Gifting smiles: Delaware photographers open Help Portrait to the public in Milford

The luxury of a family portrait is nothing something every family can feasibly afford, John Mollura of Milford says.

That’s where Help Portrait photographers start snapping away.

The project started more than 10 years ago by photographers in Nashville, Tennessee, and has since spread across the world. It has been offered in Milford for three years now thanks to dedicated volunteers and supporters alike.

This year, Milford’s Help Portrait event will be open to the public compared to previous years when only families affiliated with People’s Place participated.

“Last year, I think we served over 100 people. We feel like now we have enough of a foundation, enough volunteers to open it up the general public,” Mr. Mollura said.

Those volunteers do a variety of jobs to keep the project moving throughout the day. Four photographers will help ensure quality photographs go home with each family. Others will help perfect hair and makeup, sign everyone in for the day, provide activities for the children, etc.

“It’s not only the people that are in front of the lens that get a benefit from it. The volunteers, the photographers, everyone leaves feeling energized. We intentionally have it before Thanksgiving to have that giving spirit,” Mr. Mollura said.

Many of the volunteers continue coming back year after year to offer their talents in a unique way, like Kim Rigby who also works at People’s Place in Milford. She can be found during Help Portrait day floating around the event, helping where she is most needed at the time.

“It’s my favorite day of the whole year pretty much because everybody’s happy,” she said. “It’s a place where you can smile and not have something else to worry about at that moment. I look forward to this day every year.”

She has seen the impact a project such as Help Portrait can have on its participants who walk away from the day with a free, printed and framed portrait they otherwise may not be able to afford. Similar photography sessions could cost anywhere from around $50 to $300 or more depending on the service and photography used.

“That could be half of their electric bill, at least. This isn’t something that is very high on their priority list,” Mr. Mollura said. “We basically want to give back to people and show how beautiful they are. They leave with something in their hand they can hold, something they can see. We have tons of stories of people who have participated and said, ‘I never thought I’d feel beautiful again,’ because of things that have happened in their past.”

The tears they walk away with are happy tears, he adds, thanks to the dedicated volunteers on a Saturday afternoon in November.

“It’s a unique way to give back,” he said.

Ms. Rigby added, “It means the opportunity to have a family portrait taken that they would never be able to afford otherwise. Or to have their children’s school pictures taken because they can’ afford school pictures. A lot of these people who come give these pictures out as Christmas gifts because they can’t afford to do that even. They are just thrilled to be able to provide a gift during the holidays. And just to come out during that day, to be able to sit down and have their hair and makeup done, you can’t imagine the people I’ve had come up to me and say they’ve never had that done. I know it’s a lot to ask to take away from someone’s busy Saturday to volunteer, but I can guarantee they would be happy at the end of the day.”

Help Portrait this year is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 23, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Reservations for photography sessions must be made in advance online at www.molluraphoto.com/helpportrait. Those interested in volunteering or donating to the cause can also visit the Website where signups and a GoFundMe link can be found.

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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