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Buckhannon organization helping families have portraits

September 17, 2012
By Melissa Toothman Staff Writer ( , The Inter-Mountain

A local photographer pictured an opportunity that could help low-income families preserve their family's image through formal portraits on their walls.

Ethan Butler, a photographer from Buckhannon and student at West Virginia Wesleyan College, found Help-Portrait, an international organization, through its website, He discovered Help-Portrait did not have a local branch, and he made it his focus to capture a successful team in Buckhannon.

"I believe this organization is necessary to Buckhannon because, like many areas of our country, unfortunately, Upshur County is home to many lower-class families and individuals who are currently unable to afford formal portraits," Butler said.

The new branch of the Help-Portrait organization already has an event for Dec. 1 at the West Virginia Wesleyan College Art Department, where those in need can have their portraits taken by members of the group. No one needs to call ahead to schedule, as the event is set up to handle walk-ins. The time for the event has not been determined.

"But we have no way to tell if a family or individual is truly needy. With the use of the honor system, hopefully, well-off families will understand that we would like to conserve our resources for those who truly need our help," Butler said. "Help-Portrait will offer a no-strings-attached way for these people to preserve the current image of their family for the rest of their lives and the generations after."

The December event will be taking place around the globe, according to a Help-Portrait donation letter written by Jeremy Cowart, the organization's founder.

Fifteen people interested in the Buckhannon branch of the organization attended the first meeting. Many others who said they were interested were unable to attend, Butler said. The next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the West Virginia Wesleyan College Art Department.

"Anyone can become a participant. We need a variety of skill sets in order to pull this off, so please do not feel like you can't help just because you know nothing about cameras or photography," Butler said.

Cowart founded the Help-Portrait organization in 2009. International interest later grew, expanding the organization to more than 1,500 locations in 56 countries.

"Portraits are a sentimental and necessary keepsake for any family for purposes or recollecting memories for years to come, and to provide an image of the past so that future generations can look back in time at the people who came before them," Butler said.

For more information about Help-Portrait Buckhannon, anyone interested can call Butler at 304-439-6167.



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