In August of 2014, CG Pro Prints began producing professional canvas portraits for The Heart Gallery of Northwest Texas. The Heart Gallery is a nationwide non-profit that partners with local professional photographers to capture portraits of children in need of adoption within their regional locations. THG - Northwest Texas began printing with CG Pro Prints through a recommendation from one of their professional photography partners.
Earlier this year, THG - Northwest Texas created a submission for the CG Pro Prints video contest and we immediately recognized the opportunity for support through our Canvas for a Cause program. Since our partnership began, The Heart Gallery of Northwest Texas has printed over 40 canvases with CG Pro Prints and placed seven children in Forever Families. The incredible results achieved through Canvas for a Cause inspired us to seek support opportunities with additional Heart Gallery locations. This initiative is still going strong with various potential partnerships throughout the country.
Through this process, we desired to learn more about The Heart Gallery of Northwest Texas and sat down for a Q&A with Samantha Crumrine, Director of the Northwest Texas Branch. Continue reading for more information about our partnership with THG - Northwest Texas and learn how you can get involved with your local organization.
1) Please provide a brief history of how you began working with The Heart Gallery of Northwest Texas.
In 2005, I learned that there were over 500 children in our region’s (San Angelo to Midland/Odessa) foster care system. I was blown away. I never knew that so much child abuse and neglect was happening right here in my community.
That same year, I read James 1:27 that says that pure and faultless religion is to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to remain unstained by the world. My world was rocked.
I immediately started researching opportunities for involvement and spread the word about foster care needs right here in San Angelo. I became a CASA advocate and began hosting shoe drives for orphans globally. During this time, I learned that 90% of the foster children were being placed in foster homes outside of our county due to the lack of licensed families to take them in. A dream was put in my heart to build a place in San Angelo for our foster children. I began working towards a degree in international business for that purpose. When I finished my degree, I kept in very close touch with my friends from college and made note of who was studying accounting, criminal justice, social work, physical therapy, etc.
When graduation came around, I was ready to make a move. However, I had come to realize that people don’t always understand or want to hear about abuse and neglect, therefore these children were often forgotten. I needed a way to bring the children to light and address what put them in foster care in the first place. I read about an organization called The Heart Gallery that started in New Mexico and had been replicated throughout the country. I called our local CPS office and asked if we had a Heart Gallery existing in our area. When they confirmed we did not, I decided to build one.
I reached out to some friends skilled in photography, social work, accounting and business and even a friend who had been adopted herself. Our first meeting was at my dining room table. That was June of 2012. By April of 2013, we formed an official 501(c)3 and were working with photographers all over the state of Texas. We partner with our local CPS office, several Child Placement Agencies who license families to foster and/or adopt and 33 professional photographers. Our mission is to connect children currently waiting for adoption due to abuse and/or neglect, with families who are interested in adopting. I have served as the board president and founder since June of 2012.
2) How did you hear about CG Pro Prints? What was the decision process or inspiration behind using canvas prints to help provide these children with adoptive families?
To be honest, we haven’t always worked with CG Pro Prints. We originally had an agreement with a local print shop to produce 20"x30" framed prints. They were heavy to transport (which we do frequently), fragile, and expensive to fix.
Where in the community do you display these canvas prints?
The Heart Gallery is a collection of portraits featuring children and siblings currently waiting in our foster care system for an adoptive family. Their parental rights have been terminated and they cannot return back to their families. They will either age out of foster care at 18 or they can be adopted. Our goal is to get these children’s faces out in our community so that families can see them and understand the need for a Forever Family. Various family-friendly locations host the Heart Gallery in San Angelo including churches, local ice cream shops, banks, Independence Day events, civic organizations, and interior decorating shops. We were blessed to take our Heart Gallery to a few adoption events throughout Texas including “Wait No More” and “Empowered to Connect” in Houston and “Wait No More” in Plano. We also partner with the Midland/Odessa, Abilene and Wichita Falls Heart Galleries. We run the combined website for these locations and each individual city has a physical gallery that they display within their communities.
4) How much success has your organization seen from these canvas prints? Have you experienced an increase in adoptions with the use of the prints?
