Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tuscaloosa Week Update!

Sorry we haven't been able to update the blog, but we've had sporadic internet since we've been here, and this is the first time it's been good enough to actually "work."

Sunday morning we packed our van FULL - as in we couldn't have fit another single item in it kind of full.
Tetris Level - Boss!
Happy Travelers - and LOOK! Gabs!

Lunch Break!

 Our hosts for the week is Ridgecrest Baptist Church. The girls got the primo real estate, near the showers, close to the bathrooms. :-) We're all happy campers! And Uncle Bo Nanner and the Squid made it too!

The first day was a bit disappointing, but we quickly over that as we started to connect as a team. Holt Elementary was so welcoming to us, and we saw quite a lot of the devastation that happened as we drove through Alberta City to get to the Holt Community.

Midweek found us at Forest Lake Baptist, which was one of the first places I saw when I was in the city the first time. Gone are the broken stained glass windows, replaced by new ones. The roof is no longer bare, the steeple that was upside down in the ground has been replaced by a new one with a light that I hear can be seen for quite a ways.

More to come tomorrow. . .check out our album HERE

Friday, June 7, 2013

ONE month till GO TIME!!!

One month from now, we'll be sitting around a table in Tuscaloosa having dinner, and going over our Day 1 plan. One month. . .

This Saturday evening we are having a brief meeting, and we'll have one more on June 22nd, and again on July 5th before leaving. 

Our wonderful fundraiser is on June 23rd and tickets are now available. Let's see these and pack the Refuge!

Gabrielle will arrive on July 3rd, and Tara is supposed to arrive July 6th. I will be shooting a wedding on July 6th, which will mean others will have to jump in to load the van. 

Still needed - let's sell those van seats!! If you don't know what this is about, check our Facebook link HERE. You can also share this with your friends and family. 

We also have an auction that is live right now. It is on Facebook, and can be found HERE. We need to sell these beautiful pieces of photographic art! 

For more information, please contact me. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

As we are getting closer to departure, we still have so much work to do! We have an exciting Brunch planed for June 23rd! Did you get your tickets yet? See Holli's post below to order tickets! Can't make it? No problem! Make a direct donation to OUR Mission Trip below: DONATE

Thursday, May 30, 2013

End of May Updates!

So it's the end of the May and some exciting things have happened, and are happening this month.

 First of all - one of our interns turned 16 yesterday! I am the proud mother of a big hearted Elder boy who can now drive!! Unreal.

 Secondly, we've scheduled our Fundraiser Brunch! If you don't have plans (and even you do! cancel them, this will be better) you should join us on Sunday, June 23rd at 11:30 at Refuge Coffee Bar. Tickets are $12 per adult, or $20 for couples, Kids (12 and under) are only $5. There will be several baskets up for raffle (need not be present to win most of them) and we have some amazing items up for grabs; photography art, pasta baskets, a supreme Summer Griller's basket, etc. We'll also be offering a split the pot during the event. 

Brunch will be a classic Southern Brunch with a few twists; pancakes, french toast, sausage, Goetta, quiche, boiled eggs, fruits, muffins, etc. . .as well as an AMAZING cake from Delicious Designs for You by Jessica Castellini.

 Also this month, we were featured in the Cincinnati Enquirer in the local section. The infamous Tuscaloosa Rising picture was on the front page of the section, and a great story about our team and leader was on page 5. The link can be found here: Tuscaloosa Rising Story.

Please consider supporting our mission. We need to raise just under $4000 for eight people. . .and our return on the trip is over $125,000 for the week. That's what we're gifting to the community of Tuscaloosa.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Southern Style Brunch and More!

Check out our upcoming Fundraiser for June 23rd!

Come join us and delight yourself in a full, Southern Style Brunch, good music, dancing, and "take your breath away" basket raffles!

We still need to raise funds for our trip. We've had the added expense of lodging, but we're taking that out of our "incidentals" budget, so our overall budget hasn't changed.

We are polishing up some of our upcoming events. :-) Take a moment and check out this one. Who wouldn't want to come and stuff their tummies after church on a beautiful June Sunday? There are going to be tons of baskets for our basket raffle (all donated) and we're going to do one "split the pot" drawing as well. We'll also set up a small area in the back where we'll offer our benefactors a free family/couple/individual picture, and email to them as a symbol of our gratitude.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Updates

This month is going to be a big PUSH month - Pray Until Something Happens!!

