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Brightening the community one ‘porchtrait’ at a time

Initiative of Medford Lakes photographer lifts families and benefits local Lions Club efforts to feed high-risk population.

Hold steady in position, Missie Jurick’s, center, camera clicks and she learns all she could about Medford Lakes families during the quarantine, and raises money for a local organization. Walks for the Jurick family are accompanied by Missie’s camera and the creativity of those in Medford Lakes. Pictured are: son Xavier,5, mom Missie, husband Mike and daughter Xandie, 7 (Krystal Nurse/The Sun).

Door to door, at least 6 feet away, a Medford Lakes photographer is capturing family life as she draws donations for a local organization.

Porch portraits have caught the attention of families across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. So resident Missie Jurick thought, why not bring it to her lake community? An added layer of encouragement came when Jurick inspired donations during her initiative, the Front Steps Project.

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The project started after Jurick was shown an article about a Boston-based photographer who walks along a street to capture family portraits from a safe distance. The resulting donations are intended for charities that assist families during the pandemic, including Jurick’s .

“I initially thought it would be a cool idea, and I was a bit nervous about going door to door with that aspect of it,” Jurick explained. “But then, when I was thinking about the Lions Club and what they do, I thought that this is a way to help out.”

What she believed would be 10 families signing up for the project wound up being more than 200 families in Medford Lakes. So far, she has photographed 96 and plans to resume shortly.

Family walks outside in mid-March had become all the more interesting for Jurick as she got her children out into the fresh air and raised money for an organization that provided food for her family because a member was immunocompromised.

The Lions Club has been coordinating a free grocery delivery service to the elderly and high-risk population of the borough at Murphy’s Markets in Medford Township.

“I’m not a member (of the Lions),” Jurick noted. “I just know that they do great things and this was a way to help out.”

Families in the portraits participated in creative ways. One family comically showed its frustrations; others posed in front of their window creations and another toasted with stemless wine glasses full of assorted refreshments.

Photos are available on Juricks’ website at LittleBlueCanoePhotography.com/TheFrontStepPproject.

In the photographs, Jurick said each family has devised ways to showcase who they are while lifting spirits amongst themselves and the Medford Lakes community.

“If I can help bring that, then why not?” she asked. “Certainly with the Lions club, how could I not want to give back to people who are doing so much for all of my neighbors and friends?”

Wandering throughout the lake community with her camera has gained Jurick new connections with neighbors she might not have otherwise known as she enters their lives for a brief moment.

“It’s given me a purpose to feel like I’ve got something to do every day on top of the mom duties that I love,” she shared.

Maintaining social distancing measures, Jurick coordinates everything via her computer or text message before arriving at homes. She stands across the street with her 70mm to 200mm lens  ready to capture safe portraits and requests no payments

Jurick limits subjects to the borough so she can spend time with her own family and not be seen as conducting a non-essential business (photography is classified as non-essential in New Jersey).

“My husband is in the Army and so this has been the most family time we’ve had in 14 years,” Jurick explained of her husband Mike’s new remote employment status. “He’s usually traveling, working long hours and not home. But for the past two weeks?”

“It’s been a month,” Mike quipped.

Son Xavier and daughter Xandie relish time with their father and family moments have increased for the Juricks.

Remembering her dad’s motto, Jurick said pulling families together for a quick shot gives them “a reason to laugh every day” during tough times.

“As much anxiety and stress that’s going on, we have to remember that we are family and we’re all here for each other,” she noted. “We can still laugh, and love and grow, and celebrate that; it will be the biggest reason to get us through.”

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