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Family Photos Come to Local Shelter

May 13, 2011

A love of photography turned into a way to give back for Girl Scout Katlyn Sansone of Missouri. The Gold Award winner took her camera skills to a local shelter and created family photo albums for each mother.

“My mom has always been my troop leader, so she helped me come up with the idea for my project. She suggested photography, because it is something that I’ve always loved, and I worked out the details from there,” said Katlyn.

Katlyn on location during the photo shoot.

She became aware of the shelter through earlier volunteer work as a Girl Scout. The organization provides services to pregnant women who are experiencing homelessness and their children. Katlyn and her fellow troop members used to babysit the children at the shelter so that the mothers could attend classes.

“The kids were always fun to babysit, and being there just made me empathize with their situation. This is a shelter for women in crisis, but otherwise they’re just like anyone else,” she said.

Through her work at a photography studio, Katlyn was able to borrow professional equipment to work with at the photo shoots.

The shelter and the mothers were very receptive to the idea, but Katlyn had to work through some of her own challenges to complete the project.

“Being shy made it difficult to give people direction,” she said. “You have to deal with things like that as they come, and force yourself to do what you want. It goes with the project of learning a certain amount of leadership.”

The effort paid off. Katlyn received both her Gold Award and a Young Women of Distinction Award for her work. Her boss at the photography studio commented on how much she has grown over the past two years, something she attributes in part to this project. But most of all, the families she worked with treasured her photos.

“All of the women wrote thank you notes after the albums were delivered. From the notes said it seemed that they really appreciated having something nice done for them,” said Katlyn. “ I hope the photos will be a way for them to remember these moments as something more than a horrible time in their lives.”

Katlyn also provided the mothers with disposable cameras, so that more pictures can be added to the albums as the children grow. She will continue to pursue photography at the University of Missouri in the fall but, for the families she photographed at the shelter, her skills have already provided a cherished keepsake.