[Editor’s note: Thomas MacEntee, Flip-Pal mobile scanner ambassador, provides an update on photos rescued in Union Beach, New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy and shares tips on how to save photos damaged by water-related mishaps.]
Have you ever experienced a situation such as a flood or a burst pipe that damaged not only your household goods, but also your family photos? As many readers might remember, since November Flip-Pal Cares has been assisting residents of Union Beach, New Jersey in their efforts to recover water damaged photos in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
Photo Recovery Progress in Union Beach, New Jersey
With Flip-Pal mobile scanners in hand, Union Beach resident Jeanette Van Houten and personal historian Mary Danielsen are continuing to lead a massive photo scanning drive that has already resulted in the recovery of over 20,000 pictures. These photographs were collected from local beaches, wetlands and devastated homes and then were cleaned, scanned and posted on https://www.facebook.com/groups/391552050924511/.
“Over 100 families have already identified pictures that they thought were gone forever,” said Danielsen. “We’ve been able to catalog the original pictures in binders, and in many cases, cluster photos of persons found in more than one location.”
Representatives of Flip-Pal Cares, along with a local Boy Scout troop, the Union Beach City Council and members of the public added to the 800 volunteer hours Van Houten and Danielsen have already volunteered. “There are still over 5,000 pictures to scan and post, but we are not far from capturing all of the memories that would have been lost. What’s made the difference in our progress are the volunteer efforts, the use of the Flip-Pal mobile scanners and cash donations we’ve received to cover our costs. Even when there was no electricity, the battery powered Flip-Pal’s got us operating immediately after the storm,” added Danielsen.
“We are honored to support the Superstorm Sandy survivors in gathering their pictures, helping reconstruct the past, and move to the future,” commented Gordon Nuttall, CEO of Couragent, makers of Flip-Pal mobile scanner. For those wanting to make a donation to this project, the fundraising site for Restoring Union Beach memories is located at http://www.gofundme.com/1k3w9c.
Rescuing Water Damaged Photos
What if your own photos were to suffer water damage? Would you know where to start in terms of salvaging the images and preventing further deterioration and damage?
Flip-Pal has developed the Rescuing Water Damaged Photos e-guide which is now available for FREE. Filled with useful tips and advice, the guide covers many areas of photo recovery and preservation:
- How to prioritize and organize images
- Practicing safety in case of moldy photos
- General cleaning practices
- How freezing photos can help save images
- Drying cleaned photos
- Scanning and other preventative measures
In addition, you’ll find a resource list with over 12 links to websites and documents to learn more about handling water damaged photos.
Be Proactive About Saving Your Family Photos
The best way to protect your precious photos of weddings, children, holidays and more is to be prepared! One way is to download Rescuing Water Damaged Photos and review the procedures today. Then consider scanning all your photos now using the Flip-Pal mobile scanner so you have digital copies of years’ worth of memories.
Recently Flip-Pal Cares sprang into action in Union Beach, NJ to help recover family photos that had washed up on the beaches after Hurricane Sandy. Here is a report of last weekend’s efforts from Gordon Nuttall, CEO of Couragent, Inc., makers of the Flip-Pal mobile scanner:
Two different events were held in the Union Beach area this past weekend where people could either volunteer to scan and organize photos that had been recovered from local beaches or they could come in and claim their found photos. Once the photos had been cleaned and prepped, we had several groups of volunteers each day that scanned images with Flip-Pal mobile scanners.
Here is a video of me sorting through photos and getting them ready for the scanning process:
Why Photos Matter In the Midst of Disaster
It might seem odd that while surrounded by disaster relief services, which were helping to restore and rebuild residences and provide vital life services, that there would be a focus on recovering lost family photos. Mary Danielsen, one of the organizers of Restoring Union Beach Memories, summed it up this way:
“The residents of Union Beach, New Jersey are still in shock one month after Hurricane Sandy devastated their little bay-shore town. They want their normal life back, but they’ve been forced to accept the reality that their entire life is about to change. The Union Beach photo recovery project may not seem like a priority when the health, safety and infrastructure of an entire community have been decimated. However, when residents take a breath and look around at what remains of their homes and cars, the first thing they say is 'I wish I had my photos.'
As I have said before, our photos are our memory keepers. They act as placeholders in time and enrich our family histories with stories to be passed down to the next generation. Without them, details are easy to forget.”
Once scanned, the photos were bagged and organized in bins so that people could claim them. In addition, we wanted to make sure that people knew about the free photo restoration services being provided by various volunteers—both locally and on social media sites such as Facebook.
We discovered that organization is very important during the entire process—from discovering the photos, to cleaning and scanning them and then making sure that both the digital images and the actual photos could be easily found. You can’t imagine the joy people express when they get their photos back.
On Saturday the group scanned nearly 1,150 photos and processed many more which were too deteriorated to scan. On Sunday we scanned 1,240 photos and cleaned another 500 that are now waiting to be scanned.
