Mary Kate McKenna Photography

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Sweaters + Sustenance

I couldn’t think of a better way to start 2014 on my blog than to share a small photo shoot I did on New Years Eve.

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Meet John Allen. A young man with a big dream and an even bigger heart.

I was introduced to his work by my friend and client Claudia of Fig2Design. She said we just had to meet and collaborate. John lives in Boston, so getting our schedules to work together was tricky, especially with the holidays. So New Years Eve it was. I randomly picked a spot in Bethesda. I knew that area pretty well, but had no particular reason for choosing it. It was just a spot I had thought of.

When we arrived at the area I had scoped out earlier, I casually asked him how he got started with Sweaters and Sustenance, the non-profit he created.

John told me his father passed away from cancer in 2003 and Christmas just wasn’t the same that first year. His family felt a huge void and wanted to do something.

They decided to feed the homeless. When they returned home from their service, they all wanted to do more. After witnessing the tattered and not nearly warm enough clothing many were wearing, they determined that they could also offer clothing to the homeless of DC.  Wasting no time, they went up into their attic and started to gather sweaters and coats.

John came across boxes of his father’s clothes.

The idea of giving away his father’s clothes must have been so hard. I see those boxes in my mind, piled up in his attic. John told me they still smelled like his dad.

But they decided to give these clothes a new life. To give them to those who not only physically needed warmth, but maybe they needed a connection, too. To know that they’re loved. And not judged. And cared about.

When I finished up doing a few headshots of John, he mentioned that only a few blocks away there was a bench dedicated to his father. He hadn’t thought about it until just then. He asked me if I thought we should go there. YES. Yes, we absolutely should. Maybe the place I chose for our session wasn’t so random after all.

While I took some photos of just the bench, John explained how it felt to put his father’s coat over the shoulders of a homeless man. I could see it in my mind. Feel it. And it took everything in me to not become a puddle of tears right then and there. Instead of becoming said puddle, I decided that I would do whatever I could to help further his cause.

This year, I plan on doing several sessions with John, including documenting his sweater runs. It will be an honor to witness and photograph his hard work.

Please join me in helping John help those in need. Follow his journey on his Facebook page to learn more.
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