Hometown Hero | Angie Whitmore

Published: May. 8, 2020 at 7:33 PM EDT
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A normal day for Angie Whitmore now consists of perfectly adjusting tassels on caps, fixing gowns, asking for a beautiful smile and snapping a few quick pictures.

For weeks, she has been taking pictures of graduates, free of charge. Whitmore says she started doing it after realizing that for a number of different reasons, this may be the only chance some students have to get senior pictures taken.

"I posted it on Facebook actually and my original thought was just to do Spring Valley and then my daughter is at St. Joe so do some of her friends as well," Whitmore said. "But then I thought there are more out there that would probably like to have it done. I have some fabulous friends that are wonderful photographers and they do fabulous work but sometimes the choice is not there for these kids. They would go with nothing because they couldn't afford it or a lot of times they are not raised by their parents but by other family members and pictures are just not a financial priority so I like to think that this is something that they will have years later."

Her generous act took off on social media, with more and more seniors and their families asking if she would take pictures.

So most of her days are now spent doing one-on-one photo sessions with students at different schools, making sure they are socially distanced all while trying to get a few snap shots for them to hold onto.

"I am hoping that the pictures will bring back memories of better times," Whitmore said. "I don't want it to look like me being generous because I am doing it for them. I didn't want any payback for this at all. I just wanted it for them."

Whitmore says the photo shoots have become bittersweet though -- knowing she is providing them the opportunity, but at the same time, knowing the important milestones they have missed because of COVID-19.

"Some of the kids have even worn masks in the pictures," Whitmore said. "Just a sign of the times. You know, a lot of these kids, I will probably never cross their path again so to think that they are going to have a piece of something that they may not otherwise have, it does make my heart happy I will say that."

She sends each student and their family digital copies of the pictures once she is done editing them. And she says that is her favorite part.

"I enjoy taking pictures. I love taking them, but I love going home and going back through and editing them," Whitmore said.

Oftentimes when she sits down to edit, Whitmore says she will see stories in the pictures.

"Sometimes I see words in the pictures and the pictures will tell a story to me," she said. "My brain works in rhyme. So sometimes I will just form little poetic stories that I think that the picture is is saying to me. There are pictures and I see their sadness and I have added a tear to some of them from what they are going through."

One of those messages was included with Katie Caudill's senior pictures at Spring Valley, and it read:

A tear that tells a story, A year they thought would be. The world, it changed forever, Those days, they'll never see-- They hold onto the future, Dreams are within reach, You cannot change your yesterday's For they were there to teach-- You've seen the days of sickness, You've overcome the fear, The world is yours to conquer, The seniors of this year!

During one senior photo shoot at Huntington High School, after Whitmore finished up one her sessions, she was surprised with the WSAZ Hometown Hero award.

"I am definitely not. I am definitely not," said Whitmore in response to the award. "If you can do something, if you can do anything, you know I am not a seamstress, I didn't make masks during this time. I think we are all given gifts and we are given gifts to use them and I am glad that I can."

And Whitmore isn't just taking pictures of high school seniors. She is also taking pictures of college grads.

Two of them, Olivia Maynard and Emily Whitt, both graduating from Marshall University, say they appreciate having pictures in their caps and gowns despite not being able to walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.

"I think it speaks a lot about her," Maynard said. "It just shows that she truly cares and that she feels for us during these hard times."

"I really appreciate it because obviously with everything going on right now, we don't have a usual ceremony for graduation," Whitt said. "It's just very important that we cherish these memories as we can. So it's great that she is doing this for graduates who don't get the opportunity to have a normal formal ceremony with all our friends and family."

While Whitmore says she may never cross paths with any of these graduates again, she is honored to take their pictures and provide them with something they will be able to look back on years from now.