Nurse finds a way to feed the eyes and soul

July 17, 2020
Sarah Kassouf is part of the Meduflex team at MUSC Health. Photo provided

What happens when a professional photographer, nurse and caring mother of three combines her talents for a good cause? It sounds like just the kind of creative mash-up that could make a real difference, especially during a pandemic. And Sarah Kassouf did exactly that. 

Kassouf, a Meduflex nurse, was working as needed at the height of the Lowcountry’s COVID-19 outbreak this past spring. Upon seeing her coworkers working tirelessly in the hospital’s busiest areas – sometimes skipping meals and working long hours away from their families – Kassouf saw a way to bring together her creative talents to benefit self-isolating families around Charleston and support MUSC’s health care heroes working the front lines of the pandemic. 

Kassouf is the owner of SLK Photo on Instagram, which specializes in family, wedding and portrait photography. In late March, she approached the local nonprofit Feed Our Heroes-SC, which formed to assist hard-hit restaurants affected by the coronavirus and collect donations to provide free meals to health care teams at Tri-county hospitals and medical facilities.

Kassouf’s idea would allow her to raise funds in exchange for photographing families and creating personal portraits during a time of social isolation. The result would become a time capsule for families during the COVID-19 pandemic. She posted details about the project on her photography Instagram page.

Feed Our Heroes-SC co-founder Whitney Klomparens couldn’t have been more excited about this partnership.

Whitney Klomparens and family. 
A portrait of Whitney Klomparens and her family, taken by Kassouf.

“Working with Sarah was a wonderful experience. To have someone of Sarah’s caliber for photography work with us to provide donations was incredible. The portrait project was a wonderful way for people to get involved and donate to help others in a positive way. I hope this joint effort will allow people to look back at this COVID period in a positive way.”

For Kassouf, the project’s success was equally surprising. 

“I had no clue it would be so popular,” said Kassouf. “I thought if I can book enough portrait sessions, I’d raise a few hundred dollars to donate to this program and feed a health care team for a meal or two. It became something more meaningful.” 

Within a month, Kassouf had received more than 450 messages from around the Tri-county area and booked 150 portrait sessions. Eventually, she would organize, travel and shoot portraits of families at locations all around the Charleston area – from Mount Pleasant, the Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island to downtown Charleston and West Ashley. According to Kassouf, it was hard work. Normally, her schedule would allow her to shoot jobs three days a week and usually around sunset – the best light for her portrait work, she said. For this project, she was shooting portraits almost every day.  

On April 23, she presented Klomparens and organizers of the Feeding Our Heroes-SC team with a check for $4,000 from the portrait project. For Kassouf, presenting the check was a highlight for her. It was also the organization’s largest single donation to date. Her donation provided about 400 meals to MUSC Health employees working in the Adult ED, ICU areas and pediatric units from late April through May. This also included providing a few team meals to Kassouf’s home unit, the Meduflex team. Participating restaurants that prepared the meals included Graze, Halls Chophouse and Rutledge Cab Company, among others.

According to Klomparens, Feeding Our Heroes-SC raised more than $40,000 and distributed about 4,500 meals within a four-month period. 

“We were so grateful to have someone like Sarah coordinate a project like this. The project helped so many people – health care teams, restaurants and the community. It’s been an incredible experience working with her. It was also amazing to see how this community was able to work together while thinking of others,” she said.

For information about Feeding Our Heroes-SC, visit their Facebook page.

About the Author

Cindy Abole

Keywords: COVID-19, Features