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Year Two Toy Drive

Featured Article

Giving Back

School Supplies and Smiles

Article by Stephanie Hower

Photography by Jennifer Gavin Photography

Originally published in Midlothian Lifestyle

Three years ago, Jennifer Gavin sought an outlet that would allow her the flexibility to continue staying home with her two children. Recently gifted a camera from her husband, she decided to pursue photography. Yet, with little experience and no clientele, she needed a way to establish herself and her fledgling business, as well as fulfill her desire to give back to the community. 

With a little creativity and a lot of determination, Jennifer hosted her first free “Back-to-School” photo sessions. Instead of paying a session fee, clients donated $25 in school supplies. 

“I decided I’m going to take pictures of the kids, they are going to be free, and we are going to donate supplies to Title 1 schools in our community. … That way, even if they don’t turn out, people are giving to a good cause and the session was free,” Jennifer says with a laugh, recalling her initial foray into the world of professional photography. 

Those first clients formed the backbone of her business. She began planning a family session “Toy Drive” shortly after the success of the August Back-to-School photos, offering free family portraits in exchange for a toy donation. 

“Looking back, the pictures were not great,” she admits. “But, there has been a lot of growth in the past three years.”

Using the experience and relationships she garnered from those first two events, Jennifer continued to work hard and develop her skill set. Her repertoire now includes weddings, engagements, families and children. 

Yet, even as her business and art form have flourished, Jennifer has not forgotten the traditions she created in the beginning. While the first round of Back-to-School photos raised $1,000 in school supplies, the second and third years raised $3,000 each. 

“The Back-to-School sessions are always free with a $25 school supply donation,” she says. “Even in my third year of doing this, I feel that this is how I started my business and how I met everybody that I know now, so this one is always going to be done for free.” 

Jennifer’s Toy Drive sessions are offered from September through the first week of November each year. Families have the opportunity to schedule discounted sessions for $60 with the donation of a toy, which benefits Toys for Tots or Chesterfield County’s Christmas Mother.

“Everybody wins, and that’s why I love it so much,” Jennifer says. “You can bring your children to the store and explain that they are getting supplies or toys for children who may not have the means to get them on their own. Everybody learns a lesson from it, and they feel like they are contributing—especially once they see all of the donations collected.”

To view Jennifer's work and stay up to date on her latest events, follow her on Facebook and Instagram @Jennifer Gavin Photography or email her at

Year One: $1,000 raised. Donations given to Ettrick Elementary

Year Two: $3,000 raised. Donations split between Chalkley Elementary and Reams Road Elementary

Year Three: $3,000 raised. Donations split between Crenshaw Elementary and Falling Creek Elementary

Each year, Jennifer hosts a contest amongst the schools, gifting the donated supplies to the school with the most votes. Two years in a row, Providence was a very close second in the voting. In 2020, Providence Elementary will receive the donation of school supplies.

  • Year One Back-to-School Drive
  • Year Two Back-to-School Drive
  • Year Three Back-to-School Drive
  • Year One Toy Drive
  • Year Two Toy Drive