Salon managing partner, staff have heart for transplant patients

They’ve raised nearly $1 million to help with lodging, medicines, other expenses

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

No one can say Lester E. Crowell Jr. doesn’t have a heart. Not when he’s had three and is devoted to helping others who need organ transplants.

For 12 years, two-time heart transplant recipient Crowell and his staff at the popular Three-13 Salon, Spa & Boutique in Marietta have been hosting bake sales and an annual fundraising gala, Angels of Life Hair & Fashion Show. All proceeds go to the Georgia Transplant Foundation to help others pre- and post-transplant.

To date, the transplant foundation has received $850,313 through the efforts of Crowell, the salon’s managing partner, and his staff. And the fundraising milestone of $1 million is in sight in October at the 13th annual hair and fashion show.

Rita H. Michaels, executive director of the Georgia Transplant Foundation, said Crowell “really does want to make life better for the people around him, and he does.”

“When he decided he wanted to give back to the community and launched the Angels of Life Hair & Fashion show almost 13 years ago, I don’t think anyone could have dreamt of what he and his team have created,” she said.

His impact has been “far- and wide-reaching,” she said.

“Thousands of people who might not have known a [transplant] recipient before now have a better understanding of the process, the impact, and how they can make a difference,” Michaels said.

Crowell says he would have been dead at 47 or 57 were it not for the heart transplants he received in 2000 and 2010.

After his second transplant, Crowell was in his hospital bed, contemplating what he might do to give back. His surgeon, Dr. John Vega, director of the heart transplant program at Emory University Hospital, walked in.

“I said: ‘I play the lottery all the time. If I were to win, who should I donate to?” Crowell recalls.

“He said the Georgia Heart Transplant Foundation.”

Crowell followed Vegas’ suggestion and has even been sitting on the foundation’s board since 2015.

Crowell had been hampered physically since about age 13 by a heart muscle defect passed on by his mother’s side of the family. As he grew, he couldn’t participate in sports or activities of a prolonged nature. By his early 40s, he was in severe congestive heart failure, couldn’t always find the breath to speak, looked “really gray,” and needed a transplant.

The heart he received, which his body initially tried to reject, lasted about 10 years. He was on a waiting list for a year before receiving the second one.

About six months after his transplant, he and his staff of about 90 were washing cars, churning out yummy homemade treats, and putting their artistic talents to work with the hair and fashion show.

Christina Herrera, the salon’s director of operations, said employees were “so onboard and so supportive.

“Lester does so much for all of us, not just for us as a company but for us as individuals,” she said. “There’s no question – it was all hands on deck.”

Crowell said he wasn’t sure he could pull off even the first fundraiser, much less a dozen or more.

For weeks leading up to the gala, which this year is Oct. 22, at Cobb Galleria, employees bring in homemade baked goods to sell to patrons and each other. Crowell’s three sisters make their coveted pimento cheese every year, and customers place orders in advance to make sure they don’t miss out.

At the gala, the audience of 600 to 700 hears two or three stories of transplant patients and how the foundation has helped them. Big and small items are sold at a silent auction beforehand or at a live auction during the event.

Employees plan and star in the fashion show, which is an outlet for their artistic talents, Herrera said.

Crowell, who tells his own story to the audience, makes the pitch for donations for the foundation.

“He always does an amazing job challenging others to step up and put their money where their mouth is,” the foundation’s Michaels said.

The money that Crowell raises is put with other funds from the transplant association to help about 2,000 pediatric and adult transplant patients and their families every year. About 1,000 of those people receive direct financial support to cover expenses such as transportation, lodging, and medications, Michaels and Crowell said.

“Without a doubt, you can say that transplant patients in Georgia have received life-saving support and services thanks to him,” Michaels said of Crowell.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner


More information on how to buy tickets, watch the show online, participate in the online auction or donate at The hair and fashion show starts at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 22.

To apply for help: