PLEASANT GROVE — As a single mother, Melanee Peterson only ever wanted one thing: a family portrait to hang on her wall. It was something she never got, though, and now, remarried, she is trying to make sure every family has something by which to remember who they were and where they've been.
Peterson said she got a camera four years ago and had the idea to start doing free family portraits for those who could not afford to go elsewhere. She started off just doing sessions for friends and later friends of friends, as word of what she was doing spread.
When Peterson started at Broadview University in October, she knew instantly what she wanted to do for her required service project. She wanted to expand her project to include more families than ever, so she and the group of students she was working with started looking for donations. Eventually Vivint agreed to cover the costs of the operation.
The mom of five said the project is important to her because she knows what it is like to want nothing more than a family portrait.
"When I was a single mom, that's what I wanted more than anything — a picture on my wall," she said. "You want to look back and remember. You want to have tangible proof that you are a part of a family, that you are loved, that you are important to someone."
Peterson said she knows she was not alone in that sentiment. She told the story of two friends whose parents recently passed away — "they said they regretted that they didn't have a family picture."
She visits other friends who are out of work or struggling financially, who have outdated family portraits. She said "all they want is a family picture."
"You want a picture every year, to show, ‘I'm here; I'm a part of something,'" Peterson said. "I wish I had that for my own kids to look back and see where we were and what we were like."
Peterson said her group has 20 families scheduled for portraits, and she hopes to see about 100 show up. And whether the initial project goes well or not, she will continue to do it as the need arises.
"I want to keep doing this," she said. "Maybe we'll turn it into something bigger; maybe it will just be a couple families a week. It would be something they could hang on their wall ... I think everyone deserves that."
She wants to turn the school project into something bigger because she can relate. She knows what it is like to be a single mother like one of the women who has a portrait session scheduled.
"She was so excited to have a picture; she hasn't had one since her divorce," Peterson said. "She said it's the best Christmas present she could get."