During the city’s stay-at-home order last spring, Michelle Wodzinski Capers turned her quarantine into an opportunity to give back to her community.
Michelle, a professional photographer and owner of Fireheart Photo & Film, began taking “Porch-traits” of her North Park neighbors in front of their homes. Half of the proceeds of each socially-distanced photoshoot supported the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund, launched by United Way of Metro Chicago and the Chicago Community Trust. The remaining proceeds supported Michelle, who was furloughed from her job and awaiting unemployment benefits.
“[I gave to the Fund] because it was local to my city and was well-rounded — it hit all the needs in the area,” Michelle said. “And it was right there from the beginning of the pandemic.”
More than 6,000 donors like Michelle supported the Response Fund in 2020. Together, we raised more than $35 million for 400 nonprofit organizations and community groups on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Each and every investment helped provide food, rental assistance and other critical resources to help our neighbors meet their basic needs.
Through her portrait series, Michelle photographed 23 people or groups in the northwest area, including families, kids, pet owners and a nurse. She also rekindled connections with her neighbors at a time when many were beginning to feel the effects of isolation.
“It was a great opportunity to see old friends and Facebook friends who I hadn’t seen in a while, and to connect with people,” Michelle said. “Human connection was nice when everyone was hiding [from COVID-19] and it was hard to get it otherwise. For a while, it was the only time I’d go out and see people.”
“I wasn’t sure how I can help, but it made me feel good that I wasn’t just laying around home hiding from the world.”