USO Drives to Connect Deployed Troops with Valentines
February 14, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 14, 2008) - The USO of Hampton Roads, Va., did their part to keep loved ones who are separated by overseas deployments close this Valentine's Day, by collecting recycled cell phones for Soldiers.
More 100 used cell phones, batteries, chargers and cell phone accessories were collected at USO centers, local AT&T mobile stores and online to support Hampton Roads area couples separated by the war on terror.
The recycling drive was held as part of the nationwide used-cell-phone-collection initiative, Cell Phones for Soldiers. The organization collects used cell phones and accessories, sells them to a recycling agency and uses the money to buy prepaid calling cards for servicemembers.
AT&T, one of the organization's national sponsors, donated 500 prepaid calling cards to the Hampton Roads USO, for distribution to servicemembers and their Families.
"What a better day than Valentine's Day, the day that hearts speak, to give our military families another way to stay connected," said Erik Hernquist, AT&T spokesperson. "We are proud to present over 10,000 free minutes of talk time from Iraq to the USO of Hampton Roads as a token of our continued appreciation for all that your loved ones do for our country."
Megan Chessner, whose husband Todd is currently serving in Iraq, was chosen to receive 25 of the prepaid phone cards. Her husband has been deployed since September 2007, leaving Megan at home with their two young children.
"There is no way for me to ever tell you how much it means for us to hear from our loved ones," Megan said. "I thank you from the bottom of my heart for these extra 500 minutes, especially on days like today, when the extra 'I love you's' and the security of knowing that our Soldiers are okay means more than you will ever know."
Sister and brother Brittany and Robbie Bergquist founded Cell Phones for Soldiers in 2004 when they were 13 and 12 years old, respectively. They saw a newscast about an Army Reserve Soldier who had a $7,600 cell phone bill from calling home to his family. At the time, Brittany and Robbie had a cousin serving overseas in Iraq and realized how important it is to keep in touch with loved ones.
With $21, Brittany and Robbie went to their local bank in hopes to help pay the Soldier's phone bill. The bank manager was so impressed that he threw $500 of his own money toward the effort. Brittany and Robbie began to hold fundraisers, with the hope to send used cell phones with prepaid minutes to servicemembers.
Unfortunately, due to security issues, cell phones weren't able to be sent to servicemembers. With hundreds of used cell phones taking up space in the family's garage, den and hallway, the idea of recycling them to buy calling cards was born.
Since 2004, the organization has raised more than $1 million in donations. More than 400,000 prepaid calling cards have been distributed to servicemembers stationed overseas. Cell Phones for Soldiers process 20,000 cell phones each month.
Cell Phones for Soldiers was founded on three principles: There are a lot of cell phones sitting around in people's homes, most would donate an old phone for a good cause, and as Brittany says, "Everyone has a right to call home."
<i>Editor's note: Cell Phones for Soldiers accepts donations of all makes and models of cell phones, chargers, batteries, cell phone accessories, BlackBerry personal digital assistants and pagers. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com"target=_blank> www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com</a></i>