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A Picture Perfect Holiday Gift PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia   
Thursday, 13 December 2012 05:54

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Family portraits are treasures passed on from generation to generation. But for many, having a professional photographer take their family photo for a special holiday photo isn't possible.

Alas Media, a San Fernandobased company, is trying to change that. Last Saturday, Dec.8, they held their fourth annual Help-Portrait event to take professional quality photos of East San Fernando Valley families free of charge.

"It's very special for many families who have never had a portrait taken of them," said Rosa Ruvalcaba of Alas Media. "It's a way of giving back to the community."

What began as a small effort is growing into an annual community event. Those that volunteer have found that they enjoy participating as much as the families who have their photos taken.

This year, members of the San Fernando chapter of the Kiwanis volunteered alongside professional hairdressers and photographers who offered their skill and time to the effort. One volunteer helping out for the first time said it was an eyeopening experience.

"While I was helping a little girl with her hair, I asked her where she lived. She told me that she didn't know. I later realized that she and her family don't have a place to live like the rest of us," the volunteer said.

Maria Benitez, 44 came to the event with her kids, Sebastian, 11 and Jaqueline, 8. A single mother from San Fernando, Benitez said having a special holiday photo taken is a luxury. She said that times are tough for her; she cleans houses for a living and doesn't work every day for lack of clients. "They [her son and daughter] asked me if I would like to take the picture. I don't like to take pictures, but I did it for them," she said.

"But I'm very happy and feel very special ...the way they treated us, they made me look very pretty," she said with a chuckle.

The event was held in Las Palmas Park and was an all-day affair, where families from MEND (Meet Each Need with Dignity), the San Fernando Valley Boys and Girls Club, as well as local schools came to take photos at the gymnasium turned into a photo studio. Eight professional photographers and assistants tried to bring out their best smiles. Hair and make-up stations were set up to prep the photo subjects. The families were treated to breakfast, there was a kids' corner and some gifts, including small pots of poinsettias to take home. But the biggest gift was at the end, when each family was presented with their own 5x7 family photo printed and framed on the spot.

In total, 110 families posed for photos this year thanks to $2,500 in monetary and inkind donations from individuals and a variety of companies, said Adriana Serrano, also with Alas Media. She said more than 75 percent of families they served had never had a portrait taken.

"It's a special highlight in this time of need," she said of the effort. "It's about capturing memories."

Moments that are truly special and valued, said Lucia Montes, who came with her husband and children – Coral, 13, Karina, 9 and Anthony, 3 – for their second portrait.

"This is very nice, they treat you so well," she said. "This is something you don't always get to do and it leaves you a very nice memory of all the good experiences we had here."

She said they were somewhat nervous and unsure when they first came to the event last year, worried that it could be a ruse to get them to pay later, but this time, she was much more relaxed.

Last year's photo is in the center of their living room and this one will join that one in that special place. "It's something we treasure," said the Panorama City resident. Maria Hernandez, 68, also echoed the sentiment.

"It signifies a memory from here, from the park," said the San Fernando resident who is part of the Senior Program at Las Palmas. "This was very nice. They treat you so well, so kind," she said.

"This means a lot, especially because it includes my sons, which are the most important thing," said Maria Bonilla, who came to take a photo with her sons, Elvin, 5 and Julian, 3. The overhead costs the organizers of the event between $33 and $40 for each family portrait. And Serrano said they are already raising funds for next year's effort, when they hope to double the number of families they can photograph.

To make donations or learn more about the effort, visit .

Last Updated on Friday, 14 December 2012 01:20

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