By bringing individuals together in times of isolation, Edina photographers Molly Andresen and Hillary Wallace wanted to use their talents to help the common good. Capturing over 200 families posed on their porches during the spring 2020 stay-at-home order due to COVID-19, the Front Steps Project created memories and raised over $8,000 for the Edina Education Fund.
“It felt like such a privilege to be able to use a talent that we have in a way that brought some joy and some good to the community during such a hard time,” Andresen says.
Their work was inspired by photographers Kristin Collins and Cara Soulias in Needham, Mass., where the Front Steps Project began as a way to highlight the faces in their neighborhood. Snapping images of families outside their homes during quarantine, the photos documented memories and granted over $50,000 in support to their local community.
The project gained traction on social media, using the hashtag #TheFrontStepsProject, spreading globally to photographers who voluntarily replicated the movement in their own communities. Collectively, Front Steps Projects raised over $3,350,000 for local organizations and nonprofits.
“I think what is unique to this project is that rarely do all people experience the same thing at the same time,” Wallace says. “No matter the stage of life we were in, no matter the neighborhood, no matter where you were in the country, we were all going through something that we could relate to with one another.”
Not knowing each other prior to this project, Andresen and Wallace soon became close friends in their efforts to schedule shoots, edit photos (providing 3-5 photos for each family) and create the GoFundMe page for the MealFund donations that provided Edina families in need with dinners during the shutdown.
“It is amazing not only the money that is donated, but what it equates to,” executive director of the Edina Education Fund Kathy Rendlemen says. Surpassing an initial goal of $75,000 for the program, the MealFund raised over $100,000 which provided fresh produce, dry goods and gift cards to families for a whole year. “The pandemic was and is horrible, but it is nice to see some sort of shining light to come out of it and to see people come together and help out,” Rendlemen says.
The Front Steps Project: How Communities Found Connection During the COVID-19 Crisis
After the movement went world-wide, a book was created to commemorate the efforts of unity. Among the book’s collection of dozens of stories and over 400 photos, is an Edina family, the Heelans. Capturing them in front of their brand-new home, Andresen and Wallace were also able to provide the Heelans with one last memory of their cat before it passed. Not expecting to be chosen for the book, Kristin Heelan says she is grateful for the opportunity to document her family and help support others in the process.
“Once we received the book and saw families throughout the world, it was pretty touching and inspiring,” Heelan says. “We feel honored to be in the book, it is a keepsake.”
The book is available at Barnes & Noble and online.