Mineola Chamber President Embarks On New Quarantine Project

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Through the grapevine, Mineola Chamber of Commerce president Joel Harris heard about photographers around the country doing something unique during these uncertain times—taking porch pictures. So what exactly are porch pictures? It’s quite simple. Photographers are having quarantined families take family portraits on their porch, in their front yard or on their steps in order to bring some hope and positivity in others lives.

“Easter was fast approaching when many families usually have pictures taken,” Harris said. “I thought this would be a nice project to get pictures, put smiles on faces and create a positive lasting memory for the families. There was no charge and for those who insisted on paying, I asked them to donate to a local charity that has been providing meals for our healthcare and essential workers. The charity is Warriors For A Cause.”

Harris started taking family photos in Mineola, which quickly had him pivot into Williston Park, Albertson, East Williston and now Garden City.

“I generally take a dozen pictures, pick one or two and e-mail them to the family,” Harris said about what he does with the photos. “Most of them wind up on social media and have really been a positive memory for the families. I have done a few drive-by birthday celebrations, which have really been a good lasting memory for the family and the person, usually a child, celebrating their birthday. To date one of the most meaningful photos I took was for a COVID-19 survivor, who came home from the hospital. There’s nothing like a celebration of 35 cars driving by and honking their horns.”

Harris, who is also a proud Mineola native, said he doesn’t know where to start when he was asked about what he loves most about his village. I

“Mineola is such a special place,” he explained. “Our village has wonderful stores and restaurants. We have amazing parks, a great library, our own John DaVanzo Pool, ball fields and more. It’s obvious from the construction here that people want to come to Mineola. Our village focuses on the people in the community. We have so many events in our community including our Summer Concerts in the Park,  St. Patrick’s Day parade, the Mineola Junior Fire Department pasta dinner, our tree lighting ceremony, street fair and so importantly our Senior Appreciation Day.”

As president of the Mineola Chamber of Commerce where COVID-19 has hit small businesses the hardest, Harris said we’re all living in unprecedented times.

“Our businesses along with businesses from all over the country and world are now facing challenges we never thought we would see,” Harris said.  “I, along with my incredible board of directors of the chamber, have tried to stay in touch with everyone we could and ask them how can we help. Currently, the chamber has a printable list on the chamber Facebook site that we update regularly with all open restaurants. We have been posting meetings with our elected officials, members of the Small Businesses Administration and financial advisors for assistance. The best thing we can do is to encourage our population to continue to, and focus on shopping locally and supporting our community businesses. We have been working in-conjunction with our local elected officials, Mayor Scott Strauss and the village board, to ensure that our businesses will be able to maintain business continuity through this current storm.”

While we all navigate this storm, Harris said he will continue to work with his fellow chamber presidents to share ideas, implement new ones, and help any way he can so the village’s small businesses recover and inevitably come back strong.

“I encourage our local business owners to reach out to us,” he said.

If you would like to donate to Warriors For A Cause and for more information about the organization, visit www.warriorsforacause.org.

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