Last Saturday I was honored to attend and participate in the Smile – Eat – Receive Project, organized by the Dream Center Peoria (If you haven’t heard about them, you should look them up. They do an amazing job for the community www.dreamcenterpeoria.org). This specific project itself is an opportunity to help those in need in the community, by providing food, gifts and a portrait photo to those that aren’t able to afford (or would fine it almost impossible) either or any of those during this Holiday season.
It was the first time for me participating in any project of this type, but I felt encouraged and excited to be part of it. So I drove some 45miles to get there early on Saturday morning and arrived at the location with my camera bag and my willingness. I knew nobody at the center or any of the organizers, but that was not a problem. As I stepped into the designated area for photographers I felt comfortable and at ease. Everybody there was in such a good mood, very friendly atmosphere and immediately allowed me to feel welcome and appreciated. We all shared that excitement and desire to contribute. The sense of unknown immediately turned into a sense of comfort.
The organization was, in my opinion, admirable and pleasantly surprising. The photo stations were set, 90% of us photographers were already there on time, and the adrenaline was flowing. After a brief introduction, prayer, selection and distribution into our corresponding areas, with our work partners, the event started. Parties of people started coming in, ready and excited for their photos. The experience of meeting and interacting with such a wide variety of people was humbling and served as a learning lesson. To stand there with my dSLR and all that photo equipment, early on a Saturday morning (who likes to be up early on a day when you are supposed to sleep in??), with a satisfactory breakfast already in my system and comfortable clothes warming my body on a cold December morning……. to be there… and see how I take for granted so many things that others do not posses….. was HUMBLING! Just as a little example, I met a lady who could not provide an address for us to mail the photos later (in case she couldn’t come for it the same day, because YES, the photos we shot in the morning were ready for pick up in the afternoon) just because she didn’t have one. And on top of that she confessed she hadn’t worn make up or had her photo taken in at least 10 years. When she saw her photos, the smile on her face was priceless! That made me pause…… and put many things into perspective.
Been able to just interact, have a conversation, provide smiles, uplift, send out some good wishes and provide a photo to all these people was just incredibly amazing. Volunteering for that event was one of the best decisions I have made. At the same time I had a chance to meet some extraordinary people and photographers. You could inhale photography knowledge from that room. I got the chance to work the whole day with Todd Quinn (www.flickr.com/people/toddquinn/) we were sharing a photography area and the guy was great at providing advice and tips on portraits. We created a pretty good working team and he was also incredible at handling our guests and helping them select their image of choice. As soon as I got there one of the first persons I met was Jen (www.urbanbarnphotography.com) she is an incredibly beautiful woman and amazing photographer, it was great hanging out and talking with her. She is the one that took the photo shown on this post. Joshua Berardi (www.joshuaberardi.com) is an great photographer and amazing photo retouch artist, it was nice to see him work his magic. Jeff and Julia Woods (www.jeffreyandjuliawoods.com/) a tremendous tag-team photography combination of expertise, sharing and passion. As friendly and as unique as they come, they were both very much and very well involved with the project in every aspect. They were others and more photographers there like the legendary and iconic Bob Summitt (www.summittphotography.com/), from Henry, IL. What a pleasure to see Bob work and what a great person he is.
All in all it was a fascinating experience, great organization, happy people and a happy day. Everybody should get to experience something like this at least once in their life.