Volunteers Mobilize to Retouch Sandy-Damaged Photographs for Free

A grassroots organization offers Sandy survivors the chance to restore their hurricane-damaged family photos.
Photos like this one exemplify how water-damaged photos can be restored for Sandy survivors. (Photo: CARE for Sandy)
Nov 25, 2012· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

While parts of New York and New Jersey continue to pull themselves from the wreckage left by Hurricane Sandy, others have united to bring assistance to the hardest hit areas. And though necessities like food and heat are obviously the most crucial to survivors of natural disasters, one organization is hoping to give these people back something that money can’t buy― their memories.

CARE for Sandy is an organization of professional photographers and photo retouchers who have come together for the sole purpose of providing free photo retouching services to Sandy-hit victims. Standing for Cherished Albums Restorations Efforts, CARE hopes to preserve these personal effects that are beyond value.

Lee Kelly, a CARE for Sandy founder explains, “Cars, homes and jobs are replaceable, images of mom & dad’s honeymoon, baby’s first steps and great great grandpa’s sole surviving portrait are priceless.”

The organization, in tandem with sponsors like GoPreserve, held its first scanning event this week in Rockaway Beach. Locals brought boxes of their water-damaged family photos for scanning. The cost to survivors is free, at least for the first 100 pictures. After that, they’re retouched at a half-price rate. Once volunteers finish restoring the pictures, they’re sent back to their respective owners via an online portal.

But area residents are also handing in strangers' photos that have washed up on the beach, or are revealing themselves in the rubble of burned out buildings. CARE is restoring those too, and posting them on their website in the hopes of finding their owners.

CARE for Sandy joins other unique grassroots efforts aimed at helping the area recover from its recent disaster. One anonymously run Facebook page, titled Hurricane Sandy Thanksgiving Adopt a Family Dinner, matched displaced locals with families willing to share their homes with them on Thanksgiving. And a number of other Facebook pages have been spontaneously erected for the purposes of reuniting found memorabilia items with the residents who lost them during the storm.

Pictures and memorabilia may seem somehow trivial in light of the homes and livelihoods many people watched wash away as a result of Sandy. But for some of the survivors, their dignity is pooled less so in the houses they're resurrecting than it is in the memories and moments that have made their lives uniquely theirs. And their photos are a testament to that.

If you were rebuilding after a disaster, would preserving your family memorabilia be important to you?