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Never Too Early To “Be the Change”: Why We Love Our Young Supporters

January 22, 2020

Brittany and Rob Bergquist were only 13 and 12 years old when they started Cell Phones For Soldiers. They saw a need—learning in 2004 about a serviceman in Iraq who’d racked up a massive phone bill calling home—and they didn’t wait to meet it.

That’s why, almost 16 years later, we find it so inspiring when we learn about young people stepping up for a great cause. And it’s why, last week, Rob traveled to Michigan to meet with some of our most dedicated young supporters.

Lake Orion High School held its 6th annual Cell Out For Soldiers. About 1,800 students and adults at LOHS gave up their phones for a day. For each phone given up, a donation was made to Cell Phones For Soldiers. Cell Out, in its first five years, raised more than $20,000 for Cell Phones For Soldiers, and they hoped to raise another $8,000 this year.

In addition to helping our troops serving abroad—we send phone cards to help defray the cost of secure international calls, which can be very expensive—Cell Out had an added benefit for the school: Without the distraction of cell phones, students took the time to communicate face-to-face, creating a more engaging community for the day.

Fox 2 Detroit reporter Roop Raj was on hand during this year’s Cell Out and captured the spirit of this special day at LOHS. The video also does a great job of sharing the story of Cell Phones For Soldiers.

If you are a student or a school employee who is interested in holding a similar event at your school; or a supporter interested in hosting a Cell Phones For Soldiers donation drive at your church, business, scout troop, or community organization, you can get started by visiting www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com or emailing us at [email protected]

This #GivingTuesday, Give With Action

December 2, 2019

When firefighter Patrick Connors decided to start collecting phones for Cell Phones For Soldiers through the Randolph Fire Department in Randolph, Massachusetts, his fellow firefighters and many other town workers rallied for the cause.

More than 14 years—almost as long as Cell Phones For Soldiers has existed—and more than 7,600 donated mobile devices later, the Randolph Firefighters Local 1268 continues to collect unwanted cell phones in an unassuming box at the department’s central station.

“Everyone knows what that box is for,” Patrick said. “It’s nice to know that with 60 people on the department, who have 60 different opinions about everything in the world, everybody is still on board with the program’s mission and what it accomplishes.”

In 2005, Patrick read a Boston Globe story about Brittany and Robbie Bergquist founding Cell Phones For Soldiers as a way to eliminate communication costs for military troops deployed in the war on terror. Servicemen and women, along with their families, were sharing the impact receiving Cell Phones For Soldiers calling cards had on them—saving them from astronomical international cell phone bills, raising morale, and letting them hear the voices of their loved ones.

“I found those messages inspiring. It showed the hardships that some of these families face during deployments. People were struggling already and the stress of having a loved one at war is a lot to deal with,” Patrick said. “It was something so simple, helping our troops call home. How could we not do this?”

The Bergquist siblings, who were just in middle school at the time, happened to live a few towns away from Randolph, so there was a local connection. Patrick spread the word.

“It was a time when a lot of people were getting new cell phones and taking advantage of new technology. A lot of the guys had a lot of old phones they didn’t need anymore,” Patrick said. “So, we reached out to the police department, the department of public works, and the school department, and soon we were getting tons of old phones. The shipping process was so easy. We just became known as the place to drop off your phone.”

We are sharing the Randolph Firefighters’ story on #GivingTuesday because their work demonstrates our mission perfectly: With the help of dedicated supporters at donation sites everywhere, we have been able to recycle more than 20 million mobile devices and provide more than 350 million minutes of free talk time to our troops.

In 2012, our mission expanded to include a program called Helping Heroes Home, through which we are able to provide one-time, emergency grants to veterans in need. The people and organizations who help us collect phones and other mobile devices have helped us help more than 4,000 veterans.

So, on this #GivingTuesday, we ask that you set up a donation site or drive at your office, store, organization, place of worship, school, or event, and help us continue to serve those who serve our country! Establishing a donation site is a valuable community service and can help increase foot traffic to small businesses, and a limited-time collection drive is a great addition to community or school events. Getting started is easy. Simply fill out the form on our website.

Cell Phones For Soldiers is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Honor Our Veterans

November 5, 2019

veterans dayJust like that other special occasion in November, Veterans Day is a day of extraordinary gratitude in the United States. On Monday, November 11, we honor all veterans, past and present, for their service and sacrifice, and we affirm our commitment to never forget their work to protect and defend our nation. We are so thankful.

