Successful ribbon cutting held at On Angels’ Wings headquarters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 20, 2021
On Angels’ Wings
MacKenzie Karlson, PR Coordinator
mackenzie@oawphoto.org
Michelle Cramer, Executive Director
michelle.cramer@oawphoto.org
417-834-3670

Studio space dedicated to late volunteer, 2021 awards given to dedicated photographers

Springfield, Missouri: On Angels’ Wings (OAW), a Missouri non-profit, held an Open House event and ribbon cutting at its new location, 1440 East Lark Street on December 8, 2021. The Open House event was sponsored by Air Services, with food and drink donations provided by Hold Fast Brewing, Lindwedel Winery and Frank ‘n’ Steins Bar & Grill.

The open house event kicked off with a ribbon cutting ceremony, with members of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce in attendance to serve as witness.

Following, one of the two studios in the facility was dedicated in name to Michelle Renfro, who volunteered as a photographer for On Angels’ Wings for four years, before passing in August 2021 from liver cancer. Mrs. Renfro’s late husband, two daughters and their spouses were present for the dedication, placing the plaque on the wall in her honor. The full dedication to Mrs. Renfro is available on the OAW blog.

Additionally, the 2021 VIP (Very Important Photographer) award winners were announced at the open house event.

“This award has been an OAW tradition for the last four years,” says Michelle Cramer, OAW founder and executive director. “While all of our volunteer photographers are valued and appreciated – we can’t do what we do without them! – the VIPs are those that go above and beyond expectations to serve families.”

The 2021 winners not only received an award plague, but thanks to generous grant funding from the Hospice Foundation of the Ozarks in support of OAW’s SNAP Project (Supporting our Network of Area Photographers), OAW is taking this year’s winners to Shutterfest, a nationally-recognized 2-day photography training and expo event, in April 2022.

The 2021 VIP award winners are as follows:

Julie Stoecker – Stoecker Media – Springfield, MO
“Julie is the embodiment of self-sacrificing,” Cramer says. “I know very few people who willingly give so much of themselves to further a cause. Julie not only makes herself readily available for practically every need OAW has, but she has gone above and beyond to help us cultivate a video testimonial program for our recipients to be able to share their stories with others. She is both talented in photography and in video and we are pleased to present her with the VIP award for the second year in a row!”

Melissa McCraw-Hummer – MMH Photography – Springfield, MO
“Melissa is one of our newest photographers, volunteering with On Angels Wings for just over a year now,” Cramer explains. “In that time, Melissa has done more sessions than any other volunteer photographer in Springfield (except maybe Julie!). She doesn’t hesitate to make herself available, even when she’s done a session for us just days before. It is a heart for the families we serve and a dedication like this that helps this organization to succeed and expand our reach.”

Amber Montgomery – LaFemme Glamour Studios Boudoir & Glamour – St. Louis
“Amber has also made herself readily available for a multitude of loss sessions this past year,” Cramer says. “These are exceptionally hard moments to capture, but Amber does it with a grace, dignity and talent that is humbling.”

 

 

McKenzie Bates – McKenzie Bates Photography – St. Louis
“McKenzie is a dedicated NICU nurse. Working at one of the major hospitals in St. Louis, MacKenzie daily encounters families that qualify for our services,” Cramer says. “Almost monthly over the past year, MacKenzie has gone back to the hospital on her days off to capture lasting photographic memories for many of these families she serves both as a nurse and as a talented photographer.”

Jaclyn Dunivant – J.D. Imagery – St. Louis
“Jaclyn is one of our newest volunteers and has also gone above and beyond over the past year, offering her volunteer services over and over and over again, providing a multitude of sessions for families, even when she’s just finished another for us,” Cramer says.

Rachel Bowman – Raising Arrows Photography – St. Louis
“Rachel has an incredibly giving heart and is deeply dedicated to OAW,” Cramer says. “But what’s extra special about her this year is that she has fought tooth and nail to provide our services to families in need when the odds have been stacked against us.”

 

(Honorary Mention) Ariel Ferman of Cape Girardeau, MO
“Ariel lives two hours from St. Louis, as she finishes her photography degree in Cape Girardeau,” Cramer explains. “Despite the distance, Ariel has driven two hours one-way to St. Louis at least three times this year to do a session when no one else was available. We are incredibly grateful for her dedication.”

OAW’s brand new location officially opened in September with the completion of the organizations first in-person 8-week grief recovery group program utilizing the Grief Recovery Method, developed by The Grief Recovery Institute. Cramer and OAW’s Support Coordinator, Michelle Slavens, are both Advanced Certified Grief Recovery Method Specialists. Moving forward, the facility will function as a headquarters in support of continued growth and the betterment of services provided to recipient families in Springfield and all service communities.

“Through hard work and continued dedication to our mission over the past eight years, it was clear that the next step was to provide a facility to serve recipients in our founding city of Springfield,” Cramer says. “This location provides a meeting space for our grief recovery groups and smaller events. Additionally, there are two studios available within the facility to amplify the safe options available to volunteer photographers when providing one of our free sessions to the families we serve. Many of our recipient children who are continuing to fight their diagnosis must take extra precautions, especially in this post-pandemic world. This studio space gives them one such option.”

The opening of this facility is a significant milestone for OAW’s mission: Seeking to improve the mental health and wellness of families with medically fragile children (regardless of race, ethnicity, class status or orientation) through therapeutic photography and grief recovery services, free of charge.

Event and studio images by Shannon Alexander Photo

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On Angels’ Wings is a Missouri non-profit organization that seeks to improve the mental health and wellness of families with medically fragile children (regardless of race, ethnicity, class status or orientation) through therapeutic photography and grief recovery services, free of charge. oawphoto.org

Hospice Foundation of the Ozarks is a Missouri non-profit organization that awards grants to organizations which are involved in end-of-life services and education. The Foundation supports hospice, palliative care, advance directives, grief and bereavement services, educational programs and other activities which nurture informed personal choices and respect for diverse cultural identities in the end-of-life experience. hospiceozarks.org

The Grief Recovery Institute was founded in the mid 1980s, and has since expanded to provide training coast-to-coast, border-to-border in the United States and Canada. In addition, the organization has affiliates in Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, and most recently Mexico. The Grief Recovery Method® is the most comprehensive Grief Recovery education and certification in the world. The program has even been proven to be evidence based and effective by Kent State University. griefrecoverymethod.com

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