Since our Heart Gallery began in 2013, we have photographed 204 children with 79 of those children placed in their Forever Family! We have recently seen great success with the canvas prints. Since August of 2014 we have ordered 43 canvas prints and seven of the children featured have been removed from the gallery because they were placed with a Forever Family!
Do you believe canvas prints can help other Heart Gallery organizations provide loving families for children?
I STRONGLY believe that canvas prints can help other Heart Gallery organizations connect loving families with children in need of forever homes. The canvases themselves are the most important part of our work. Presenting a child's beautiful portrait to potential adoptive families, that were unaware of this need in our community, is the most impactful part of what we do.
Any additional comments?
I would truly like to thank CG Pro Prints for believing in the work of The Heart Gallery of Northwest Texas. Thank you for advocating for children in our community. Your work is such a blessing to a child. You’re giving them a voice! After a child is adopted, we love seeing the adoptive parents’ faces when we hand them a beautiful 20”x30” wrapped canvas portrait of their new child. It’s just beautiful and the families love them.
About Samantha Crumrine
Samantha Crumrine, who has gone by Sam since kindergarten, is a wife, stay-at-home mom of two (about to be three) and a believer in Jesus Christ. She loves Dots, being outside and her rotten pups.
Sam also provided us with the touching background story behind the self-portrait she provided for this feature (left): You might be wondering why I chose a makeup-less, messy hair photo while kneeling in a local park for this feature. I wouldn't blame you. I'm actually still coming to terms with it myself.
A few months ago, I was getting ready to go somewhere and fixed my hair and put on makeup. My husband stopped me and asked if he could take my picture. I grabbed the kids, pulled them in close, and made everyone say “Cheese!” My husband obliged me before insisting on taking a photo of JUST me. I felt so uncomfortable and didn’t know what to do in front of the camera. I smiled for him, he took the photo and then I promptly asked him to delete it. I'd become so accustomed to taking photos with my children, my nieces and nephews, my friends, my spouse, whomever, that it felt strange taking a photo by myself.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when my family and I went to a local park to meet up with two foster moms and their children. My mission was to photograph three siblings and help facilitate a behind-the-scenes video segment for our local news station.
After I introduced everyone to Kendra, the news reporter, we spent some time playing on the playground visiting with everyone. I asked one of the siblings, Daniella, if I could photograph her. She looked at me excitedly and led me to the monkey bars for a photo shoot. We played and snapped photos for a while when I discovered Daniella has a 'fake' smile and a REAL one (who doesn't?). I love capturing the REAL one. We spent quite a bit of time together talking and playing before she eventually asked to see the photos.
She smiled as we reviewed the pictures and then she asked if she could take some of me. My original thought was of the millions of buttons on my digital camera. I was barely getting used to them myself! What if she presses something and I couldn’t get the settings back? I paused.
"It has lots of buttons," I said, kneeling down on the ground to show her.
"I know! This one right here is the one I push to take a picture though, right?" she replied, pointing to the correct button.
"That's right. And you just look through that spot right there," I said, showing her the viewfinder.
"I got it. Now let me take your picture!" she said excitedly.
I sat back on my heels and smiled at her.
It was a REAL smile. I was truly joyful. I didn't care in that moment that I didn't have makeup on or that my hair was a windblown mess. It didn't matter that it was cold outside, if others were in the frame behind me, or if I was too close to the camera.
I was having the BEST time doing what I was made to do. And to top it all off, I had my family there at the park with me. That afternoon was a little slice of heaven on earth. Loving on the children, watching my kids play, watching my husband throw a Frisbee, listening to Kendra share their story, encouraging other foster families and thanking them for daily outpouring of love for these children. I enjoyed every minute of it.
After we finished at the park, I looked through all the photos and I came to this one. I never knew how much joy my face radiates when I'm doing what I love. I was a little surprised!
Daniella taught me something that day. She showed me a part of myself I hadn’t seen before. She confirmed and encouraged me to be who I am. Who God made me. I couldn’t be more thankful.
You can read more about Daniella and her brothers at The Heart Gallery of Texas Website.
If you would like to get involved with your local Heart Gallery, head to HeartGalleriesofAmerica.orgfor a list of organizations in your area.