In December 2011, I asked my friend what she wanted for her birthday, which was in the beginning of December. She said that she didn’t really need anything; but that each year she canvassed her friends for used coats and then gave them to a charitable organization called Giving Back – Linda’s Legacy. She said a fine “present” would be for me to document what they do and give it to Giving Back as a contribution from both of us.
“So who is Linda?”, I asked. “Linda” is Linda Greenberg who started Giving Back and has now turned it over to an army of over 100 volunteers headed up by Steve Anstett.
What they do is to gather clothing, toys, games and items like strollers and playpens and distribute them on Christmas Eve to the homeless in Baltimore and Washington.
Finding out more on their website, I made arrangements with Sandy Dlugonski a teacher at the School of the Incarnation to make images of school kids filling backpacks. According to Steve, about eight years ago, Giving Back hit upon the idea of giving new items to the homeless. First they take a backpack and stuff it with socks, long underwear, a hat, a hoodie and gloves. The backpack is topped off with a handmade greeting card from the person who sponsored and filled the backpack.
Sponsorship of a backpack costs $25.00 and many young participants in the program raise the money through allowances and chores done around their house. For many children, it is their first experience with volunteerism.
The operation goes into high gear in mid to late December. Several collection points around the Annapolis, MD area gather goods and they are transported to the Farmers Market in Annapolis for sorting.
On Christmas Eve day, twenty-five trucks filled with items for the homeless leave Annapolis for Baltimore and Washington, each followed closely by a phalanx of cars filled with volunteers. The goods are delivered to shelters during the day, and later in the evening to people actually living on the streets.
Once I learned all this, I felt that my part was not just to make a collection of still photographs for the organization. They had those. I thought that how I could help the organization the most would be to create a video that filmed the participants in Giving Back: the parents, teachers, students, corporate contributors, organizers, backpack stuffers, recipients, etc. and ask each person “Why? Why do you do this and what makes it important to you”. And then capture how the “clients” feel when they receive the backpack, item of clothing, meal and maybe a hug.
Thierry Humeau of Telecam FiIms contributed the use of professional video equipment to make the project easier. I have over 10 hours of video in the can at this point. A top-notch editor and friend, Gordon Durnin has agreed to edit video into a finished 12-15 minute piece. Hopefully it will portray Giving Back as an altruistic, wonderful organization that embraces the spirit of volunteerism.
Funny transition for me: From still photographer to videographer, but one that is more and more important for new media.