The Front Steps Project has become a social media sensation in communities across the country, including North Andover, Massachusetts, where Merrimack College faculty and staff members are taking part. The project aims to help local charities while documenting family memories and bringing the community together during the coronavirus pandemic.
Inspired by The Front Steps Project that began in Needham, Massachusetts, North Andover residents developed their own version of the project, encouraging donations to Lawrence’s Neighbors in Need, the Lawrence YMCA Food Pantry and other local businesses.
The project works by connecting professional photographers to families who’d like a professional family photo and agree to pose in front of their homes. Volunteer professional photographers distance themselves at least 10 feet away when they take their photographs and then quickly leave. Photos are posted on the project’s Facebook page and are sent to the families who agree to donate to designated local charities.
The family of Merrimack College Softball Team head coach Elaine Schwager was one of the first to take part in the project. She liked the idea of getting a photograph of her family while giving back to the community.
“The message this sends is important and the photo you get is something you’ll have forever,” Schwager said.
Assistant professor of psychology Lauri Kurdziel said her family moved to town less than a year ago and wanted to help the community through The Front Steps Project.
“We thought the project was so wonderful and we wanted to do something that made us feel part of the community,” Kurdziel said. “We love that there is a charitable aspect to the project and that so many people in the community are participating.”
Mary Schwalm is a freelance photographer who often does work for Merrimack College and is volunteering for the Front Steps Project. She began taking photographs St. Patrick’s Day weekend and said the demand has increased and kept her busy.
“Volunteering for this project gives me a real sense of purpose,” Schwalm said. “I feel really connected to my community in a way I haven’t experienced before.”
The Front Steps Project – North Andover has raised more than $16,000 for local charities. The global Front Steps Project has raised more than $500,000 to date.