#TheFrontStepsProject was an initiative heralded by 2 Massachusetts residents as a way of supporting and uplifting their community when social distancing guidelines and restrictions were first imposed back in March 2020. The idea was simple: capture candid portraits of families at the front steps of their houses, to celebrate family life, and community during such a sensitive time.
The Front Steps Project was birthed as soon as the first case was announced in Needham, which is where the 2 friends, Cara Soulia and Kristen Collins, were residing at the time. It was Collins that suggested that her friend, a family and newborn Boston-based photographer, go around the neighborhood capturing families posing on their front steps.
In place of payment, participants were asked to make a voluntary donation to the local food pantry. The Front Steps Project gradually grew into a movement to involve communities and photographers beyond Needham Massachusetts. The first round of photographs was posted on Instagram and Facebook on March 17th, 2020 using the hashtag #TheFrontStepsProject.
Unable to handle the outpouring of requests from neighbors, Collins then solicited the help of 2 other photographers, Caitrin Dunphy and Topher Cox. Collins had everything laid out such that the families and the photographers did not have to have any contact or even knock on the door. The participating families were always all ready to go by the time the photographer arrived.
Within the next week, more than 200 photographers across the country had joined the hashtag and were taking front step pictures of families all over their communities. Like they had in Massachusetts, the subjects were asked to make voluntary donations in lieu of payment. In the days between March 15th and 30th, the photographers estimate that they captured more than 500 participating families.
Unfortunately, the movement was brought to a screeching halt thanks to the continuing surge of infection cases that was happening all over the country. Before it was halted, the Front Step Project helped several families cope with the anxiety of self-isolation while documenting a strange time in our history.
Although it only lasted for a short period before the grassroots movement was suspended as part of the safer-at-home orders given in the majority of states, it left an indelible mark. The pandemic has been a stressful event for almost everyone and the Front Step Project helped to add an element of fun and togetherness.
The value of a strong sense of community
Rallying together in challenging times has proven critical during the pandemic. That’s why The Front Steps Project and many other similar projects were widespread during those early months of isolation and quarantine. The shift was sudden and drastic causing families to deal with the heavy blow of physical, as well as relational distancing.
As it became apparent that self-isolation and reduced social interaction were now the new norm, individuals began to realize that there’s power in community. Projects such as the Front Step Project reminded people to appreciate their communities rather than focus on all the fear and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.
The Front Step Project, in particular, was so impactful for everyone involved, the subjects and photographers alike. Photographers participating in the project got the chance to go out and do what they love while the families that had been isolated together for weeks were simply happy to step out and take part in something fun yet significant.
Even from 20 feet away, the quick connections made helped to considerably inject a much-needed bolt of light during a dark time. We all love in a society filled with communities. Individuals experience a sense of community at their workplaces, schools, and most importantly, where they reside.
Every individual needs to ensure that they surround themselves with a strong sense of community. Some things that one can do to build a sense of community include:
Getting involved with local organizations
As the vaccine makes its way across the country, you may want to look at how you can participate in local community organizations that you are passionate about. From churches to libraries and gyms, there are groups in your community that require your participation. Taking part in events as simple as food drives or storytime for children in your community can instill a sense of belonging in you.
Organize a neighborhood drive
Rally with your neighbors and work together towards a charitable cause. It can be anything; a neighborhood book drives to help prepare their children for back to school. Ask members of your community to gather school items and resources that they no longer need and deliver them to families that need them. Creating such an event and being part of it can help you build closeness with your neighbors, all while helping those that need your help the most.
Nothing is more important when it comes to building a sense of community than kindness and empathy. The best thing about reaching out is that it can start right in your building, apartment block, or street.
Know a neighbor that just had a new baby? Why not reach out and ask to come over and clean or cook a meal? Similarly, if you’ve heard of a community member that’s fallen ill or is injured, reach out and see how you can help.
Take part in a community cleanup
Organizing a community cleanup doesn’t have to be a big thing. It can start small such as a visit to the park to pick up trash. On a grander scale, you can also organize a community recycling program or an event aimed at preserving your local trails and landmarks.
The Front Steps Movement managed to take off way beyond the Boston area, reaching states across the country. because of its success, the 2 women that started the movement were not only able to share the images captured on social media, but they also created a website that now contains all the pictures captured under the movement. In total, they estimate that the #TheFrontStepsProject raised more than $200,000 for charities.