s giants?

“From Goodwill’s standpoint in the Power of Work Awards is the contribution to efforts proportionate to the size of the employer,” said David J. Tobiczyk, vice president of marketing and development for Goodwill of SWPA. “A lot of people who think about helping people with barriers to employment think of large scale efforts, but many times a small employer with a dedicated effort can make an impact on a single person. That’s very much in the spirit of the Power of Work Awards. Vinny’s won this twice because he’s made this the spirit of his entire business.”

Though self-employed, Weaver has been no stranger to one of the region’s most serious barriers to unemployment – substance abuse. He candidly admitted that “22 years ago I was hopelessly addicted to drugs.” After eight years as a successful business owner, Weaver said, “I pretty much tanked and had to go into therapy.”

But therapy and rehabilitation were not cures, he discovered.

“The missing element to full recovery is work,” he said. Following successful treatment of drug- and alcohol-related problems many simply return to old habits out of a lack of positive direction in their lives.

“The key to sustained recovery is sustained employment,” Weaver said he learned.

As he completed treatment in programs offered locally by Goodwill, Weaver made the decision to “pay it forward,” that is to counsel other troubled individuals and even offer some the shelter of employment at his business.

“If you don’t think that a small salon in the community can make a difference, come see us,” Weaver said. “We have a reputation as a bastion of cleanliness. Anyone can come in and have a cup of coffee or a bottle of water and get some good counseling – advice.”

Interestingly, Weaver did not become a hair stylist — or a counselor — as a first choice of careers. A 1974 graduate of Uniontown Area Senior High School, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in speech communication from Edinboro University in 1979. After graduation, he found that Southwestern Pennsylvania’s economy had slipped into a deep recession with the collapse of the coal and steel industries. He sought retraining in what was to become a lucrative service industry, establishing Vinny’s Hair Design in 1983.

Always perturbed that his abilities in public speaking from his college training had gone unused, he found that they came in handy when he found himself on stage before hundreds of people at Carnegie Hall in Pittsburgh.

“It was probably the best day of my life when I won the Power of Work Award for the first time in 2009,” Weaver said. “I always wondered what God had planned for me.”

Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania has only given 50 such honors to area business since the inception of the Power of Work Award in 1997. This year’s awardees will be honored at a ceremony and luncheon on Wednesday in the ballroom of the Wyndham Grand in downtown Pittsburgh.

Franklin LaCava is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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