Digital cameras can connect soldiers with families

By Jenn Stewart
Irvine World News


PLEASE NOTE: All information regarding Operation Photo is for historical purposes only. Unfortunately, we are no longer accepting cameras for this program. You can directly contact

Somewhere between stepping into the shower and rinsing conditioner from her hair Tuesday morning, Jennifer Petersen, 28, realized that thousands of overseas troops don’t get to watch their families grow and that she needed to do something about it.

So the freelance photographer came up with the idea of gathering old digital cameras and sending them to the families of deployed service men and women so they can stay connected with their loved ones.

“When I had my daughter my entire life changed. That was it,” Petersen said. “I couldn’t imagine not seeing her for one day, let alone a month or a year.”

Petersen figured that as older model digital cameras were replaced by new and improved models during the holidays, many people would be stuffing their dated camera into the closet with other aged electronics.
This way, families donating cameras otherwise relegated to collecting dust can possibly change the life of a young mother or father deployed overseas.

” It’s a win-win situation. I don’t see how anyone can lose at this,” Petersen said.

By 7 a.m. Petersen contacted local businessman and entrepreneur Mitch Goldstone and explained her idea.
Goldstone has plenty of experience in supporting worthy causes. His Economic Patriotism in Irvine and Coast to Coast (EPICC) and Support the Olympic Games campaigns have raised awareness and funds.

Goldstone didn’t have to think twice, he was sold on Petersen’s idea and by noon he had connected with a national non-profit that offered to distribute donated cameras.

He also added the extra bonus of a $25 gift certificate for services from his business on, where digital photos can be developed, for anyone donating a digital camera.

Operation Homefront is a San Diego-based non-profit that focuses on supporting the families of deployed soldiers and reservists.

One of its current programs gives donated computers to families of service people who could not afford one.

This year they have already given out 3,000 computers, said Ernie Leidiger, president of Homefront Foundation.

When Leidiger heard Goldstone’s pitch, he accepted immediately.

” I think it’s awesome, it’s phenomenal,” Leidiger said. “It is a major enhancement to our current program.”

Having served under Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during the first Gulf War, Leidiger knew how hard it is to be away from a young family.

“The only way we communicated was by letter and I would go months without any communication with my wife and children,” he said.

Today, he said, there are 190,000 families at any given time that are short a family member because duty calls.

” We’re going to make great use of this stuff, it’s a great idea,” Leidiger said.


Article originally published in The Irvine World News, link no longer available