In the midst of the global pandemic, Northwood resident Jodie Bachtle wanted to make a difference, but didn’t know how she could make the biggest impact. As it turned out, her passion for photography was the answer.
During her recent COVID-induced downtime from her wedding photography business, Bachtle helped deliver Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) masks around the Worth County area. After seeing calls for the masks on Facebook, she lent a helping hand.
“I told them ‘Hey I’m here, I will travel, I will pick up your masks and deliver them to the locations that need them,’” Bachtle said. “I was trying to help that way and after about a week, I felt like I really wasn’t accomplishing a whole lot.”
Soon after, she found out from fellow photographer Laurie Cook about the “Front Porch Project,” a series that focused on families sitting in front of their homes, capturing images of life during COVID-19. Cook had first heard about it from another photographer in Texas, who gave her blessing to let Cook also do the project.
"It's just a bunch of photographers copying everybody," Cook said, laughing. "We're all doing the same thing. I don't think it is anyone's idea, we're all just trying to cheer people up."
Intrigued by the project, Bachtle reached out to Angela Wright, director at the Worth County Community of Promise, to see if they needed help with donations. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Community of Promise, which runs the local food pantry as well as the Northwood Community Center, wanted monetary donations instead of cans.
“I thought ‘That’s perfect’. Let’s create a way that I could go out and do the Front Porch Project,” Bachtle said. “It’s great for me because that is my passion anyway, and maybe we could help our community. That is how it started.”
To help raise money for the food pantry, Bachtle has been taking photos of local families at no cost, just with the request that they donate money to the Community of Promise. According to Wright, Bachtle’s efforts has raised approx. $1,570 in donations as of Friday afternoon for the mobile and onsite food pantry, which has helped purchase an additional 5,000 pounds of food in the past two months. That extra food has been a huge help, as the Community of Promise has seen a 250 percent increase in customers since the pandemic began, according to Wright.
“Donations were down before the Front Porch Project started," Wright said. "But we have seen more donations start coming in, just because of the pandemic and people understanding that we are having such a huge increase in people."
Over the past two months, Bachtle estimates that she has shot just over 100 families or business for the Project. She started out by photographing a few of her friends for practice, and once word spread, Bachtle began getting a lot of requests.
“Everybody stepped forward and participated in the trend,” Bachtle said. “It was really cool to see. It happened really quickly that people started coming together and talking about it.”
In a spring filled with anxiety over COVID-19, she wants each family to be able to see the pictures in the future, and remember how they felt at this moment in time.
Some families have a fun theme for their pictures, and Bachtle has taken photos of people posing with everything from kangaroos to toilet paper.
“I was there to be the storyteller,” Bachtle said. “It was their story and I wanted to tell it in a way that is meaningful and something they can look back on a year from now or 10 years from now. Just to say ‘We’re okay. We made it through, and this is what life was like.”
Bachtle received requests from all over the area from people wanting to participate, with one family even offering to pay her to drive two hours away. She turned down these requests, wanting to focus the project on local families. The enthusiasm shown by the local community has been inspiring to Bachtle.
“I think it was a fun experience because there wasn’t the stress of coordinating outfits and making hair look perfect,” Bachtle said. “Part of the fun of the Front Porch Project is that people actually took photos in their pajamas and with toilet paper or animals and kids. Showing community connection and showing that everybody is still here. It's important."
Readers can donate to the Worth County Community of Promise through Paypal at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a check to PO Box 275 Northwood, IA 50459.
"More donations would be welcome," Wright said. "The 5,000 pounds of food that we purchased, we gave away that easily, if not more on top of what we regularly do. The additional food is helpful, but I think we will continue to need support over the next few months."
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