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Flooding aftermath healing also entails photography recovery

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By John Carr

Carole Nichols is unabashed in proclaiming her love of photography, scrapbook and family — just not in that order.
    Like so many people living in Colorado, she found herself focused on the disastrous flooding in the area and wishing for a way to help. She received a post on Facebook that talked about all of the people who lost so much, especially those who lost photographs to the flood waters.

    A Boulder company, Memories to Digital, was seeking help recovering lost and damaged photographs and restoring them to their old luster.
    Nichols reached out to the company and — after working several weeks in Boulder — convinced company officials to allow her to open a branch in Brighton.
    When Helen Rodriquez, Manager of Arts and Culture for the City of Brighton, heard of Nichols’ plans, she stepped in on behalf of the city and arranged for several offices in Old City Hall to be made available.
    “Helen Rodriquez was a godsend,” Nichols said. “I had tried to find a location without success and she stepped in a made certain we had a place to call home.”
    Starting this week Carole Nichols and several volunteers have begun the task of restoring photographs damaged in the floods. Depending on their condition volunteers begin restoration by soaking the photos in water to loosen them up. The photos are separated and evaluated for restorability. Those that can be restored are washed, cleaned and dried. After drying the photos are scanned and saved on a digital memory cards and then transferred to a compact disk, DVD or other medium provided by the photos owners.
    Flip Pal, a national company that sells portable scanning devices, has donated a scanner and software to complete the scanning process.
    To date Nichols and her crew have been able to restore more than 1,000 photographs. That is a mere dent in the loads of water-soaked albums and boxes of pictures that have been arriving every day.
    “We have been successful in restoring better than 50 percent of the photos we received,” Nichols said. “For someone who thought they lost all of their photo memories, 50 percent is a welcomed number.”
    Patricia Leyva, who works in the Brighton City Clerk’s Office, learned of the need for volunteers and immediately decided to help.
    Leyva started helping during her lunch break one day. She plans to volunteer as often as possible. Leyva was motivated to help knowing firsthand how it felt to lose so many memories. As a child growing up her mother didn’t keep many photos of the family.
    “When my daughter was born 10 years ago I started taking videos of her as often as I could,” Leyva said. “When I accidentally lost all of the videos I thought I had lost so much of my daughter’s history.”
    Fortunately Leyva had also taken many still photographs and fell back on them. She wants to make sure those who lost their photographs in the flooding have a chance of recovering at least some of the memories they depict.
    The effort to restore the damaged photographs will continue until at least Dec. 1. As long as photographs continue coming into the office, Carole Nichols has pledged to keep working on them. Ultimately the office in Old City Hall will be open only from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
    Any party interested in helping the cause can volunteer by contacting Carole Nichols at cnichols1193@gmail.com.