2013 Help-Portrait & The Racine Hospitality Center {Gigi’s Joy Photography}

A few years ago I heard about Jeremy Cowart’s Help-Portrait brainchild, through his TED talk: http://jeremycowart.com/2011/05/ted-talk/

I knew someday that I’d want to be a part of such a fantastic event. Help-Portrait is a campaign with simple steps: 1. take a picture 2. print it 3. deliver the print. There are behind-the-scenes videos on the website that show how massive some events can be – with lots of backdrop set-ups, make-up artists, and hairstylists. Incredible footage… but at the heart of it, you’re really just using your talent to empower someone else.

Kenny, from Kenny Gregory Photography, and I put on a Help-Portrait event at the Racine Hospitality Center on Saturday, December 7th. The timing was perfect in that it was the Center’s Open House and Fundraiser for the year, so it provided a very festive atmosphere and lots of people in and out. The portrait part went very well. We didn’t have a make-up artist or a hairstylist, we just set up a chair in the corner of the room and took pictures of folks as they are. As it turns out, we didn’t need all of the extras. The comment I heard over and over when I showed the back of the camera? “Oh, wow – I look good.”

hospitality center“The Hospitality Center provides Racine’s largest meal program and offers hospitality without agenda. The Hospitality Center began in May 2011 and provides a safe place for all who are alone, lonely, homeless, near homeless and mentally ill to “drop-in” for rest, refreshments, and relationship.” -from their website

I had all sorts of preconceived notions of what I’d find that morning at the Center…. most of them stemming from the concept that the Center provided handouts. What I found instead was a community – a community based on helping one another, and sharing what you have. The volunteers and the participants alike work together to make it a welcoming place where all can have a chance to relax and be refreshed. On any given day, the term “refreshed” can mean different things to different people. To some, it may come in the form of a hot meal, while to others it’s the socialization that comes from playing cards at a table. But to many of us, being refreshed can be as simple as the feeling of having a place to belong, where our voice can be heard, and knowing that someone will miss us if we don’t show up.

The Center is housed in St. Luke’s Church on Main Street, in Racine. In a conversation with Mike, one of the volunteers and active member of the church, he waved towards the sanctuary and said “on Sundays we do God’s work in there, but the rest of the week we’re doing it here.”

Please take a few minutes of your day and take a look at The Hospitality Center’s YouTube channel. There are currently three videos there which truly show the essence of the Center’s mission. I’m so grateful to have learned about this place, and am eager to work with them again.

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