After having a number of venues fall through, we are desperately seeking a location to have our fundraiser before leaving for the trip in July. We are confident however, that God will provide. In the meantime, here's what some of our photographers have been up to!

Gabrielle Mappone - PA - after teaching all day long, Gabrielle also donates her time to deserving high school seniors who would otherwise not have senior portraits. She also photographed her school play, and managed to work in a friends wedding the day before her first mothers day without her mom.

Helen Swartwout - OH - also a teacher, Helen spends her weekends filming the sweetest of lovies. . .the four legged babies of SAAP (Stray Animal Adoption Program). Helen's work contributes to the placement of these wonderful animals in forever homes. She is eagerly anticipating her first solo wedding, and is enjoying her new god daughter.

Holli Stevenson - OH - Hospice photography isn't enough and I've found myself busy gifting services to a deserving bride (photography, bridesmaid, AND venue host), promising services for an Affordable Housing project for the west side, and photographing the graduation of Oyler students who have beat the odds and graduated despite overwhelming factors that stacked the decks against them.

These are the people your dollars support. Already generous beyond measure, they are eager to get to Alabama and bless the socks off the people of Tuscaloosa. . .and fill the empty frames.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

12 Weeks and Counting!

Tuscaloosa Rising

                         GOAL:      $3820
                      RAISED:      $475
                         NEED:       $3345

The image above is one that I captured on my first day at "ground zero" in Tuscaloosa. There was something about this that just grabbed my attention - HARD. That is sheet metal, from a tin roof hanging in the branches. There was a house behind this tree at some point - it's hard to image that now.

Our mission is far more important than just filling empty picture frames. I know we all "get" that on some level but there are many facets to what we're doing. Lots of times, people are going to be talking. They will tell you all about the storm, all about what it was like, how they got away or how they rode it out. Our job isn't just to take a pretty picture of a family - we're lay counselors too. Listen carefully to what people are telling you. Pay attention to the people around you - not only the family in front of your lens. In prior mission trips, I've shot some amazing film of stuff that wasn't really my focus. . .that is until I listened to that still, small voice, and started paying attention.

I am in the process of working out the scheduling issues surrounding the day to day shoots. Both churches now have the flyers that were made for the two high schools, and the family sessions flyer will be going out this week. Media outlets have press releases, and we are gearing up for interviews starting later this month.

We are still working out some of the details for the fundraiser here in Cincinnati. It will be a "Southern Nights/Sweet Home Alabama"  theme and the menu will consist of southern specialties; fried chicken, collard greens, corn bread, biscuits, peach cobbler, etc. This is where we're having the silent auction, and we're already collecting some awesome items for it!

So what are the ingredients for a mission trip? It's simple really. . .follow along if you can!
  1. A calling. Put in simplest terms, a mission team is made up of people who said, "Yes" when God said, "Will you go." 
  2. A willing heart. Planning and raising funds and dreaming up fundraisers and dealing with the media and creating schedules and working with partners all take a great deal of time and sacrifice. It's impossible to sacrifice without the willing heart. 
  3. Humility. Asking people for money will absolutely give you a reality check. You could be the most confident person in the world . . .till someone tells you to change your FB status and ask your friends for $5. Many people are able to just write a check to cover their costs, but the whole idea behind sacrifice is that if it doesn't cost you something, if it doesn't pull you out of your comfort zone, then it's really not a sacrifice after all. It takes a humble spirit to ask people to give you money for a mission trip. 
  4. Confidence. Back to back, and these two don't seem together, right? I mean, how can you have confidence if you're humble? Trust me on this, if you let God work through you, it will all balance out. Team members interact with people they've never met, and especially in this circumstance, they have to earn a strangers trust remarkably quickly. Knowing who you are, and whose you are will put you in a place of spiritual confidence and give you the tools you need to deal with the folks you encounter. 
  5. Support. Every mission trip needs the support of people connected with it. Prayer support is especially important, and so is financial support. Many people do not realize that team members that a week or more off work (w/o pay usually) and often times they incur other expenses, like childcare, or have to purchase special clothing or equipment. There are fees related to every trip that are extra as well. Some people have to fly to a location to join the team and incur travel expense just to get to the place where they're going to travel to the mission location!
If you're reading this, we need your help. Simply put, it's going to cost us just under $4000 to take 10 people to Alabama. That is nothing when you really think about it. We are being housed and fed by the churches we've partnered with, and the rest of the funds are allocated for travel, and incidental expense. Anything left over would be applied toward prints for our senior packages.

