Four years ago we started this crazy idea of Help-Portrait. The concept was simple – find a person in need, take their picture, print it and deliver it. Our goal was to give photographers, stylists and friends “permission,” so-to-speak, to use what they had in their hands to give back to the community.

The idea caught on quickly, thanks in no small part to Scott Kelby lending his platform for me to share this idea.

Help-Portrait is now a global volunteer effort that takes place each second Saturday in December. To date 20,000+ volunteers have given approximately 200,000 portraits to the less fortunate. We’re doing it again this December 8th.

Then Hurricane Sandy hit, and I was reminded why we do this. Why we have to do this.

I was watching the telethon after the superstorm and nor’easter wrecked New York City and the East Coast. Every person interviewed said something to the effect of, out of everything they lost, what they most wanted back was their pictures.

It’s heartbreaking to know thousands of memories documented by priceless pieces of paper are forever destroyed, lost and ruined from this storm. It adds insult to injury for families who’ve lost much, and maybe all.

And it happens all over the world with regularity now. Hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, tsunamis and earthquakes know no ethnic, regional or economic boundary. Disasters aren’t limited to natural causes either.

Even though hearing the stories and seeing the photos of these disasters can sometimes be overwhelming, or worse, emotionally numbing, I know that we can make a difference.

After watching the pain on the faces of Hurricane Sandy victims, I knew Help-Portrait was made to respond to disasters like these. While lost photos can’t be replaced, new family portraits can symbolize strength today and infuse hope for tomorrow.

So we’re starting with Hurricane Sandy, and positioning ourselves to mobilize the global community to respond to future events.

Our teams on the ground in New York and across the U.S. are planning Help-Portrait events for those who’ve been hit hardest by Sandy. We’re hoping this will lead to funding that will allow us to replicate our response efforts around the globe.

Here’s how you can join us.

We’re launching a fundraising campaign with a goal of $160,000 so we can provide relief for at least 150 families with care packages valued at more than $1,000 – ideally we’d really like to raise $200,000 and reach 200 families. In several events in December, the main one on December 15, we’ll provide free professional portraits and hair & makeup to families and individuals in some of the hardest-hit communities. We’ll also give them cameras and equipment to capture and digitally preserve their new memories.

We’ll give relief supplies, gift cards to major retailers and necessities, and other gifts, like tickets and transportation to a Broadway play. Pampering these folks for an afternoon may feel frivolous but this is about more than a handout and a gift bag – it’s about restoring one’s dignity, reminding them of their worth and giving them a tangible symbol of hope and a fresh start. A picture can do that.

Will you help us?

Donate here: http://www.indiegogo.com/HelpPortraitSandy