PATERSON, NJ – Finding a way to give back during the COVID-19 pandemic for a nurse at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center was a snap – literally.

During the outbreak’s peak in early April, Kristie Spindler, who has worked in the labor and delivery department for the past six years, said there were times she felt “a little scared” and “definitely sad.”

“I wanted to give a little more and wanted a little more purpose,” Spindler, who lives in Wood-Ridge. “I do good things as a nurse at work, but I wanted to know what else I could do.”

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That’s when her boyfriend, Taylor Riccio, suggested they join the Front Porch Project, a social media campaign involving taking portraits of families on their front steps from a safe distance in exchange for a small donation to charity. 

Across the country, many photographers who have found themselves with fewer bookings due to the pandemic, have taken to volunteering their time to participate in effort and help their communities. 

Riccio, who does professional photography as a side job, “thought it was a great idea to raise money for the hospital,” Spindler said. For a donation of $20, the couple would come take a photo – from a safe distance. After that Riccio took care of editing and sending the final photographs off to families. 

They put the word out on social media, friends and colleagues and from there “it just took off,” she said. “We thought we’d raise a few hundred dollars.”

Earlier this month, the pair donated $2,000 to the hospital – in memory of a patient Spindler had who died of COVID-19 complications while her newborn survived. “She really touched me and was special to me. She was so calm, so nice and had a good spirit. When she came in, she was the first patient I lost due to COVID,” Spindler said.

Besides helping her workplace, the project provided more than 65 families from across North Jersey a keepsake to remember what life was like in quarantine.

“Everyone is experiencing it differently and it was awesome to see how each family coped,” she said. “Some were in pajamas, some wanted to showcase birth announcements or graduations.”

They’ve earned great feedback, too.

“People are over the moon. They keep telling us ‘We love it, and we want to hire you to do a photo shoot’ once this is over,” she said.

It also helped the couple stay busy during the weekends and nights they were off together.

“We got to get outside and it gave us something that we can do safely and we got to talk with people,” she said.

One of the families they photographed was Erica Prinzo and her boyfriend, at the couple’s new home in Hawthorne.

“It was perfect for us because we had just bought our house and thought having pictures taken in front of it would be a special way to commemorate it, especially since we couldn’t have anyone over for a housewarming party,” she said.

Prinzo, who has been friends with Spindler for over 20 years, said they were thrilled to contribute to the fundraiser to help their local hospital.

“She has dedicated her life to becoming a nurse for at least that long! When the pandemic started, she was overwhelmed as many healthcare workers were,” Prinzo said. “When she and her boyfriend, Taylor, decided to bring his passion for photography along with her passion for healthcare together, my boyfriend and I jumped at the opportunity to be involved.”

As part of the donation to the hospital, Spindler and Riccio also organized a photoshoot for the residents at the labor and delivery department.

Spindler said the most memorable part of the fundraiser has been “how everyone has reacted to it.”

“They were like ‘of course we’ll do it,’” Spindler said. “People love St. Joe’s and want to support the hospital. It was awesome to see the community come together and for co-workers to come together to donate.”

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