Terrie Mayer likes the sneaky side of charity.
The 54-year-old Island Lake resident will go to the grocery store and pay someone’s bill or break into someone’s house to put up a Christmas tree surrounded by presents.
“God, I’ve done some screwy things in my life,” Mayer said. “It makes you feel good once you do something just out of the kindness of your heart, not because somebody’s got to pay you to do something.”
As Mayer talked, she worked on Carol Calcitrai’s hair in the cheerful studio she’s worked at off Virginia Road in Crystal Lake for six years.
After being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a relatively rare form of cancer that affects plasma cells, Calcitrai moved to Island Lake to be closer to her daughter.
But when things didn’t work out and Calcitrai was left alone in a damaged house, she found a friend in Mayer, who happened to live next door.
“I talked to Terrie,” Calcitrai said. “She came over right away. She pitched right in. She got a broom and just started cleaning up.”
It was for this kind of aid and the help Mayer provides to low-income and older clients and acquaintances that another of her clients, Susan Kuziel, nominated Mayer as an Everyday Hero.
“Terrie was there to cheer me on,” Calcitrai said.
“She still does. ... When you lose your hair, that’s the worst. They say you have cancer and that’s bad, but losing your hair, to not have any hair, eyebrows, eyelashes is devastating, especially as a woman.
“Then someone comes along and helps you out to make you feel like a person again. It means a lot.”
Mayer does some pro bono hairstyling for unemployed people so they can go on job interviews or for older women who can’t leave their homes, she said.
She also is training a golden retriever puppy named Greta to work with the elderly. Once the puppy is a year old, she can go to therapy school, she said.
Despite being given the choice between military school or beauty school in high school – she picked beauty school – Mayer was always a kind kid, standing up for kids who were picked on and helping them out however she could.
“One time I stole a neighborhood kid from the neighborhood, took her home with me,” Mayer said. “My mom said, Where did you get that child? Well, nobody would play with her. I took her home.”
Mayer graduated from Don Roberts Beauty School, which used to have a location in McHenry, through a work-study program her senior year of high school.
“I love doing hair,” she said. “I have more fun, working and talking all day and not get in trouble.”
The Mayer lowdown
Who she is? Island Lake resident and a hairstylist at The Salon, 17 S. Virginia Road, Crystal Lake. She’s been a hairdresser for 30 years.
Family: Terrie and Vince Mayer have been married for 18 years.
Originally from: Old Town, Maine, but went to Crystal Lake Central.
Favorite food: “I eat everything, probably something with pasta of any kind.”
Favorite movie: “Snow Dogs” because I had four huskies at one time.
Hobbies: Crochet and play the guitar.