Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, SocialEarth, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens...
Cell Phones for Soldiers Keeps Military Families Connected
A Massachusetts-based nonprofit has pioneered an innovative way to recycle old cell phones while supporting military servicemen and women stationed overseas.
The nonprofit, Cell Phones for Soldiers, uses proceeds from recycled cell phones to buy and send free phone cards to military members stationed away from home. Cell Phones for Soldiers has recycled over 10.5 million cell phones to provide over 168 million minutes of free talk time to members of the U.S. military.
According to the Center for American Progress, divorce rates nearly doubled for military spouses between 2001 and 2004, and have risen steadily since then. The Military Benefits Deployment Center lists staying in touch with loved ones as a top-five, "how to survive deployment" strategy. Cell Phones for Soldiers works to keep families close by helping them communicate regularly during deployment.
Military members that may be deployed on combat missions cannot have cell phones because of the associated security risks for themselves and their units. A variety of calling cards are available for members of the U.S. military, but calling plans are invariably expensive. To call the United States from Iraq, for example, the Verizon World Traveler card costs 9.8 cents per minute, while AT&T's Global PrePaid Minutes cost between 4 and 6 cents per minute.
Cell Phones for Soldiers was founded in 2004 by 12 and 13 year-old Robbie and Brittany Bergquist from Norwell, Mass., to help servicemen and women connect with their loved ones back home. The nonprofit now mails about 12,000 calling cards every week to soldiers stationed overseas.
"Cell Phones for Soldiers started as a small way to show our family's appreciation for the men and women who have sacrificed the day-to-day contact with their own families to serve in the U.S. armed forces," said Bob Bergquist, the father of Robbie and Brittany. "Over the past few years, we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of others. But we have also seen the need to support our troops continue to grow as more troops are sent overseas for longer assignments."
The nonprofit has received sponsorship from a number of major U.S. corporations, including AT&T, Comcast, BJ's Wholesale Club, and Verizon. AT&T has donated more than $500,000 worth of prepaid phone cards to Cell Phones for Soldiers. The telecom company has also installed used cell phone drop-off sites at thousands of stores across the country.
Phones donated to Cell Phones for Soldiers are sent to ReCellular, the world's largest recycler of mobile devices. Cell phones contain hazardous chemicals and heavy metals which pollute the earth if not properly disposed.
Last weekend, hundreds of Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Venturer Crews hosted a Cell Phones for Soldiers collection drive in Hudson, WI. The event was attended by State Representative Dean Knudson and State Senator Sheila Harsdorf.
"The Cell Phones for Soldiers Program is a great program and an excellent example of how individuals can make a difference in the lives of others," said Senator Harsdorf. "With the help of The Boy Scouts of America and other organizations collecting no longer used cell phones, they are making it possible for soldiers stationed around the world to speak with loved ones back home. The collaboration and partnerships that 'Cell Phones for Soldiers' has created has provided another way for our communities to come together and support these brave men and women and their families."
To donate to Cell Phones for Soldiers or to learn more, visit cellphonesforsoldiers.com.
Image credit: Cell Phones for Soldiers