From Paige Sayles, Louisburg, North Carolina:

Help-Portrait of Franklin County, North Carolina, targeted families who previously had requested assistance in obtaining student school supplies through our local United Way. Our target families were not obviously poor, but because of the local economy were having a hard time affording the “beginning of school year” supplies many families take for granted.

Many (most) of our families had never had a family portrait taken. One family came in and then called their cousins to join them. Both families went home with portraits of the extended family, their individual family and group photos of the kids. Throughout the day we heard comments like “I look beautiful!”, “I have never looked this way!”, and “This is my first portrait.” were heard.

On a lighter note, we used a room in the building that houses the town’s police and fire station. The police station was empty but we invited the two men on duty at the fire department (we live in a small town) for portraits. As our fireman was photographed (looking very official in his turn-out gear), a professional studio strobe chose that moment to burn up and smoke up the room. How ironic to have that happen while photographing a fireman.

This year I partnered with several groups that volunteered because it sounded like a good thing to do and by the end of the day those volunteers were already talking and planning for next year; how to give out more photographs and get other groups involved. Best of all, one volunteer asked if it was too late to add another venue this holidays project.