Maura Kerkezis, of Fairport, was hoping to spread a little cheer in the community when the coronavirus forced everyone to stay home. Little did the Martha Brown Middle School health teacher know what she was getting herself into.

Kerkezis discovered #TheFrontStepsProject started by Carla Souila Photography in Needham, Massachusetts. This project had photographers across the nation bring families together during the quarantine and support a local charity. She decided to help raise money for the Perinton Food Shelf.

“I wanted to do something to unite the community during isolation and social distancing,” said Kerkezis, who owns Tres Bien Images. “It turned out to be one of the most gratifying things I have ever done.

“I was just hoping to invoke a little positivity and a collection for the Food Shelf. I didn’t know what would happen. People were so happy. Many of them said this gave them something to look forward to. I did this for the community I was born and raised in. It was more than a picture; it was a chance for families to rally together during a tough time and commemorate a piece of history.”

Kerkezis drove routes and photographed families from the street while they gathered on their front steps. Two days into the project, Channel 10 NBC did a highlight news segment and then requests came pouring in to “come to our neighborhood!” She recruited another photographer, her sister Colleen Soudan, and they drove separate routes, including 56 in one day. As of April 5, they photographed 286 homes and raised $7,535 for the Perinton Food Shelf.

Kerkezis did all communication through email, Facebook and texting. She texted the homes before leaving, gave them a time frame and they came out front waving. Staying at the street curb, she captured their quarantine glory from 30 feet away. There was no fee for the images; however, Kerkezis accepted donations for the Food Shelf.

Indoor desks and furniture were dragged outside. Front-line responders wore their uniforms. Families held signs or commemorated things they were missing due to cancellations and postponements. The Trudeau family dressed in different outfits honoring events their youngest daughter, Sara, a senior in high school, would be missing — her graduation, her prom and even the father-daughter dance.

“Some neighborhoods organized a route, so while I would take one photo the next eight or nine houses were all waiting out front for me,” Kerkezis said. “It was very uplifting.”

Kerkezis hopes to use this experience to encourage her students to mobilize and do something positive. They had a class discussion about helping others during the upcoming, unknown pandemic before schools shut down. Every quarter, Kerkezis offers extra credit to her students encouraging community service “to build on the Martha Brown P.I.N.K. (People in Need of Kindness) motto.”

The Perinton Food Shelf was ecstatic.

“I saw on TV that she was going to donate everything she made to the Food Shelf and it blew my socks off,” said Bill Lilly, a coordinator at the Food Shelf. “I had no idea she would raise this much. I thought it was just nickels and dimes, it really grew. It just shows the generosity of this community.”

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