Scout’s Honor: Be Prepared
We had many different volunteers assisting us with the recovery of these photos and reuniting them with families. We were very grateful for their hard work, especially the Boy Scouts who helped clean and scan photos. With the motto “Be Prepared” in mind, I could not help but think of a few ways that all of us can be prepared for any type of disaster that could cause family photos and other important items to disappear in an instant.
- Scan Your Photos NOW. Many of the residents who thought their possessions—including photos and documents—would be safe, were surprised at what was washed away. Put together a plan to scan and digitize all your precious photos and other documents (family history as well as legal documents) and get started on securing these items right away.
- Get Organized. Whether you are preparing to secure your photos now, or working to recover them after a disaster, make sure you have a method of storing your digital files. This could be using folders or creating a special file naming convention. Your goal should be to quickly find the item you need.
- Perform Multiple Backups. It makes no sense to store your files on a USB flash drive if you then store it next to your computer or with other items that could be lost or damaged in a disaster. Secure your backup files in another location, such as a fire-proof safe, a safety deposit box or with another family member.
- Take Advantage of the Cloud. An even easier method of storing your digitized files is to use cloud storage programs such as Dropbox or SugarSync. You’ll always have access to them as long as you have a computer or a mobile device and an Internet connection.
Mary Danielsen and Jeanette Van Houten plan to continue their photo recovery and restoration efforts over the next few months. They have access to Flip-Pal mobile scanners and other supplies to make sure that these photos are digitized as soon as possible and then organized so that they can be reunited with their owners.
Don’t forget that if you are in the area, you can volunteer your services. Visit the Union Beach Photos and Misplaced Items group on Facebook and ask about the next recovery event. Even if you do not live in the Union Beach are, you can still show your support by donating funds to help purchase supplies for Restoring Union Beach Memories via gofundme at http://www.gofundme.com/1k3w9c.
As the recovery progresses in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, residents of Union Beach and the surrounding towns are working with first responders to provide the essentials of daily life including shelter, food and health care. In the midst of their own personal losses during this time, two amazing women are also on a mission to help others recover and preserve their family photos.
Family Photos: Memories Matter
During difficult times we look to our families for support, to the familiar for comfort and to our own memories of better times to get us through. But what if your memories, in the form of family photos, are missing along with all of your other worldly possessions?
Precious family photos, even entire wedding albums, scrapbooks and more, started washing up on the New Jersey shore almost immediately after Sandy had passed. While many pictures are damaged beyond repair due to the effects of sea water and the elements, a short window exists to capture a digital version of these images and preserve them before they are lost forever.
Mary Danielsen and Jeannette Van Houten have been working hard via the media, social networking and any available channel to not only scan and post these found images, but to also solicit help from the local community. With so many losses on the local level and a shortage of resources, Mary and Jeannette are now reaching out to the greater community for assistance.
Photo Scanning Drive: December 1-2, 2012 in Union Beach, New Jersey
Volunteers and members of the Flip-Pal Cares rescue response team and Boy Scout troops from nearby Monmouth County will be using donated Flip-Pal mobile scanners to digitally scan thousands of photos, wedding albums and scrapbooks collected from the shoreline, wetlands and other piles of debris. All scanned photographs will be posted on Facebook for their owners to claim. Residents who have found additional photos can bring them to the event or drop them off at the Union Beach Municipal Building.
“People have suffered a tremendous amount of loss due to Hurricane Sandy and if providing our scanners and supporting the photo recovery project helps people to get their photos back, then we are grateful to be helping in some small way,” commented Gordon Nuttall, CEO of Couragent, makers of Flip-Pal mobile scanner.
How You Can Help
Members of the public are invited to volunteer for the Union Beach Photo Scanning Drive this Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 1-2. This Saturday the scanning drive will be from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. at the Sports Authority, located at 3434 Highway 35 in Hazlet, NJ. On Sunday the scanning drive will be from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. at the Home Depot, located at 3700 Highway 35 in Hazlet, NJ.
Those wishing to make a monetary donation to help defray supply costs can go to Restoring Union Beach Memories at http://www.gofundme.com/1k3w9c. This is a fundraising site set up by local Union Beach Photo Scanning coordinators, Jeanette Van Houten and personal historian Mary Danielsen.
“My name is Jeannette Van Houten. I have been a resident of Union Beach, NJ for the past 42 years. On October 29, 2012 Sandy the Superstorm devastated my small town. When we woke on October 30, 2012 our lives had changed forever. Many families lost their homes and possessions. I made it my mission to give my friends and family something extremely special to each and every one, I want to return their photos that have been found. I have been cleaning, drying and scanning the photos that I have found and I am now moving on to the photos that others turned in. I would like to do 3 things: 1) purchase battery operated scanners so I can have multiple people scanning photos at the same time; 2) purchase external storage to back up the scans so professional restorers can work on the damaged photos; and 3) purchase gift cards so families can reprint some of the precious photos.”
Stay Updated On The Recovery Effort
- Check back next week when we’ll have a report on Gordon’s visit to Union Beach and the efforts to help scan and preserve the precious family photos that have been recovered so far.
Also, you can read more about Jeannette and Mary’s efforts and the photos that are washing up on beaches in New Jersey each and every day: