When we first started selecting our vendors I wanted to give them the opportunity to introduce themselves via our blog and give people an insight on why they would want to be involved in something like this. I wanted people to see how amazing they were because we had many more vendors that questioned our motives and flat out said no. For the vendors that understood our mission and literally didn’t think twice, I wanted people to know why. I wanted all the people that said to me, “Do you really think this is going to work?” or “Are people actually responding to you?” to know that yes, it did work and some amazing people are on board. I wanted people to know that even if everyone else thinks your ideas are crazy, you should pursue them and work diligently to make them a reality, especially when they benefit others. So long story short, I asked Melissa our photographer and the first vendor we selected (in fact I think she selected us) if she would talk about what charity meant to her and why she wanted to be a part of this wedding that many in the industry scoffed at. As you will read she is incredibly busy both professionally and philanthropically so she was unable to get anything to me until now. I figured she had forgotten about it which was fine, I just put it out there in an effort to give the vendors a voice. I was really excited to open my email today and read what she had to say:
Ever since I can remember, my family was helping others. It wasn’t in huge ways, but it was small things that added up that really made an impression on me.
My paternal grandfather, Tom Grimes Sr., helped out his elderly neighbors and friends well into his old age of 90+. The son of a Share Cropper, my grandfather was very poor. He didn’t have money to donate, but he always told me he had time and capable hands. Although I didn’t get to see him as much as I would have liked, I do remember the days I did get to visit him and how his schedule was busier than most working people! He mowed his neighbor’s yards that could no longer do it themselves, and he made dinners for those who couldn’t make one for themselves. He was, in my opinion, a beacon of kindness for so many of his friends whose health and vigor declined with age. He was always busy. Many of my own relatives joke that I got my multi-tasking from him.
My maternal grand parents, Millard and Corrine Webb, were no different. They had been farmers, mill workers, and two of the kindest souls I’ve ever met. They felt a strong connection to community and were always on the lookout for those in need. They too, were very poor, but were also the first to take food to a neighbor in need, or help out in any way they could.
Then there is my Dad. I remember him putting on his Lion’s Club Hat. When I was really small, I used to giggle at how funny my Dad looked in it. He joked a bit, but was more serious about his work with this organization. As I got older, I would find myself helping him out on various community events. From serving food to people in need, to cleaning up a park to revitalize a neighborhood, to helping a neighbor repair a fence, it always made an impact on me. I distinctly remember an elderly neighbor saying “I don’t need your charity” when we showed up to help paint her porch. My dad promptly answering back in his sweet Southern drawl, “Mamn, this isn’t charity. This is us caring for our neighbors. It’s the Golden Rule”. She remained a bit cranky for a bit, but then ended up laughing and told us stories of growing up in rural Georgia. It is a great memory for me to this day.
My dad always said it wasn’t volunteering, it wasn’t a hand out…it wasn’t charity. It was community responsibility. The most important thing, however, I remember him telling me, was that it didn’t have to be huge efforts to make a difference, but, rather, even smaller things add up.
In high school, I was in the service organization, Key Club, and eventually became Lt. Governor for this organization. We did everything from organizing food drives, providing gifts for kids during the holidays, feeding the hungry…I can’t even remember all the projects except that it deepened my connection to my community. One teacher made the difference to me, Ron Arp. He was the faculty supervisor for Key Club, and further instilled my responsibility to contribute. He always said, “Do what you can when you can…but just do something.” He sadly passed away last year. It was a sad day for so many students that he had an impact on.
In my adult life, I’ve volunteered for so many organizations that I can hardly remember them all. Humane Associations for Animals, Habitat for Humanity, various Food Banks, the Forest Service to restore habitats in marsh lands, research in the Okeefenokee Swamp to determine effects of pollution to native wildlife, I’ve even dug up endangered sea turtle eggs to relocate them to a wildlife rehabilitation facility for a better chance of survival. Currently, I’m on the board of Flagstaff Biking Organization, a cycling advocacy group. Within that organization, I head up elementary school education on bicycle safety and discount helmet sales for kids. I guess I am a bit like my Grandfather. Busy is good.
When I met with Alicia and Kyle, I immediately felt like I had met two souls that understood this concept. Giving back has always been as natural to me as the sun rising and setting. It seemed to me these two felt the same.
I’m so proud and honored to be involved in The Charity Wedding. I hope it brings funds and awareness to the non profits involved. But, more than that, I hope it gets more people involved in their community. I want individuals to reach out to their own neighborhoods and see how fulfilling it is to volunteer for just one hour for something they believe in. I would bet it will stay in their hearts forever.
I truly believe that small things add up to big, wonderful differences in this world. I’m going to keep plugging away at my small things. I hope many more will join me.
In addition to shooting weddings and families, Melissa even uses her photography skills for the greater good. She often takes pictures of rescue animals looking extra cute so they will be adopted more quickly! The animals above are all rescued animals including Melissa’s own dog, Molly. She volunteers to take pictures at various charitable events like the one above that benefited the American Cancer Society.
P.S. The black dog (Alex) on the left belongs to Kim Duncan, our event designer!