RESERVE, La. – Kat Cotham says she works to make sure that Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs (LDVA) Southeast Louisiana Veterans Home (SWLVH) residents feel loved and keeps their hair looking good at the charming shop she oversees which is conveniently located at the Reserve, La., home.
“I just love Veterans,” she proclaims. “I have never had a bad day while working here.”
Cotham, who grew up in Paulina, Louisiana, says that she, “always did like fooling with hair as a young child.” After graduating from Destrehan High School, she went straight to pursuing her dreams and attending cosmetology school.
Cotham trained and was certified at a barber and beauty school in New Orleans. She took a position as a stylist at Venus Salon immediately following her course completion and worked there for 15 years.
A chance sighting and her love of Veterans would lead her to become SELVH’s long-standing barber and stylist. “I was driving down Airline Highway one day and saw some contractors working on this new Veterans home,” she says. “I thought to myself, I want to work there.”
She interviewed for the position and was hired in 2007 when the doors first opened. She works three days a week and has developed personal relationships with the Veterans, spouses, and Gold Star parents that have come through the SELVH doors throughout the years.
“So many people come and go,” she says with a sigh. “It’s heartbreaking sometimes.” But, she says, she would not change a thing.
During the interview she was chatting up SELVH residents Rosalie and David Carter. While playing with her newly permed hair, Carter beamed, “Didn’t Kat do a great job?”
“You look beautiful,” replies Cotham while steadily trimming hair off of Mr. Carter’s face and chatting with the residents who gathered in the small shop to fill Cotham and each other in on how their days are going.
Cotham was even bitten by the “love bug” while working at the Reserve, La., home. She says she met her husband, Mike, when he volunteered to play music at the home.
He is a Navy Veteran and asked her to dance that night and the rest is history. “Three weeks after that first dance he put a ring on it,” she says with a coy smile. They have been dancing, traveling, fishing at their camp in Dulac, La., and working or volunteering at the home and in the community for the past two years.
“When I walk through the front doors, this is family, right here,” proclaims a teary-eyed Cotham as she points to all of the residents in the room.
The SELVH barbershop/beauty salon is open three days a week and every resident is offered a cut, color, or perm appointment on a monthly basis.