DigitalCameraReview.com
Operation Photo Donates Cameras to Military Families
by Ben Stafford -  2/16/2005

Ben - Editor in Chief

Operation Photo is working with Operation Homefront to get digital cameras donated to military families. The goal is to help families cope with the absense of a mom, dad, son or daughter by letting them share pictures of births, family events and so on.

If you want to help by donating a used camera, visit http://www.operationphoto.us/

Following is a story on the site that gives a little more perspective about what this program is all about.

The e-mails have been rolling in to Mitch Goldstone for weeks since he launched a program to collect used digital cameras to donate to military families.

Among the most heartbreaking was one from Madeline Letchford. The wife of a deployed Camp Pendelton Marine said she was sad that she'd have to spend her first anniversary - Valentine's Day - without her husband.
The Marine, was also missing out on "every blink" of their newborn son's growth, she wrote to Goldstone. Not anymore.

Two weeks ago, Operation Photo handed Letchford a digital camera that she has used to snap nearly 100 photos of 6-month old Jimi smiling, crying and sleeping. She e-mails them to her husband, and posts them on Goldstone's Irvine-based Web site, a service he offers for free.

"It just means so much to share the silly things that moms and dads get to see," the Oceanside resident said.

Over the past two months, Goldstone has collected more than 2,500 used digital cameras after asking clients of his 30 Minute Photos shop and online photo-services business to donate digital cameras to military families. Operation Homefront, a Santa Ana nonprofit group that helps military families, is working with Goldstone to distribute the cameras across the country.

Letchford and Veronica Kingsbury, whose husband has been deployed to Kosovo since October, were among the first recipients of the cameras. While Letchford kept her camera, Kingsbury -- who got hers Monday - plans to mail her camera to her husband, who she hasn't seen in nearly five months. "His orders are to take pictures of all the troops so we can send them to the families," Kingsbury said.

Others, like Cortney Plutchak, anxiously await camera delivery. Plutchak's husband, a Marine based in Camp Pendleton, left early this morning for his third deployment to Iraq.

Like the Letchfords, this Oceanside couple just had a baby, and Plutchak, 21, is "bummed out" that her husband will miss Zachary's first crawl, steps and words while he's gone for six months.

The young couple live off William's modest military salary and can't afford a digital camera, said Plutchak, who spent most of her tax refund - $400 - fixing her car's brakes on Monday.

" I would love for him to be able to see his son grow," Plutchak said.Operation Photo was conceived by freelance photographer Jennifer Petersen of Ladera Ranch. She came up with the idea of gathering old digital cameras shortly after Christmas, and turned to Goldstone - an Irvine mover and shaker with a reputation for "making things happen" -- for help. Goldstone jumped at the idea, and within two weeks he had sent thousands of e-mails to clients, soliciting donations. So far, he's received 2,500 cameras, and he hopes to get 7,500 more.

"We are overwhelmed," Goldstone said.

Initially, the idea was to get cameras in time for Valentine's Day, so sweethearts could deliver "digital kisses" for the holiday. However, after seeing the demand, he decided to extend the deadline for receiving cameras until July 4.

Operation Homefront estimates that at any given time roughly 165,000 spouses and 475,000 children areleft behind while troops are deployed. As cameras come in, Goldstone checks to make sure they work before sending them to Operation Homefront for distribution.

Eastman Kodak, Konica Minolta and Olympus America have sent him new cameras.

However, most of donations have come from individuals who left personal messages with them, such as this one: "Enjoy the camera. I'm from a Navy family, so send lots of pictures to your loved ones."