Picture-perfect volunteer helps others send smiles home for the holidays

Street Stories

JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — A brush with death inspired community support for a Cranston photographer, who is now paying that help forward with her lens.

Alicia Hermanowski is far too young to have screws holding one of her hips together, but that was one of the injuries after a collision with drunk driver in October 2019.

“Drunk driver hit us head on,” Hermanowski said. “I was blessed to be alive.”

She spent weeks in the hospital and a year getting comfortable on her feet again.

“It was just amazing to see the outpouring of concern and love that everyone was showing,” she said. “People were giving back, helping me. Now, that I can walk I want to give back my time to something that means a lot to me.”

Normally during this time of year, Hermanowski’s lens would be focused on children telling Santa what they wanted under their tree.

But COVID-19 put St. Nick’s visits south for pictures on ice, giving her time to volunteer for a different sort of holiday shoot.

That has sent her to about 100 group homes, her Nikon in hand.

“I love to see the smiles on their faces,” Hermanowski said, while taking holiday pictures at a Refocus adult group home in Johnston.

Refocus Associate Director Julie Derosier said the holiday pictures have been especially important for residents who can’t go home or even have visitors.

“We’ve been hit really hard by COVID,” Derosier said. “There’s so much negativity and hard times that to focus on the positive and add a little joy to people’s life is everything right now.”

“Are you Mrs. Claus?” Hermanowski asked one resident before snapping a picture. “OK Robert. Nice big smile. Good job.”

She has now volunteered her time at about 20 group homes around the area, helping those who cannot go home for the holiday, send a smile instead.

“I did it so they can be happy. So, they’d have something to look forward to,” Hermanowski said. “The joy you see in their faces. Not many people get excited to get their pictures taken. They just came out. That’s what we like to see especially during these times.”

Email Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com with your story ideas and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.

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