A before and after of one family's Sandy flooded photo.
A before and after of one family’s Sandy flooded photo.

While many Long Islanders are still rebuilding after Sandy, some of the superstorm’s survivors are getting some extra help repairing their most cherished possessions—photographs of loved ones and friends damaged in the historic floodwaters.

CARE for Sandy, short for “Cherished Albums Restoration Effort,” is a grassroots Brooklyn-based volunteer organization comprised of professional photographers and amateurs with creative backgrounds, who retouch and digitally restore photographs damaged during the superstorm.

“Our standards are very high…it’s very important that every photograph retain the character and integrity of the original,” said Lee Kelly, who founded the group shortly after the Oct. 29 storm. “I’m treating each and every [photo] as if it’s the only one that that family has; they’re all incredibly precious.”

The group will be hosting a free event from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at Nassau Community College in Building G, where families who wish to have their photos scanned and later restored.

Each family can submit up to 50 damaged photographs, which are digitally scanned and later uploaded online and put up for “adoption,” process that calls for volunteers to “adopt” a photo based on their skill level and completely restore it within a three-month window.

At NCC, students with backgrounds in photography and graphic design will help with scanning and retouching photos. About a dozen students from Studio Photography class will be on site to take family portraits of those guests who attend, while they wait for their photographs to be scanned, labeled and backed up.

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“I am thrilled that the Art Department’s students, faculty and staff are teaming up with CARE for Sandy in providing this critical first step to helping families get their precious photos restored,” said NCC Photography Professor Carolyn Monastra. “It’s also a wonderful opportunity for our students to gain professional experience while giving back to the community.”

One of the many families burdened by Sandy were the Fabianos, Oceanside residents who had the basement of their home submerged under floodwater with damage done to their hot water heater, gas burner, washing machine and much of their personal property—including the couple’s wedding album, which Al Fabiano said was spotted dripping wet.

“I brought the album upstairs and saw the look on my wife’s face,” said Fabiano. “It broke my heart to see the tears well up in here eyes.”

Fabiano read an article written about CARE for Sandy, detailing how the group could restore water-damaged photos. After reaching out to them through their website, Fabiano spoke to a representative that told him their was hope in restoring his photos, eventually he was contacted by Kelly.

“The Fabiano family is very fortunate as they’ve had all [of their] 24 images ‘adopted’,” said Kelly, whose volunteers come from far and wide. “And have received 17 restorations [from] volunteers from Texas, Oregon, Illinois, New York and the Netherlands.”

For families like the Fabianos whose photographs were all but lost in the storm, there’s still hope to reclaim some of those old memories.

“Lee was an angel sent from heaven,” said Fabiano. “Her organization, CARE, are a dedicated group of people who want to help their fellow man by bringing their expertise in photography to restore what would be lost pictures of loved ones.”


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Timothy Bolger is the Managing Editor for the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.