Sometimes the greatest acts of kindness are those that are unexpected. And in the case of one Missouri man, his discovery turned out to be life-changing for not just his family but many, many more.

In January, architect Brian Bononi had to visit a Portrait Innovations photo studio to take measurements for a new leasing agent.

Though the location was set to close due to bankruptcy, it actually contained something quite valuable. Bononi shockingly discovered a massive pile of family portraits. Instead of disposing of them and continuing with his job, he went above and beyond the call of duty—he went about finding their rightful owners.

Bononi initially was dismayed that the photos would end up in a shredder or trash bin. Faced with a decision, he considered his options:

“I could ignore these photos and go on, not my problem…. which would have been easy to do, since no one knew I would have even thought twice about it.

And besides, I wasn’t looking to take on another project in my family’s busy schedules. Or I could do something about it.

I couldn’t escape the thought that these photos could potentially be some families’ first or last photos with/of their loved ones.

I knew if these were one of my memories, wouldn’t I want someone to do what they could to help me?”

The Missouri native decided to take matters into his own hands—with permission, of course. After getting the landlord’s blessing, the 39-year-old father of four went about loading 167 abandoned portraits into his dad van.

He and his family brought them home and began searching for their owners.

Amazingly, the pile contained photos from a wide range of events, including graduations and weddings. The family incorporated its own system of categorizing the photos by alphabetizing them and inputting data into a spreadsheet with all relevant contact information. Eventually, they started getting in contact with some of the owners and the results were inspiring.

The Bononi family has reunited more than 40 photos with their rightful owners and even created a Facebook Page called Portraits at Boardwalk. The page helps spread the message and gives people an opportunity to identify themselves in the photos.

Said Bononi,

“It’s an opportunity to extend love and hope within our community.

We teach our kids that making a difference in our world is intentional and that no matter your age or how big or small the act may be, when you see an opportunity to help, YOU do it, and this was a great example to do just that!”

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