VAN BUREN, Maine — When it comes to photography, Jill Doucette has an eye for creating memorable family and special events’ images.
Turns out, she also has a pretty good bead on how to turn that talent into a gift for those most in need of lasting memories.
This week, Doucette unveiled The Little Chickadee Project, something she hopes will combine the abilities of photographers around Maine in a volunteer “paying it forward” movement to turn what can be the worst of times for some families into happy shared moments.
Working with her fellow photographers, Doucette plans to offer professional photography to families of children with life-threatening illnesses, free of charge.
“The photographers donate their time and talent by taking photos of these children and their families and then donating a CD of their images with full copyright permission,” Doucette said.
Doucette, who operates as Aroostook Photo Services out of Van Buren, created a Facebook page for The Little Chickadee Project this week and within 48-hours had seven volunteer photographers signed on from the St. John Valley to Bangor.
“I am totally blown away by that response,” Doucette said. “I love that people responded so quickly.”
Now that the project is officially underway, Doucette is ready for the organization’s first clients.
The idea behind The Little Chickadee Project came from the Texas-based Tiny Sparrow Foundation, a nonprofit that provides photographic services to families in medical need.
“For the past year or so I’d been wanting to do some kind of charity work with my (photography) business,” Doucette said. “But I was not really sure where to go with it.”
After finding the Tiny Sparrow Foundation online, Doucette contacted the group and offered her services, which were subsequently declined.
“I got an email back from them telling me there was not a need for what they do in this area,” she said. “Not a need? Really? I beg to differ.”
So Doucette decided to take matters into her own hands and created her Maine-based group.
“We are a collection of photographers volunteering our time, talents and supplies to provide free photos to these families,” Doucette said.
Joining her in this venture so far are Allison Voisine of Fort Kent, Lindsey Raymond of Edmundston, New Brunswick, Jason Grass of Fort Fairfield, Samantha Marie White and Jeremiah Sjoberg both of Presque Isle, and Randy Devost of Bangor.
Doucette will showcase The Little Chickadee Project from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday at the annual Holiday Extravaganza and Benefit Vendor Fair at the University of Maine at Fort Kent’s Bengal Lair. The fair itself is spotlighting Kearston Albert and Merissa Nadeau, two area residents undergoing treatment for cancer.
“They were looking for a photographer to take photos of the event and contacted me,” Doucette said. “The person who called me hardly had time to finish a sentence before I said ‘Yes.’”
Doucette hopes The Little Chickadee Project can provide families some smiles in what can be stressful times.
“We, of course, hope children with serious illnesses never succumb to those illnesses,” she said. “But if a tragedy does happen, often the first thing people go to are photographs [and] for some they have major medical bills and can’t afford to have professional family photos taken.”
While taking photos is a joy for Doucette, she knows there can be some sadness connected to her recent project.
“I am sure there will be some emotional moments,” she said. “I am preparing myself for that.”
But for now, she is hoping to attract more attention for the project and looking forward to its first photoshoots.
Photographers interested in volunteering thier time may contact Doucette through her website www.aroostookphoto.com or through The Little Chickadee Project’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheLittleChickadeeProject/info.
Volunteers will be asked to fill out a simple application and agree to honor its terms and conditions.
“Once approved, a photographer will be put on our active photographer list,” Doucette said. “At that point anyone looking for our services will be given the contact information.”
To help promote the project Doucette plans on creating promotional items including T-shirts, bumper stickers, and postcards that participating photographers may purchase at cost.
“There may not be a really huge need in our area for what we are offering — thank God,” Doucette said. “But there is a need and I am looking forward to helping bring families and photographers together.”