Help-Portrait 2014

Help-Portrait is described on their website as “a global movement of photographers, hairstylists, and makeup artists using their time, tools, and expertise to give back to those in need”, which is done by giving people a professional portrait. I’ve been trying for years to find a Help-Portrait event to be a part of but I could never find one nearby, so this year I decided to stage my own.  I worked through the Salvation Army of Wilkes-Barre and their Kirby House, which services families who are or are about to be homeless by helping them transition to an independent life, and was very pleased when my contact informed me that all 10 of the families currently residing there wanted to be a part of it, and that they were very excited!  My wife and 2 of my friends volunteered to help me out, and we set up a plan to provide each family with a great portrait, but more importantly, a great experience.

When we arrived yesterday morning, we set up an onsite studio, including the Christmas tree that the house had set up in their common area.  We also set up a makeshift hair and makeup station where the women could do their finishing touches, and a computer station so the residents could review their photos and choose which one they wanted printed – next week, we will be delivering a framed 8×10 print and a flash drive with all of their family’s photos.  As we were setting up, some of the residents were in the area, checking things out and talking, and we overheard one saying to her mother on the phone that she was looking forward to it because “I never have a reason to get dressed up”.  That one sentence kind of encapsulated what was so special about the day – part of it was them getting a nice family portrait, but it was more about giving them a special day, one where they felt important and felt good about themselves.  As each family came down for their photos, we saw something that was very special about the Kirby House – all of the residents actually act as a bigger family: they would watch each others’ kids, help them out during the shoot by making the kids laugh, and they were all genuinely excited to see the others’ pictures come up on the computer screen.  It really made the day worth every minute and dollar that was spent, and it makes you realize that a lot of people’s misconceptions about “homeless people” are very wrong – a lot of them are very good people that for various reasons, just need a little help and guidance to get them on the right path.  So when you see those kettles out there this month, and hear those bells ringing – please consider putting some cash in to help out the good work the Salvation Army is doing.

I know that what we did yesterday was a pretty small thing in terms of helping those 10 families out in the long run, but for one day, they got to be the center of attention in a good way, and that’s really what Help-Portrait is all about.

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