Pictures of Home: Stephanie Goddard uses photography to show appreciation for deployed soldiers
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Stephanie Goddard has never been to boot camp or worn a military uniform, but she's serving her country the best way she knows how: with her photography. Through her "Glimpse of Home" project, Goddard takes photos of military families at no charge, then creates a personal photo album to send to their deployed soldier as a surprise. She sends each album in a flat-rate shipping box along with a Bible devotional, candy, drawings from the soldier's children, playing cards -- anything to lift that soldier's spirit and remind him of home.
"Just something like this can get them through their day," said Goddard, who lives in Gordonville and has a studio in downtown Cape Girardeau. "The main reason I do it is simply that they are there and I'm not. It's really important to me to serve. This is how I serve God."
Goddard said she's always had a deep appreciation for the military -- especially after her 12-year-old son Bo decided, around age 7, to be a soldier when he grows up.
"I know my son will be there someday, and I hope someone would do this for him," Goddard said. "I really encouraged my son to join the military. People ask me why in the world I would encourage that, and I think there is a certain kind of person who will be able to step up and others aren't -- but he has already. A regret in my life is that I didn't step up to do it. The people who did don't get nearly enough appreciation."
Goddard finds soldiers through word-of-mouth, then meets with each family to find out what's important to their deployed mother, father, brother, sister. It's usually a spouse and children, sometimes a pet or car -- even the familiar furniture or knickknacks in the background offer a comforting reminder of home, says Goddard. The albums are hardcover and small enough to tuck into a backpack or under a pillow.
"The goal is for him to be able to hand the photo to another soldier and say, 'See, this is the motorcycle I told you about,'" Goddard said.
Goddard sends the packages out herself so the soldier has no idea what it is until he opens the album. There, on the first page, is a significant, personal image or message so he knows the album is a surprise from his family. The albums are sponsored by local individuals or businesses, who also write letters of support and appreciation to include with the package.
"My immediate hope is to get more and more soldiers from this area -- more than I can handle -- and find more sponsors to help pay for it," Goddard said. In addition to her photography business, Goddard manages to work full time as a physical therapy assistant, be a wife to Ryan and mom to Bo, spend time with her dog Egg and two horses, and participate in other community projects and fundraisers. She says prayer and faith keep her balanced and motivated to share her gift with others.
"One of the greatest expressions of love is to use your gifts to help those who need it," she says.
To become a sponsor, recommend a soldier or donate items for a "Glimpse of Home" package, visit Goddard's website at goddardphotographyonline.com.