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By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A little salon inside  the Germantown Recovery Community is being honored tomorrow evening as a beacon of light for those recovering from mental illness.

The salon is the focus of a documentary film on overcoming addiction, trauma, and abuse.

With her bright silver-blue eyeshadow, perfectly coiffed hair, and manicured nails, it’s hard to believe that Rachel Carr (below) once battled mental illness.

“I spent my teenage life in group homes and I always struggled with my depression and anxiety,” she says, noting that she dealt with a bout of post-traumatic stress after losing a child.

“It was tough,” says Carr, “but I worked ten times harder to make it.”

Today, Carr — also known as “Hollywood”– is the mother of two, a counselor, and a teacher.  She runs the Hollywood Beauty Salon at the Germantown Recovery Community, which is a workshop that offers peer support, vocational skills, and life lessons to those in recovery.

“If a member wants to learn how to wash hair, I’m teaching them,” she says.  “If a member wants to learn how to get a Social Security card, I’m teaching them.”

Carr and members of the Hollywood Salon will walk the red carpet tomorrow at the NHS Human Service Foundation’s tenth annual “Leading the Way” gala, where they will be honored for their work: destigmatizing mental illness and promoting recovery.

“I feel blessed,” says Carr, who is also a major focus of Hollywood Beauty Salon, a documentary that illustrates the results of Philadelphia’s use of a new, individualized, community-integrated approach to recovery.

(Rachel Carr.  Photo by Cherri Gregg)

(Rachel Carr. Photo by Cherri Gregg)


“We let people use their knowledge of themselves to teach us how to help them,” says Tess Zakrzwski, program director at Germantown Recovery Community.   “Before we had to stay in the building, but that isn’t real life.  Now we can go out in the community and practice the life skills we teach here.  That’s the whole idea: show people your life can be learning how to take the bus, getting your GED  —  when people thought they could never do that because they have a mental illness.”

The gala will take place at the Sheraton Hotel in Valley Forge.

“This is the biggest part of their recovery:  they look better, they feel better, and now they’re getting all gussied up,” says Frank Gutheridge, executive director of NHS Foundation.  He says the organization serves 40,000 people nationwide each year.

“This is the Super Bowl — an exciting time,” he says.  ” It’s a long road to recovery, so this is exciting.”

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