AMESBURY – When the COVID-19 crisis first hit, businesses were forced to close, social distancing was enforced, and the burden placed on many nonprofits skyrocketed – just as donations began to plummet.

That’s when the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce stepped up by organizing the Amesbury Front Steps Project to support Our Neighbors’ Table. 

“People were bunkering down in their homes, while at the same time we were seeing the dramatic spikes in local and national layoffs and unemployment,” said Bob Lavoie, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, in a press release.

“We knew the need would increase for the services provided by Our Neighbors’ Table,” he added. “Our staff got to work teaming up with several of our photographer members, and together they brought this program to Amesbury in support of ONT.”

Recognizing that many people and families were feeling isolated, the community was invited to sign up for photographs on their front steps.

A team of local photographers led the charge, including Laura Kozlowski and Kate Donovan. Each made themselves available to take professional photos of families and business owners on their front steps.

The photographers gave the families a digital copy of the photograph, but in return they were asked to make a donation to Our Neighbors’ Table.

“I started to look forward to who and what I would meet coming out of the Amesbury homes each morning,” Kozlowski said. “Not only did I meet some great families, I met kittens, chickens, dogs of all shapes and sizes, lots of cats, a bunny, and a pile of guinea pigs. Everyone was so nice and thankful we were doing this to support ONT. I am glad I could help our community.” 

“I loved this project and the Amesbury Chamber,” Donovan said. “It was great meeting different families and businesses. And it kept me motivated to pick up my camera and get creative everyday.” 

Our Neighbors’ Table provided about 900 Amesbury residents with assistance in February. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the business closures and the rising job losses, that need shot up.

“In just the four weeks following the March 16 shutdown, we added another 100 residents,” said Lyndsey Haight, executive director of Our Neighbors’ Table. “But, thanks to the years of commitment to food security, Amesbury was ready to respond.”

Kozlowski and Donovan spent more than three weeks taking approximately 200 photos of Amesbury residents, families and businesses.

By the time the project wrapped up May 2, more than 100 donations had been made to Our Neighbors’ Table. In total, this initiative by the Amesbury Chamber allowed ONT to raise more than $6,500 in donations, with almost three-quarters of those coming from first-time donors. 

“These photographs are not just people capturing moments of their own families; they’re sharing smiles and virtual hugs with the community, reminding people that in Amesbury, neighbors take care of neighbors,” Haight said. “I send my sincerest thanks to Laura and Kate for lending their talent, to the Chamber for spearheading and coordinating this project, and to all of our neighbors, from our steps to yours, thank you.” 

“This really is about our community supporting each other,” Lavoie said. “I think Laura and Kate each did a tremendous job of capturing the moment for so many in Amesbury during this trying time. But more importantly, it was amazing to work with them in generating the donations that will allow ONT to serve our community during this especially trying time.”

To continue supporting the work done by Our Neighbors’ Table, visit www.ourneighborstable.org/frontdoor to make a donation.

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