It can be the most precious of belongings. But when money is tight, something as simple as a well-made family photograph can be elusive. There's always a another bill to be paid or an unexpected expense that cuts into savings.
But a group of teenage friends are hoping to help give memories and keepsakes to people who might otherwise have trouble making ends meet.
On Saturday, they set up shop at the Richstone Family Center in Hawthorne and took family portraits for anybody who wanted one.
Avery Ward, a 15-year-old photographer for the yearbook at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, came up with the idea because she has no pictures of her own grandmother when she was a child.
"To have a nice portrait is forever," she said.
Toya Washington of Hawthorne agreed. She brought her three children with her to the center's Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on Saturday and was thrilled to learn she could have a portrait taken. "To be able to have a memory of my kids, and have them all together, is great," she said.
Washington, who works part time, said that a similar picture would cost about $50 if taken by a professional. It's not a ton of money, but it's hard to find the extra cash at the end of the week.
"Just having a picture means a lot to me," she said.
She can come back in a couple of weeks to pick up the print, which may or many not be framed, depending on how much money the girls can collect.
For Ward and her friends, taking pictures is just the start. They have big plans for themselves. They've already submitted applications for nonprofit status for their Bella Foundation with the Internal Revenue Service. They've applied for grants. And they've already ventured into the world of philanthropy: They recently donated a pair of micro loans to women in Nicaragua.
Avery's fellow organizers are longtime friends Annaliese Snowhook, and sisters Alicia and Becca Schomer.
"We want to do as many things as we can," Alicia said.
The idea of organizing a foundation grew out of a shared love of helping others. They had all volunteered for school credit, but that almost seemed like cheating.
"I was getting tired of volunteering," Avery said. "I didn't feel like I was directly involved. I never counted my hours. I didn't want to do this for school."
They are already making plans for future projects for each of their passions. They're thinking of taking photos for Mother's Day or Easter. And then there are plans for improv classes, and something to do with animals, but they're not sure what.
But whatever it is, they know they're in it for the long run.
"We're all big thinkers," said Anna, a 15-year-old Westchester resident. "We can do this."
To find out more about the Bella Foundation, email Avery Ward at email@example.com