CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - It's a Christmas gift worth a thousand words. Dozens of volunteers in Cape Girardeau joined an international movement to make professional family photos possible for families in need.
They believe, you really can't put a value on a family picture, and that's why families feel the program Help Portrait is so amazing.
Volunteers from stylists to photographers work to make the entire experience special -- after a makeover and star treatment, hundreds of Heartland families took home memories to last a lifetime. The entire process is free of charge.
"It's pretty special," said Pamela Sue. "It's the meaning behind all this that's more special."
For many the images tell a story.
"For a nice picture, it's just priceless," said Alizabeth Avery.
The portraits convey reflections of life.
"It reminds me of who I should be, and who I'm going to be," said Mandy Grubbs.
"I was surprised when they brought it out," said Ashley Wilder. "It brought tears to my eyes how good of a job they do. The Help Portrait team is amazing."
It starts with hair and makeup provided by local salons, and then on to the photo shoot.
"For the volunteers it is a chance to take a gift we've been blessed with and give them a really big gift," said Sheri Grippo-Fish, organizer and photographer. "The image is so much more than just a picture. It's about walking in the door and being treated in a way you feel luxurious and you feel worth something and visible. A lot of the individuals that come here don't feel like that. They often feel ignored, so this is a really important day because at that moment they feel beautiful and that's a great thing."
After editing comes the finished product.
"I love it," said Bianca Davis. "They did such a good job."
For many the pictures are symbolic, especially for Mandy Grubbs.
"It inspires me," said Grubbs.
Grubbs says it's been a rough year. She hasn't had any contact with her son, Noah and she's dedicating the picture to him.
"I love him and I miss him and my other two children so much," said Grubbs. "I dream of the day when we are all reunited and all in a picture like this. It proves to myself and my family that this is me. This is the real me in this picture. I'm back and we are going to move forward."
Then there's Pamela Sue and Doug Ritter, newly engaged.
"It was so wonderful to be treated like a queen and our pictures are wonderful," said Pamela Sue.
"These are our first real portraits made and it's a great thing," said Doug.
Along with songs, Hunter and Connor, they are excited about becoming a family.
"The pictures really beautiful," said 11-year-old Hunter. "I think it's one of the best pictures I've ever taken. I'll always remember this day when I see it."
They hope to get a picture to Pamela Sue's son, Austin Neal who is serving in the middle east with a unit out of Farmington, Missouri.
"This is for you Austin," said Hunter.
For Jamie Wolfe and Alizabeth Avery, Help Portrait is becoming a mother and daughter tradition.
"I work two jobs and it's hard to make it and to have something like this is really good," said Wolfe. "I cry when they bring them out."
"I love it, they are so good," said Alizabeth.
Then there's young Henry Brown.
"It's pretty cool and I think I'm the best looking one," laughed Henry.
The 10-year-old feels he looks at least 11 or 12 in his picture. He's finding confidence through this special portrait and learning the magic of what can happen when a community comes together.
"My favorite part today was getting to see old friends and I got my picture taken," said Henry.
Help Portrait Cape Girardeau joined 139 locations in 24 countries. Our local volunteers and stylists were amount thousands worldwide that worked to give families professional photographer absolutely free.
It took place at House of Hope in Cape.