Encouraging Gift Project


I pulled up to my home after a long day of work. I was completely exhausted and a bit disappointed because I had not received the answer I had been hoping for after months of hard work on an assignment very close to my heart!  As I sat there and looked at my home with a big beautiful tree out front, full of rich green life, I quickly grabbed my phone and snapped a photo as it hit me in my moment of disappointment to choose JOY. The tears began to pour from my eyes!  I went from being disappointed to being sentimental as I looked at the blessings before me.FullSizeRender 2

I know what it is like to be homeless and live in cars, tents, motels, shelters, children homes, foster homes, rat infested trailers and couch surfing because people would open their doors at times!  As a child I often would wonder why this was my plight.  Why does it seem that everyone around me has stability and provision and I am left wondering and worrying about each day!  I remember many nights living in fear of this being my whole life!

When I was 15 years old I made a decision to leave home and stay on a friend’s couch for a few months until I was granted emancipation by a judge.  I will never forget that day!  It was both liberating and disheartening at the same time!  This was the day I became an orphan by choice because the life my biological parents were providing was not conducive to the life I had dreamed of.  I did not want to end up in prison.  I did not want to be a prostitute or a drug addict or dealer.  I wanted something more in life.   At that time I had no clue what was to come for my future but I had only two choices; I could sink or swim.

Fast forward to today I must say that I am in awe, even in the midst of small setbacks.  I look around and see the work that still needs to be done, but I also bask in the goodness of all that has been overcome.  I have never wanted the fanciest cars or the biggest house. I have never wanted the flashy clothes or the shiniest jewelry.  I have only desired one thing in life, and it is BIG to me.  I desire to walk in complete freedom and share my story so that I can touch the lives of those around me.  My greatest desire is to make a positive impact on my family, my community, my state and country, and in the world!  I deeply desire to use my gifts to bring JOY and Meaningful Moments to those around me.

A few years ago I was working for an amazing company filled with people who poured their lives into helping the at risk children and families in our community.  Throughout my time there I had the opportunity to serve some amazing kiddos as they walked through some tough times.  I was so proud of my kids and it was amazing watching some of them break through their cocoons and gain a new perspective as they realized that they can fly.  I was so proud of them. When I had to leave my job so that I could fulfill my desire to raise my own little ones, I kept them all in mind.  Not only did I feel I could relate to many of my kids on a personal level but I also felt the grief from realizing that many of them may never realize how proud someone was of them.  I am so sad to think that their are so many youth in our community and world who believe that they are failures, or that they are not “worth” anything.  I felt I needed to give back somehow, so my official photography business was born and named after my desire to pour into these kids and all of the families I have the honor of serving! Simply Encourage: “Making Memories out of Moments.”

Owning a business is not a walk in the park and can be quite difficult.  Don’t get me wrong I love it, but it is often times very difficult to build a business from the ground up and keep it going.  I have used the past few years to grow as a person, wife, mom and business owner.  I have learned a few life lessons the hard way and I have found myself humbled more times than one would want to admit. There were also moments where I have felt brave and ready to succeed.  I believe the balance of those things have kept me grounded.

During this time of growth I have realized that I desire so deeply to show the young ones who are trying so hard to succeed that they matter.  Recently I developed a new business plan that would include a new way of giving. I am calling it the “The Encouraging Gift Project.”  I have partnered with educators and counselors in our community to help select students and families deserving of this gift and am ready to share it with you.

“The Encouraging Gift Project” is designed to offer the gift of a senior portrait session to a graduating senior who may need to see the value of who they are, but are not able to invest in photography at this point in their lives.  My hope is that I can use my testimony and passion in photography to encourage others who need to understand that they matter.  I also LOVE capturing families, because Family Matters!  There are so many families who would never be able to afford photography because of hardship in life.  Single mom/dad families, immigrant families, foster families, blended families. The list goes on and on!  All of you matter! I desire so deeply to work with you!

Here’s how the Encouraging Gift Project works. For EVERY SINGLE photo-booth rental or photography package purchased through us, Simply Encourage will give a gift certificate to an educator or counselor to give to their selected senior student, foster child or family!  For the students, there are no academic requirements, because I believe a grade does not determine value and I know many educators who feel the same way!  I believe some students (much like myself growing up) are simply trying to make it through one day at a time rather than prove themselves academically.  I am not saying that academics do not matter. I am simply saying our students are more valuable than the numbers attached to a report card!  There is more to life than this. I have seen many successful people rise above their circumstances despite their grades.

With the help of our community my hope is to reach at least 100 students and families this year!  This will make for a memorable and meaningful summer.  I do not believe my story is completely unique or that I am anything special, I just believe that my story has potential to help others see that they too can overcome hardship.  I believe that some people just need to see that they are not alone and that they matter deeply.

I want to conclude this message by saying THANK YOU ABILENE!  Thank you for pouring into our small family business and for helping us grow.  I am so excited about giving back to you and with you.  I have listed many businesses who invest in our family business and to you I want to say we are forever grateful.  I also want to say thank you to all of the individuals who have rented our Photo Booth and used us for photography.  Here’s to many more years of partnership and giving back together!Simply Encourage A


With a grateful heart,

Stephanie Ellison


To Book Photography or Photobooth Click:  My Booking Matters



3 thoughts on “Encouraging Gift Project

  1. Thank you for sharing… I am so proud of the woman you are… I love the memoires we have and I believe god put us together when did for his paths later in life.. You are truly amazing.. Keep shinning and doing your best… I am so proud of you .. Love you and great job

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