Kindness helps bring photos home

Published 6:49 pm Thursday, September 21, 2023

On Sept. 10, during a routine trip to the Dollar General, Savannah Williams of Brantley stumbled upon a treasure trove of family photos scattered along U.S. Highway 331. The run-of-the-mill errand turned into a remarkable act of kindness according to the rightful owner of the pictures, Wendy Dean of Hartselle. 

“I had a storage unit of mine moved from Enterprise to Hartselle and apparently the unit was not closed so we don’t know what all we lost really,” Dean said. “I was very blessed to have the pictures returned to me. It is a hard month for me because Sept.19 marked another year that my mother has been gone. There was a picture of her as a child that got a little damaged, but it is one of my most precious photos and I am so glad I still have it. I have very few pictures of my mother and I am so thankful.”

Williams, who rarely deviates from her usual route to the Dollar General, said she had decided to take an alternate path that day, passing behind 4 Byrds Hardware Store. As she approached the road, she spotted scattered photographs in her path, along with shards of glass from broken picture frames. Unbeknownst to her, these photos held immense sentimental value for a family unknown to her.

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Savannah Williams wasted no time. Concerned about the glass being a potential road hazard, she called her husband, Brandon Williams, a Brantley Volunteer firefighter. While Brandon cleaned up the glass, Brantley police officer Jordan Arrighi ensured traffic was safely directed as Savannah carefully collected the scattered pictures.

“It was my assumption that they belonged to someone local who might be moving, and pictures have always held great value for me,” Savannah said. “Photos help preserve family history; they can revive forgotten memories and keep the legacy of lost loved ones alive. I knew someone would be overjoyed to have them back.”

Social media to share her discovery, hoping to reunite the photos with their rightful owner. She encouraged the community to join her efforts, while Brandon tagged James Spann in a post about the pictures. It was this post that catalyzed the return of the family photos.

“A relative spotted the post and came to show it to me,” Dean said. “And with the world like it is, I am thankful Savannah made sure she was getting the pictures to the right family. I don’t have many photos of my mom, but I sent Savannah some I did have, and she could tell that the pictures were indeed of my late mother.”

When Savannah and Dean were planning how to return the photos to their rightful owner, they realized that she would be near Birmingham the next day taking her mother-in-law to the doctor. This coincidence allowed Dean’s daughter, who appeared in many of the photos as a child, to meet Savannah at St. Vincent’s Hospital morning.

Many of the photos were unseen by Dean’s family members or hadn’t been viewed in years. This made the recovery even more special, and the significance of this reunion was not lost on Dean who found solace amid personal challenges.

“This is a hard month for me because the 19th marked another year that my mother has been gone,” Dean said. “There was a picture of her as a child that got a little damaged, but it is one of my most precious photos, and I am so glad I still have it. I have very few pictures of my mother, and I am so thankful.” 

The search for the family behind the lost photos was swift. Dean was identified within five hours of Savannah’s 6:36 p.m. post, and on Wednesday the family was reunited with their precious pictures.

As Dean expressed her gratitude, she highlighted the importance Savannah’s act of kindness.

“Having these pictures returned to me was really a breath of fresh air, and now knowing that there are still caring people out there that will take the time to stop and pick up someone else’s belongings and then try to get them back to the family was very encouraging,” Dean said.

Savannah Williams summed it up perfectly when asked why she was so determined to reunite the photos with their owner.

“Family history is so important, and I very much enjoy knowing where I am from and who I am,” she said. There were photos from the 80s and 90s but there were some that were family heirlooms taken in the 50s and beyond. Photos have always been a top priority for me as they are the only thing that’s almost forever. You can forget a memory, and a photo can bring it back to life. I knew that if I could get those photos to where they belonged it would make someone, somewhere very happy.”