By Kelsey Corley, Student Editor
After a one-year hiatus due to the ongoing pandemic, Help Portrait event returned this weekend to provide free pictures for families and individuals in the Bristol area at the Bristol Public Library. This year marked the tenth annual Help Portrait event that the Art & Design Club at King University has hosted, which took portraits of ten families, a total of twenty-seven people, and two dogs. The event was careful to follow current local covid-19 guidelines, masks were provided for any volunteer or attendee that wanted them, and the waiting area was socially distanced. Though the number of people that attended the event was less than in past years, the impact on the community was not diminished.
Help Portrait is a program in which photographers volunteer to take and prepare professional-grade photos of families and individuals that may otherwise not be able to afford them. Those who attend are given a free framed portrait, as well as a flash drive full of all the pictures taken of them and a gift card to get them developed. The Digital Media Art and Design program and the Art & Design Club at King University is instrumental in this effort with DMAD majors Callie Shehan and Katlyn Lortz heading up the event. Every year King hosts this event in November; students and staff from King University along with students and professors from the DMAD program volunteer their time and skills.
“This is far and away the best thing that DMAD does. It’s a way to apply the knowledge we are learning in the classroom in the real world and help local families in the process.” Caleb Beverly, a recent King grad and regular volunteer, notes, “the immediate feedback you get from seeing how much that means to the people you’re serving is really rewarding and fulfilling in a way that nothing else can be.”
Help Portrait was held in space donated by the Bristol Public Library, and food donations were provided for attending families by Metz, Chick-Fil-A, Blackbird Bakery, and Food City. More than thirty volunteers showed up to help the event run smoothly, including two alumni and four staff members. Samantha Jerrell, a sophomore at King, describes her reason for volunteering, “I thought this was a great event because everyone deserves to have family pictures and memories, especially around the holidays.”
Several returning volunteers noted that many families from the community return to the event year after year. In this way, they are not only receiving family photos but a way to document the growth of their children and, in turn, their families through this service. Lee Jones, Assistant Professor of Photography and Digital Media, says, “It’s a really meaningful experience; we’re using our skills to better the community.”