Group Aims to Restore Photos Damaged in Sandy

For the past few days, Fran McCabe has spent her time gutting the first floor of her home in Rockaway, which was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy a few weeks ago. But on Tuesday, she took the time to salvage something else – her photographs.

McCabe brought 63 of her oldest and most prized photos to a group called the Cherished Albums Restoration Effort for Sandy, which is accepting photographs damaged in the storm and using an army of volunteer photography experts to restore them. The group is accepting up to 100 photos free of charge from each family, which are scanned and sent to volunteers to be restored.

“You can replace a job. You can replace a home. You can replace a car. But memories are special,” said Lee Kelly, who founded CARE for Sandy.

Fran McCabe has hundreds of photos that were damaged in Hurricane Sandy. Amanda Cedrone | The Bridge

In a room inside the St. Francis de Sales School in Belle Harbor, with sand still on the floor, McCabe showed off her photos. One was a shot of her father when he was a toddler with his grandfather, another was her father in his merchant marine uniform and another was her parents’ engagement picture. She said she had about 500 more at home, where she had laid them on the table to dry, but she wasn’t sure what the limit was before coming.

“I chose the ones that needed more restoration,” she said. “These are the ones that are irreplaceable. There are no copies.”

Rachel Charkey, 40, said her whole family lives in the area. She salvaged photos from her home and the home of her parents and sister, who also live in the area. She said collectively the family has thousands of photos from her 75-year-old father to the grandchildren. Among the other photos she brought to be restored was her parents’ wedding album.

“I grabbed what I thought could be salvaged,” she said. “This has restored my faith in humanity.”

This was CARE for Sandy’s first event, but the group hopes to hold many more. It will accept photographs damaged in the storm over the next year or so, said Heather Jo Mangum, a volunteer coordinator for the group.

The inspiration for CARE for Sandy came a few weeks ago when Kelly saw an article in the Staten Island Advance about a wedding photograph that had washed up on a Staten Island beach.

“I thought, the damage isn’t too bad, I could fix this easily in a matter of two hours,” said Kelly, a photographer herself.

That’s when Kelly created the CARE for Sandy website, as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts. She was also able to track down the bride in the photo that inspired CARE for Sandy. Kelly met with the bride on Monday night and will restore the picture, along with others the woman had that were damaged by Sandy.

Since the beginning of the month, about 125 volunteers from around the world have volunteered their time and expertise to help restore photographs, Kelly said.

GoPreserve, a store in Brooklyn that specializes in transferring photos and film to DVD, has volunteered its employees and equipment to help the cause.

“We really wanted to do something to help,” said Anoop Kansupada, co-owner of the store. “Photos are something you’ll share with your kids and your kids’ kids.”

Lloyd Kaplowitz, a film restoration expert who has worked on movies such as Bladerunner, the Godfather and Bambi, has also volunteered to advise those working on photo restoration.

“For him, this is easy,” Kelly said.

For those getting their photos restored, it’s one more step toward recovery.

“My beloved Rockaway is broken,” McCabe said. “But my spirits aren’t.”

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