BUCKHANNON - The unexpected profits generated from a local photo book project will be used to give soldiers serving in Afghanistan a little piece of West Virginia until they can return home.
When the Buckhannon Upshur Camera Club started organizing its own photo book publication, "A West Virginia Sesquicentennial Celebration," the last thing members had in mind was turning an actual profit, said club member Al Tucker, one of two individuals who coordinated the publication.
However, when those profits materialized, the club decided to purchase additional copies of the book that will be given to West Virginia soldiers being deployed to and returning home from Afghanistan. BUCC calls their initiative OPERATION Thank You. The club is working with the West Virginia Army National Guard and Army Reserve to get copies of the books to the state's local soldiers.
"One of the unexpected outcomes of our WV150 project has been the revenue we have generated," Tucker said. "Our intent was to publish a nice keepsake on West Virginia in its sesquicentennial year as seen from the eyes of photographers. While our goal was not to raise money, we have been fortunate in that respect."
When the thousands of submitted photos from West Virginia amateurs and professionals alike were finally narrowed down to a few, and the book was proofed, reproofed and finalized, members were surprised to find the club account listing a profit they didn't know what to do with.
The next step was deciding how to spend all of that money, as more than $2,000 worth of the sesquicentennial books had sold.
"We just thought that the best use of the money is just to say thank you to the West Virginia men and women who are serving in harm's way," Tucker said.
Capt. Josh Wilson, a 10th Mountain Division U.S. Army soldier who received a copy of the book from the club, recently wrote a note to members expressing his gratefulness for the book donation.
"There are few enjoyments for soldiers during deployment," Wilson wrote. "Some enjoy exercising while others improve their hand to eye coordination through video games. I was a simple country boy from the hills of West Virginia and looked forward to mail call.
"One mail call in particular stands out. As I remember it I received a rather large vanilla envelope (that), when opened, much to my surprise was a breathtaking book of pictures that immediately captured my attention and brought me home to the beautiful hills of West Virginia," he continued.
"I spent most of my evening enjoying the work the volunteers from the Buckhannon Upshur Camera Club had put into capturing the natural scenery of our beautiful state. I enjoyed it so much I would insist on showing it to fellow soldiers I met who were also from West Virginia. All of them thoroughly enjoyed the pictures and captions and expressed how uplifting it was to just see pictures of luscious, green mountains and streams from our 'Mountain Mama' compared to the mundane brown surroundings of eastern Afghanistan."
Although a few books already have been distributed, several members of the club will travel to Beckley on Dec. 7 to distribute the photo book to a unit of 184 soldiers. In early 2014, those soldiers will be deployed to Afghanistan.
The initiative will continue with three other similar club events coming up in 2014. The more books that sell, the more soldiers BUCC can thank with book donations.
Books may be purchased by calling John Simons with the Upshur County Senior Center at 304-472-0528 or by visitingwww.createspace.com/4357439.