If you've been blessed, and we have all been blessed in some way, would you consider giving to support us?  We are in the process of securing a 501(c)3 so that your donation can be tax deductible, but do not yet have it. We meet all the criteria for this, and fully expect approval, we just don't have it yet

Saturday, April 6, 2013

April Updates

Well, it's official. Tickets have been purchased, partnerships have been solidified, and even the Mayor knows we're coming now. Things are moving right along.

In the last month, we've solidified our team selection, and are in the process of collecting biographies so that we can "introduce" you to everyone. For now, please take a look at our new tabs across the top of the page, and get to know our team.

Ask letters have been drafted, a bank account and PayPal account has been established, and we've begun the process of requesting financial support for our trip. Now. . .don't stop reading! Yes, we want your money, but not all of it. : -) Promise! We are asking for supporters to sponsor us on a monthly basis, as well as one time donations and in kind donations. Currently, we're partnered with North River church and the Vineyard Church of Tuscaloosa who are providing shelter, some of our meals, and helping us orchestrate our daily sessions while in the city. A big part of our needs have been met so that we can bless these families, but we still need your help!

Lots of people wonder exactly what their dollars go to when it comes to mission trips. I've created a break down here to help everyone understand just where your hard earned pennies are going.

Transportation - $620
This includes our travel to and from Tuscaloosa, as well as any driving around the city. I estimate 40 miles daily while in Tuscaloosa, and it is about 1200 miles round trip from Cincinnati to T-Town. This comes to a total of 1440 miles we are estimating having to drive. With gas at almost $4 per gallon, and we estimate a total of 155 gallons needed, bringing our transportation costs to about $620 (give or take)

Meals - $600-700
We'll have six or seven people on our team, and estimate about $100 per person for the week. This will include any meals we need to purchase for ourselves (typically McDonald's style meals) as well as items like bottled water, soda's, Gatorade (it's hot in Alabama, ya'll) and snacks.

Incidentals - $1500
This will cover items like air mattresses if we need them, first aid kits, extra car rental, extra batteries, printing for senior portraits, unexpected expenses (like tires, a hotel overnight if there are issues with travel)

Van Rental - $1000 
We are trying to have a van donated for our usage, but if not, this is the cost to rent a 12 passenger van, which is the smallest we could use when you consider all of the gear that is necessary to bring.

Grand Total? $3820
This represents the total cost for seven people, travel included.

If you think of it this way - we'll have at least four photographers shooting for six hours a day. That's 24 sessions each, times four, so you're looking at at least 100 families daily. If we extend our time for an hour, we're looking at about 125 families that we're serving daily, times five days represents a minimum of 500 families. Each family receives a group shot, kids together, kids alone, and mom and dad together. These sessions normally cost around $150 per family. (that is an average charge per photographer). In all, these sessions would "cost" $75,000.

This doesn't include the senior portraits we're planning to do, (average cost, $495 per session) or any of the "extras" we're able to work in daily.  We are planning to do around 100 senior sessions, bringing our total for senior portrats to $49, 500

All in? We're offering a total package of $124,500 in portrait work.

Would you please consider supporting us? There's a donation button located at the bottom of this post, and you can give securely via PayPal. Alternately, if you're local to Cincinnati, any one of our team can come and pick up a gift. We're available to share with your church of civic organization too!

Donate Securely

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Return to Tuscaloosa

Our interesting cast of characters is returning to Tuscaloosa this July. This time however, we won't be rescuing or giving first aid. Instead, we'll be utilizing our talents as photographers and helping the people affected by the storms find hope again. . .through some simple pictures.

Greater Cincinnati Fellowship of the Lens is opening sign ups soon. Estimated cost of the trip is $300 to $500 and that includes transportation, lodging, and meals. If you're interested, please email Holli at

Watch this space for more information. . .and posts from guest authors!!