Our History

By Amy Mueggenberg,

GCRA Help-Portrait Co-Coordinator

How did this all start? I met Kayla after she approached one of our LAPC volunteer photographers shooting the Alzheimer's walk earlier this fall. I was asking Kayla for her help in setting up a couple of shoots for our group and she was asking me for help to see if I could find 3 or 4 photographers to do around 20 family portraits at a holiday party for one of the after school programs the United Way supports. I immediately said yes. But within 2 days and several emails back and forth it had exploded into helping 4 agencies at 4 separate locations. Having never organized nor attended an HP event, let alone on this scale, and with absolutely no budget, I was extremely skeptical that I could get it accomplished.

A couple of days later, I took the idea to the Rockwell Photo Club. The group was very supportive, saying logistically it could be done and that the photographers would come. So, I was off on my quest to find the photographers, the gear and to work out the details.

One week later, LAPC members Ryan Taylor and Tim McAdam climbed on board as technical advisors and eventually I was able to talk them into site leaders as well. Ryan took Marion Cares and Tim took both locations of Kids on Course.

Ten days into my planning, I was able to pull in a church friend and fellow photographer DJ Freesmeier. DJ is the Ministry Coordinator at Marion Christian Church, which ended up being one of our 4 sites for our first GCRA HP event. DJ offered to help with anything I needed and jumped on board right away when I asked if he would co-coordinate with me.

At the end of the day, I was able to pull at least half of my goal number of photography volunteers from the Linn Area Photo Club as well as a handful from the Rockwell Photo Club. Once a week in November, DJ & I met with Dave Johnson from Photo Pro where he got out his book and together we were calling several of the area’s professional portrait photographers. Many were very receptive to the idea, most of them saying yes right away. Some of them saying that this was an opportunity which they have always wanted to do. On the photography side alone, we had 53 area photographers among shooting, assisting, and photo editing.

Just 20 days prior to the event, I recruited Lisa Lewis of Envisage Photography as a site leader on the photography side at the United Way building. Lisa nearly filled that location’s photographer goal numbers with eleven of her photography friends and colleagues.

It was amazing for me to see all these photographers who would normally be competing for business this time of year, come together with all their gear and a tremendous amount of talent to do this for free.

It was a grueling 45 days, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Next year though, I’ll start sooner J

Watch this 3-minute video shot by Linn Mar Senior Sam Fathallah. Sam captured everything that I ever hoped this event to be.

Every volunteer whom I spoke to at the event, all told me "thank you for arranging this".   Many told me how rewarding the day had been.   They all said they want to do it again next year and they would stay as long as I need them.


We helped 150 families between 4 locations. We photographed 582 individuals. We had 60 skilled volunteers on the photography side alone between the photographers, photo assistants, and photo editors. We had 35 agency/site based volunteers. 2 weeks prior to the event, we had to turn away 2 agencies that had heard about it and wanted in. In 2014 we are planning to help 10 agencies at 10 different locations across the Greater Cedar Rapids Area.

In 2014, we photographed 872 individuals from just over 200 families at 4 separate locations.  We couldn't have done it without our volunteers:  25 photographers, 58 Skilled volunteers (editors, photo assistants, leads), 103 agency volunteers, 15 Make-up artists / Mary Kay Reps and 1 therapy dog!

Anyone who wants to volunteer for Help-Portrait Greater Cedar Rapids Area can learn more about volunteering here.

We’ll need photographers, assistants, photo editors, makeup artists, hairstylists, family guides and many other general volunteers.

There is also more information for volunteers on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/gcrahelpportrait. To keep up with current planning, please ‘like’ this Facebook page.

Contact us for more information and to donate time and resources!

Contact Us

© 2022 Greater Cedar Rapids Help Portrait - All Rights Reserved
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