There are plenty of opportunities to take action in support of veterans in your community and beyond, today and every day. Here are some ideas:

Find an event, bring your kids!

Today, join crowds at your local Veterans Day parade or ceremony to show your support. Bring your children and talk to them about the importance of service, both in the military and outside it.

Volunteer

Check with your local veterans’ services organization to see whether they need help with special events, regular duties or other work. There may be a veteran in your community who needs help with yard work or household chores, transportation to appointments, or simply some friendly company from time to time. Go where the need is.

Share the stories of our oldest veterans

Sixteen million Americans served in World War II. While the nation lost 400,000 troops during the four years of WWII, millions returned home to reenergize a war-fatigued nation. They built homes, started businesses, became parents and continued to serve. Many of them reenlisted to fight in Korea when the time came. Today, fewer than 500,000 are left from WWII, out of the 16 million who went to fight; and 2 million Korean War veterans survive. We lose more of older veterans every day. If you have a WWII or Korean War veteran in your life, and they are comfortable telling their story, ask them to share it with you. Keep their stories alive by recording them and sharing them with the next generation.

Advocate

Write or call your local, state and federal representatives to ask them to increase and protect funding for veterans’ services, including for medical and mental health care, including suicide prevention, that will help heal our nation’s bravest from the physical and psychological effects of war.

Hire

If you own or manage a business, implement a veteran-friendly hiring policy and offer to train veterans in your field. Military service requires leadership, reliability, teamwork and discipline, all traits that make great workers in any industry. Too many veterans leave the military without good employment prospects, which can make the transition to civilian life even more difficult.

Give

Veterans Day is a perfect opportunity to make a charitable contribution to an organization that supports veterans. Here at Cell Phones For Soldiers, our program Helping Heroes Home provides emergency grants for veterans to help with things like eviction avoidance, internet service, home repairs and more. We’ve given aid to more than 4,000 veterans, and aim to help more, with your support. Learn about Helping Heroes Home and donate today. 

Cell Phones For Soldiers is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Mesothelioma Awareness Day is September 26

September 24, 2019

In recognition of Mesothelioma Awareness Day, September 26, Cell Phones For Soldiers has partnered with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance to share information about a disease for which American military veterans are at particular risk. This is a guest post from Mesothelioma.com.

For the past 16 years, we in the United States have recognized Mesothelioma Awareness Day. As this day grows each year, we come together to stand with the community of people who have been affected by this disease. Among them, veterans of our military branches suffer most disproportionate impact. Here’s why.

Nearly 30 percent of all mesothelioma diagnoses are developed among military veterans. This is primarily a result of asbestos exposure during their active duty. Due to the durability of asbestos fibers, this material was often found in many places in and around military bases; for example, equipment, sleeping quarters, vehicles, aircrafts and more. At the time, it was known for its strength, soundproofing and fireproofing, which is why it made sense for military use. However; it later came to the attention of many doctors and researchers that this miracle material is in fact toxic to humans.

Asbestos use in the Military

Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard

Unfortunately, asbestos was a common additive in materials used to construct naval ships. This has made the Navy one of the most at-risk branches for asbestos exposure, increasing the chance of developing serious diseases later in life. As well as Marines and Coast Guard personnel, these men and women spent extended periods of time in close quarters on ships, which created a higher risk of ingesting or inhaling this toxicant and at a higher frequency.

Army and Air Force

Soldiers who served in the Army were exposed to asbestos-containing materials in buildings and vehicles. Military vehicles used asbestos within a number of gaskets and brakes. Air Force personnel were exposed mainly through their living quarters as well as aircraft brake systems.

Exposed today

The threat of mesothelioma is not only prevalent for our veterans; in fact, those who are currently serving our country today may still find themselves at risk. Although the use of asbestos in materials is at an all-time low in the United States, men and women may be deployed to different countries and areas where use could still be prominent. Only 66 countries have banned the use of asbestos, and exposure is more likely in developing countries.

Mesothelioma

After asbestos fibers enter the body, it can take anywhere between 10–50 years to manifest and develop into malignant tumors. Although this disease is historically hard to diagnose, it has the ability to develop in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, and heart. With long-term survival rates benefitting fewer than 10 percent of men and women diagnosed, it’s important that patients know and understand their options. There are great medical facilities all around the United States specializing in mesothelioma treatment, and Mesothelioma.com features a span of medical and legal resources.

