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Volunteers help restore Sandy-damaged photos

Samantha Schieda, 9, and her brother Anthony Schieda,

Samantha Schieda, 9, and her brother Anthony Schieda, 3, watch as their father Paul Schieda holds a photo of Samantha that was damaged in superstorm Sandy. The photo was brought to Cherished Albums Restoration Effort at Nassau Community College in Garden City for digital restoration. (April 7, 2013) Credit: Ed Betz

The images Nancy Schilt and Lee Mifsud brought in were warped, discolored and moldy, after being submerged in 38 inches of floodwater.

Five months after superstorm Sandy devastated their parents' Bellmore home, the sisters were still looking to salvage generations of memories.

They brought 70 Sandy-damaged family photos to a Garden City event Sunday in hopes of preserving them for their elderly parents, who have since relocated to Florida.

The sisters were among the dozens of Sandy victims at a photo-restoration event hosted by Nassau Community College and spearheaded by volunteer group CARE for Sandy.

Their family had already thrown some photos away, unaware there was a possibility of preserving them.

"It's a memory that brings us back to a time and place," Mifsud, 50, of Bellmore, said of the photos.

"It brings our whole life back to us," said Schilt, 53, also of Bellmore.

The photos, including a black-and-white image of their father as a child, were scanned on site but restoring them, and others, could take months. Digital copies will be distributed to an international network of hundreds of volunteer graphic designers, artists and Photoshop experts to repair -- at no charge to Sandy victims.

"We see mold, we see ash, we see emulsion peeling, we see photos that stick together in bricks," said Lee Kelly, of Brooklyn, a freelance creative director and founder of CARE, or Cherished Albums Restoration Effort, for Sandy.

As awareness of the program increases, so has the turnout and number of volunteers at events like this. Similar events have been held in the Rockaways, Staten Island and New Jersey.

Other photo-restoration efforts, such as Operation Photo Rescue, a Kansas-based nonprofit program created in 2006, are also lifting spirits.

"I don't want people to look at these photos and think of Sandy," Kelly said. "I want the memories to remain happy ones."

Restoring a photo can take as little as four hours and as long as 30 hours, depending on the damage, Kelly said.

NCC assistant professor of photography Carolyn Monastra was among the faculty members and students volunteering Sunday. They scanned hundreds of photos, and students in 10 photography and computer graphic classes will help to repair them.

Some staffed a photo studio, complete with backdrop and makeup artist, for free on-site family portraits.

Paul and Teresa Schieda, 48 and 35, respectively, of Wantagh, dropped off flood-damaged photos of their kids. One was of their daughter, Samantha, 9, dressed as Minnie Mouse. Another was of their son, Anthony, 3, when he was toddler and his hair stuck up stubbornly.

"When people are down because their houses are destroyed, because their pictures are destroyed," said Teresa Schieda, "this lifts them up a bit."

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