Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Colleen Hueber gives dolls makeovers to raise money for Love, Inc.
RACINE COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Colleen Hueber spent nearly 40 years as a nurse, taking care of patients. Now, Hueber takes care of dolls that need a little TLC, and she turns them into a toy any child would love.
Her work benefits Love, Inc., a nonprofit helping thousands of people in Racine County. She does it all from the basement of her Burlington home.
"This one needs to come to my beauty parlor," Hueber said, picking up a doll that had recently been donated to Love, Inc.
The dolls come in to Hueber's basement by the tubful.
"You can see this doll is an older doll and she really needs a bath," she said, holding up another.
This is where the retired nurse starts caring for the dolls. They come in all states of disrepair.
"They've been loved! They've been used," she said. "Their hair is mainly kind of all over the place, and they can be dirty."
Hueber spent 39 years as a nurse, but now she doesn't really consider herself a doll doctor, so much.
"I'm more like a salon, I think. I fix them up, dress them up, fix their hair. So they can be loved again," Hueber said.
One by one, Hueber brings them over to the comfy chair where she does her work, and she gets started.
"From the ends, work my way up," she said, showing us how she brushes out tangles.
She brushes and cleans until the dolls look like new.
"It lets me be a little girl again," she said with a big laugh.
She's been doing these doll makeovers for more than three years, and she's learned some tricks along the way.
"Yes, it's kind of interesting, I use my magic eraser," she said. "I tried everything. I tried finger nail polish remover. I tried everything. Scouring powder, but I use my magic eraser, if that doesn't take it off, sorry, that won't work."
She's got special skills when it comes to the tangled hair.
"If it's really a mess, I wash the doll's hair and then put conditioner on it and really don't rinse it off completely," she explained.
With the hair in shape, it's time for a new outfit.
"This is my wardrobe," Hueber said, motioning to multiple bins all filled with doll clothes.
There's even one just for hats.
"Look at all the hats. Isn't that just unbelievable," she said.
Hueber hasn't counted how many dolls she's brought back to life, but estimates it's in the hundreds. She gets all kinds of dolls through donations -- Cabbage Patch Kids, Disney princesses, even American Girl dolls.
"It is a real American Girl doll and that's her real outfit. So that will go for more," she said, holding up a Samantha doll.
Most everything she uses has been donated to Love, Inc., and that's where all of the dolls will return when they're finished. Hueber brings the like-new dolls back to the thrift store, and they go right out on the shelves.
"So, Colleen is, well, she's amazing, Let's just keep it real," said Executive Director Patti Wojciechowski.
Hueber's work helps Love, Inc.'s bottom line.
"If the doll is looking rough, maybe we can get a few dollars for it, if it's in a little better shape we can get a few more dollars for it, and that all goes right back into supporting the mission," said Wojciechowski.
It's a mission that supports numerous social programs, including a food pantry. Love, Inc. helped more than 2,500 people in Racine County last year.
"At every opportunity possible, we're kind of building dignity and reinforcing it," Wojciechowski said. "We want it to be a nice experience where they're feeling valued and not diminished because they're in a tough spot."
That's the goal of the dolls, too -- to provide every child with a toy they'll love.
"You know, if you spend a little time in the store, you will inevitably see a little girl get very excited about a doll that Colleen has put time and effort into making beautiful again," Wojciechowski said.
Each doll is a chance to help Love, Inc., and spread a little love, too.
"It brings me great joy, since I can't be helping people at the bedside any more as a nurse, I can still be serving and doing," Hueber said. "And making the world a little bit happier for a little one."
To learn more about Love, Inc., just visit Southern Lakes Area Love, Inc.
If you'd like to nominate an Everyday Hero, send Natalie a message at [email protected]