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541 Wiley Parker Road
Jackson TN 38305


A Portrait of Hope


A Portrait of Hope

Chelsea Catherine Croom


They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I think sometimes the best ones don’t need words at all. 

As I browse through the photos taken last Saturday, December 5, at Help-Portrait (hosted by RIFA), I’m smiling behind my computer screen so big that if someone were to walk by my office they might think I’ve had just a little too much coffee. 

I see smiles on the faces of children, and I remember them running around our warehouse-turned-portrait studio laughing as their mothers lovingly smoothed hair, tugged at clothes, and arranged other family members. I see faces of individuals who stepped inside our doors to have a moment of shared happiness with our volunteers. I see behind-the-scenes shots of students who chose to spend their Saturday at RIFA helping other members of their community instead of the myriad of other opportunities they had to choose from.

I see faces of people who were reluctant to step inside and have their photo taken, skeptical that there were really no strings attached. 

In a world abounding with strings, this event gives proof that people still do things for others just because. Just because they want to make a better community, just because they want to see someone else be happy, just because we are all fighting battles, and doing something kind like this gives us a temporary haven from those troubles. 

Help-Portrait is about giving people photos free of charge. Photographers, hairstylists, and makeup artists come together to capture happy memories and give back to their local communities. The goal is simple—find people in need, take their picture, print their picture, and then deliver it. 

RIFA has hosted Jackson's Help-Portrait each year since 2009, but this was my first experience with the event.

This day quickly became one of my favorites. The planning and preparation, the anticipation of the event, hoping everything ran smoothly—all of it was worth it the minute the first person stood in front of the camera excited to be there. 

There are days when it seems like all the news we hear is bad news, days when it feels as if our world is demoralized past the point of return. But there are also days like last Saturday—days that remind us of what it feels like to share a smile with a stranger, what it feels like to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Jackson is full of people who care about this community and each face in it. 

And that’s a portrait of help, a portrait of hope.

To learn more about Help-Portrait and to find out how you can become a part, visit their website. Also make sure to visit RIFA's website to hear about what other services they provide.

Chelsea-Catherine Cobb is a Jackson native and 2015 Union University graduate with a degree in Public Relations and French. She loves a strong cup of coffee, antique shopping, watching Jeopardy, writing, and meeting others who call Jackson home. Tell Chelsea you love cats, and you'll make a friend for life.

Photography by Rebecca Morris.