Mesothelioma Awareness Day

This Mesothelioma Awareness Day, visit Mesothelioma.com to find out how you can get involved and see how you can help your veteran community. Since mesothelioma can be completely prevented, learn more about how you can do your part in banning asbestos. If you’re a veteran and interested in finding more about asbestos exposure during your active duty, you can find resources on Mesothelioma.com.

 

How To Donate Your Unwanted Devices To Cell Phones For Soldiers

August 20, 2019

Here at Cell Phones For Soldiers, we spend a lot of time talking about WHY we do what we do, because our mission is so important to us: We want to help our brave men and women in uniform to be able to stay in touch with their loved ones even when they’re far from home; and we want to help our veterans navigate some of the challenges of returning to civilian life. These are the reasons—along with keeping harmful electronic waste out of landfills—why we do what we do, and we ask for your support.

But that’s not what we’re talking about today.

Today, we’re talking about HOW. More specifically, how you can donate an old cell phone, smartphone, or other mobile device to Cell Phones For Soldiers. There are two easy ways:

First, you can find a donation site near you. Cell Phones For Soldiers has thousands of collection sites all over the country, hosted by generous partner businesses and organizations, and you can find them by searching our database with your ZIP Code. Tip: When you spot a nearby site in our database, we suggest calling them at the listed phone number first to confirm that they still collect, and to get their hours.

Second, you can ship your devices! If shipping works better for you, and you’re sending fewer than 10 devices, you can print a shipping label—postage not included, so we can keep costs down and help the most troops and veterans—and send them in the mail. Follow the instructions at that link. Tip: If you’ve hosted a collection site or drive and have 10 or more phones to ship, you can get a prepaid shipping label from UPS.

Reminders:

  • We will take any mobile device, regardless of its age and condition!
  • We recycle every device with extremely high security standards, so your data is safe with us. For your peace of mind, you can also Google how to delete your data using the specific make and model of your phone.
  • We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit so your donations are tax-deductible.
  • Never throw electronic devices in the trash! They’re harmful for the environment and human health. To date, we’ve kept 20 million devices from reaching landfills.
June 30, 2019

Four Great Reasons to Donate to Cell Phones For Soldiers

Wondering what to do with the old cell phones, tablets, smartphones and MP3 players gathering dust in your house? Give them new life by donating them to help our troops and veterans. In honor of the Fourth of July, we’re sharing four great reasons to send your old devices to Cell Phones For Soldiers.

First, your old device—regardless of its age or condition—can be converted into Minutes That Matter. Cell Phones For Soldiers recycles donated devices for their valuable parts, and uses that income to provide free calling cards for our troops. Deployments are hard for our men and women in uniform, and stressful for their loved ones at home. Since 2004, Cell Phones For Soldiers has donated well over 300 million minutes to help bridge the distance.

Second, our charity also serves veterans with the Helping Heroes Home program. Started in 2012, Helping Heroes Home has provided one-time, emergency grants to help veterans in need. The transition from military to civilian life can be difficult, and we’re proud to have been able to help out more than 4,500 veterans and their families with emergency funds, for assistance with communication needs and other challenges.

Third, donating your devices keeps them out of landfills and the environment, where electronic and plastic waste can cause great harm. To date, we have kept 20 million donated cell phones and other devices from entering the waste stream. As our need for environmental stewardship grows even more important, donating—rather than trashing—those old cell phones is a no-brainer!

Finally, donating your unwanted phones and devices to Cell Phones For Soldiers is an easy way to give back to the people who work on our behalf all around the world. These brave men and women in uniform protect us, our families, our rights, and our peace. They step up in times of disaster, natural or man-made, at home and abroad. They understand that their work is dangerous, potentially deadly, and they do it anyway. For us.

So send us those unwanted, old cell phones and devices! We make it easy: You can ship them or find a collection site near you. We hope you have a wonderful Fourth of July!

 

Cell Phones For Soldiers Partners with Calvados Boulard to #ToastToTroops on D-Day Anniversary

June 4, 2019

Leading wine & spirits importer Palm Bay International is pleased to announce that Calvados Boulard is partnering with Cell Phones For Soldiers to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. For every Instagram post that uses the hashtag #ToastToTroops, Boulard has pledged to make a $5 donation (up to $25,000).

