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Coronavirus: Photo fundraiser sweeping North America comes to Okanagan

Okanagan photographers jump on board a photo fundraiser sweeping North America amid pandemic
A photo fundraiser that started in the United States in the wake of the coronavirus has made its way to the Okanagan. Called the Front Steps Project, the initiative boosts families in isolation while raising much needed money for charitable organizations during the crisis. As Klaudia Van Emmerik reports, the initiative is catching on in a big way.

A photo fundraiser that started in the United States in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has made its way to the Okanagan.

“As soon as I saw it, I knew Kelowna would be interested in something like this,” said Michele Dyson, owner and operator of White Linen Photography.

Dyson first came across the Front Steps Project campaign on social media and was instantly interested in getting it going in Kelowna.

“The fact we can raise money for people in the community . . . makes everyone happy,” Dyson said. “We really need to help each other out right now.”

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The Front Steps Project started on March 17 by a photographer and her friend in Massachusetts.

Within hours, photographers all over America and Canada started jumping on board, including Dyson.

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The initiative has photographers coming to people’s homes and taking photos of families on their front steps.

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The photos are taken from a safe distance given the social-distancing guidelines in effect.

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“I use one of my portrait lenses and that means I’m basically 10 feet away when shooting,” Dyson said.

The photo shoots are by donation and money raised goes to charity.

In this case, Dyson has chosen to support Mamas for Mamas, an organization that supports struggling moms.

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The photo fundraiser has proven extremely popular so far.

“In the first two days, I had 60 families that had contacted me from my neighborhood that wanted to sign up,” she told Global News.

In addition to helping charitable organizations, Dyson said it’s also lifting the spirits of people, who are cooped up inside in the wake of COVID-19.

“To break up people’s days and bring a little joy to their days and maybe give people an excuse to get out of their jogging pants, to put some make up on,” Dyson said.

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Arisa Rukavina and her family jumped at the opportunity to support a good cause and get their family photos at the same time.

“I would love to frame them (photos), maybe put them up in the office, or hall up the stairs, just to remember this time because everyone is dealing with the same thing,” Rukavina said. “We’re all in the same boat right now.”

Mamas for Mamas executive director Shannon Christensen said she’s grateful for the donations, adding that the organization has seen the number of clients needing help double since the pandemic hit all while losing most of its funding.

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“About 90 per cent of our corporate sponsors have had to pull out because they are trying to keep their staff paid and employed, so yeah, it’s a crazy, crazy time,” she said.

“Many families who normally wouldn’t be struggling with poverty or with the scarcity around food of diapers or wipes or formula and things like that. Many, many families who have been middle income, middle class for the last little while have just plunged into poverty.

“And we are doing everything we can to keep up with the need and the demand.”

For more information, you can check out the Mamas for Mamas website or White Linen Photography.

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In the meantime, Dyson has issued a challenge for other photographers in the Okanagan.

“We are inviting other photographers to get on board as well and do this in their own communities within the Okanagan,” she said.