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America Supports You: Duo Collects Cameras for Troops' Families

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2005 – Jennifer Petersen of Ladera Ranch, Calif., made a New Year's resolution to help make the world a better place for her 18-month- old daughter, Kayla.

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Jennifer Petersen of Ladera Ranch, Calif., shown with her daughter, Kayla, hopes to collect 10,000 digital cameras by February for families of deployed servicemembers. Courtesy photo
  

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And she is hoping to fulfill that resolution by helping the families of servicemembers who, she said, are "not only protecting our country, but protecting our world."

By the end of February, Petersen, 28, hopes to collect at least 10,000 digital cameras to give to families of deployed service members so they can share photos with loved ones serving abroad in the war on terror.

Operation Photo, is an effort she co-founded with Mitch Goldstone of Irvine, Calif., a close friend and owner of a local online photo service where she once worked. Goldstone said the cameras will be distributed to families through the military support organization Operation Homefront, a San Diego-based nonprofit group that aids families of deployed soldiers and reservists.

Goldstone said he plans to send an announcement to customers of his business, asking them to donate their used digital cameras. He also is soliciting businesses to donate. As a further incentive to get people to donate, Goldstone said, he is offering a $25 online gift certificate for developing services at his company.

"You hear the stories about servicemembers overseas who have never seen their children -- their wives gave birth after they deployed," Petersen said. "So I was thinking of a way they could still watch their kids grow up, and digital cameras, God bless them, are the way."

She noted that many people have digital cameras they are not using. "Rather than sitting and collecting dust, they may as well go to a family that could use them to share memories of their loved ones," she said.

"Being away without my daughter would kill me," she admitted, "and I can't imagine the soldiers who are away from their families for weeks, months, a year. I don't know how they do it; they are much stronger people than I am."

Petersen, a professional wedding photographer, said she knew Goldstone, a community activist, would be eager to help. He had shown his patriotism in the past.

Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Goldstone co-founded "Economic Patriotism in Irvine and Coast to Coast," an effort he said organized 5,000 tourists to travel by airline to New York City to help stimulate commerce for the city and to prove it was safe to fly.

Goldstone said he was willing to help Petersen in her effort because he's been in the photo business for some time and understands "the impact, and how important a single photographic print is."

"They've been overseas for a long time now, and nothing would please me more than to share the power of a photograph with them," he said. "I'd love nothing more than our troops abroad to be able to hold pictures of their families. That is such is such a powerful, motivating factor for boosting morale."

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Related Sites:
Operation Homefront

Click photo for screen-resolution imageMitch Goldstone of Irvine, Calif., who runs a photo processing business, co-founded Operation Photo to distribute digital cameras to families of deployed servicemembers so they can send pictures of their children the troops who are away from home. Courtesy photo  
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