It was a busy day for Ella Whitfield as she worked at Children’s Future. On the side, she runs a small photography business, but on Wednesday those skills came in handy as she bustled around the large open multipurpose room that for the afternoon had been turned into a photo set. Whitfield explained that she pitched the idea to bring her skills to help the community.

 “I love photographing families or couples because they have really good chemistry already,” Whitfield said. “They’re very comfortable with each other. It’s a lot harder to pose like a single person.” She walked through her process of photographing families portraits for the holidays. “So I ask them to pose near the tree. I asked them to scoop as close to the tree as possible…Then composition-wise, if it looks very lopsided or uneven, I’ll adjust and put one of the kids in the middle usually.” 

Every family that comes has unique poses and different props to mess around with. Kids can play with toys, parents can decorate a tree, and the family can smile at the camera. “I’ll ask for a few different poses mostly smiling, but maybe goofy ones every once in a while,” Whitfield said.

Tamika Hall, Logistics and Community Coordinator for Children’s Future, explained that during their conversations with Whitfield and Children’s Futures clients, there was a need and a desire to celebrate. “Right now, it’s the holiday time. We know that JC Penney’s and so many different places offer to take pictures, but the cost is (expensive), and a lot of the families just can’t afford it. And so just talking to some of our clients with more than two or three kids…throughout our parenting sessions and breastfeeding and baby care groups…they just found that they just couldn’t afford it.” 

Children’s Future just celebrated its 20th anniversary in Trenton. The history of the foundation stems from a need to help Trenton Mothers prepare for childbirth and be with them through the first couple years of raising a child.  “Trenton is high, high, high in the nation for moms and babies died in childbirth,” Cathryn Longino, Senior Operating Officer / Assistant program manager, said. According to the Department of Health, Mercer County is critical for reasons for concern. “And so the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has set up an organization which is children’s futures, that allows for that issue to be looked at and find mechanisms and ways in which to reduce that disparity.” 

They do this by helping expecting Mothers in Trenton before, during, and after birth by providing a variety of outreach programs within the community.  “So we do parenting classes,” Cathryn Longino, Senior Operating Officer / Assistant program manager, said. “We do pregnancy tests. We have a wellness clinic that looks at providing kind of intermediary services for women that are pregnant. So, for instance, mom comes in, she’s pregnant, doesn’t have any insurance, or needs to go to a clinic. There’s a gap in services that’s there, and we fill that gap.” 

If Children’s Future can’t provide what the upcoming parent needs, Hall has 2 cell phones, a list of contacts, and an email to find someone who can help. “ I am open 24/7 to emails, text messages, phone calls. I have two phones,” Hall said. “ If CF can’t provide it for you, I’m going to reach out to our partner agencies…Every time someone calls me and says, Tamikia, I need such and such, (I’ll say) okay well, I know a guy.” 

As of December, their most recent numbers include providing services for over 1,558 families, supporting the birth of over 142 babies, and disbursed over 29,120 diapers.Due to Coivd-19, Children’s Future had to modify their programming, but they never shut the doors. “Babies are still coming whether you’re in a pandemic or not,” Longino said. “They’re still in crisis, whether you’re in a pandemic or not, so even though you might shut down some of the, you know, ongoing businesses, this is not a place to shut down.”  Sense 2002, Children’s Future has reached over 81,107 and has helped over 51,598 people get the services that they need. To put that into perspective, approximately 1,500 women give birth annually within Trenton, and Children’s future has helped with over 1,000 (67%) of them annually.  

This week has been focused on just letting the families feel normal. Crystal Lazano, Trenton Resident, and Mother dressed her toddler in a silver suit, well she and her husband dressed in their PJs. “They actually provided the suit here. We took photos with our PJs, little elf PJs, and they provided the suit. It’s great….” Lazano said.  This was the first time the Lazano family was able to do a family photo shoot and have a holiday photo to remember. “This is actually our first family holiday photos that we’ve ever taken. So it’s exciting…I haven’t seen them yet. I hope they came out really good. (Whitfield) said they came out really good. I trust her.”

Families are still welcome to take Christmas Photos are  Today, December 17, from 7 pm to 9pm, and Tomorrow, December 18, from 12pm to 2pm at 16 W Front Street or call (609)-695-1977.

“People here are absolutely friendly. It’s been super easy, super fast. And I would highly recommend it.” Lazano said.

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