In the midst of all of the news surrounding the coronavirus, Rachel Packe wanted to do something uplifting for her community.

After reading an article about a woman in Boston who was taking pictures of families on their front steps while keeping a safe distance, she knew it was a perfect idea. It’s called “The Front Steps Project” and photographers around the country are piggy-backing onto the trend.

“I was racking my brain on ways that I can help our community, and thought about doing photos and didn’t know of necessarily a safe way to do it,” Packe, a Thurmont native, said.

Packe works at Green Health Doctors in Frederick, but has been practicing photography for about a year now. She has since shot her first wedding and booked some appointments, although she said she doesn’t charge anything since she’s still building up her portfolio.

She isn’t charging anybody for the front steps photos, but is asking that in return they pass something good along for the community, whether it be helping a neighbor with groceries or donating to the Thurmont Food Bank.

Melissa Stikom, who posed on her front steps in Thurmont with her children Skylar, 8, and Maddison, 3, said that she was planning on sending a check to the food bank right after the photo was taken.

She had seen Packe post about the project on Facebook and jumped at the opportunity.

“I’ve wanted her to take pictures before but our schedules never really fit together very well, and she takes absolutely beautiful pictures. So I thought, this is a great idea,” Stikom said.

Packe is making sure to keep her distance from the families she’s photographing. While they sit on their front steps, she said she’ll be at least six feet away, usually toward the edge of the lawn.

“Basically, with the lens that I have I can do it from my car,” she said.

Packe is being especially careful because her 9-year-old son has cerebral palsy and is at greater risk with regards to the coronavirus. In the last few days, she has stopped going over to her family’s house and stopped allowing visitors to her house. She’s trying to limit close contact with anyone.

A few days ago, her son had an allergic reaction. When she called the ambulance, she said they were hesitant to go inside her house.

“They didn’t enter my home because I told them he had a cough,” Packe said. “So it was really scary.”

Because the allergic reaction could be taken care of with Benadryl, they were able to administer treatment without having to go inside.

Packe said that she’s already had some takers for the photos since posting on Facebook on Friday. Others, however, are wary to even have someone come onto their lawn during a time when people are mainly staying at home.

Ultimately, though, Packe wants to help her community come together the way that she has seen them do before. She noted her neighbor helping her with groceries and the restaurants in town that are offering meals to children who would usually be provided a school lunch.

“We’re seeing so much negativity and not enough good,” Packe said. “It’s my civil duty to spread that good and spread that cheer and you know. We’ll say quarantine instead of cheese.”

Follow Erika Riley on Twitter: @ej_riley.

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