Calvados has a unique connection to U.S. history and the military. During World War II, allied troops came ashore to launch the largest seaborne invasion in history. They landed on the beaches of Normandy, France – home to Calvados Boulard. After the Normandy landings (recognized today as D-Day), General Eisenhower was introduced to the Boulard family and Calvados Boulard V.S.O.P., which quickly became the favorite of the General and his troops. June 6th, 2019 will mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

On a mission to “Connect America’s Bravest,” Cell Phones For Soldiers is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing cost-free communications services and emergency funding to active-duty and veteran military members. Since 2004, Cell Phones For Soldiers has provided more than 300 million minutes of free talk time and recycled more than 15 million cell phones. Each week, Cell Phones For Soldiers mails approximately 1,500 calling cards to troops in need.

“We are proud to support Boulard’s partnership with Cell Phones For Soldiers in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day,” says Gary Schlem, Senior Director of Brand Development at Palm Bay International. “As a family-owned company deeply passionate about our brands, we aim to partner with those who reflect our own ideals of passion, authenticity, and respect. We invite our consumers to support our troops who bravely support us in return.”

General Manager of Spirit France, Serge Dersahaguian, also says, “It is our deep pleasure to honor such a rich moment in history by supporting military families. We toast with Calvados Boulard to the past, present and future brave soldiers.”

Boulard Calvados is the first name in super-premium Calvados, the celebrated apple-based spirit unique to the Normandy region. With a 31% share of the U.S. Calvados market and international distribution in 60 countries, Boulard is one the leading brands of Calvados in the U.S. and worldwide.

This Memorial Day, Remember Our Defenders

May 27, 2019

A powerful sight takes over Boston Common every Memorial Day: More than 11,000 American flags are placed across the historic green, one for each Massachusetts man or woman who has died in service to our country, from the Revolutionary War to today.

The image is beautiful, and somewhat overwhelming. Each state and territory could have similar displays (and many do), and the whole of those numbers—more than two million of our brave armed forces throughout history—represents what we honor on Memorial Day.

War is a sacrifice. Our leaders must weigh the benefit of sending our military to fight in order to protect the United States or its allies, or to resolve conflicts abroad. Our all-volunteer armed forces train and prepare, and they fight, understanding the possibility that they may never come home.

They do it because they know that America is an idea worth defending. They work to stop injustice around the world. They do this for us.

This Memorial Day, even if you don’t personally know someone who has died in defense of our country, please take a moment to reflect on the lives that were lost so we can live in peace and freedom.

Cell Phones For Soldiers is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Your donations help active-duty service men and women stay connected with their loved ones at home, and help veterans meet costs for emergency needs.

Help Our Troops And Veterans, Help Our Planet

April 21, 2019

Personal technology evolves at a breakneck speed these days: think of how frequently Apple, Samsung, Google and other tech giants debut their latest smartphones and other gadgets. Now think about the devices those new gadgets make obsolete. Are we, as a society, putting that older tech to good use?

At Cell Phones For Soldiers, we recognize both the value of the recyclable materials of cell phones, smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices—as well as the environmental harm of improperly disposing of these gadgets. On Earth Day, and throughout the year, we remind you that donating your unwanted devices to Cell Phones For Soldiers helps our troops and veterans, and keeps these devices from harming our environment.

The world is suffering a “tsunami of e-waste,” warned environmentalist Achim Steiner in 2015. Mr. Steiner, who then headed up the United Nations’ Environment Program, noted that disposed devices can release harmful, toxic chemicals into the environment, while at the same time discarding very valuable components that can be reused again and again.

“We are throwing away an enormous amount of raw materials that are essentially reusable,” said Mr. Steiner. “Whether it is gold, silver or some of the rare earths that you have heard about perhaps in recent years, it is still an incredible amount.”

Unfortunately, only about 12.5 percent of global e-waste is recycled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. We can do much better.

In 2004, Cell Phones For Soldiers saw a win-win opportunity: We could recycle donated mobile devices for their valuable reusable materials, and use the income from those materials to purchase calling cards for our deployed troops. Since then, we have provided well over 300 million minutes of free talk time to help our brave men and women in the military stay connected with loved ones at home, and have helped more than 3,100 veterans in need.

We have also kept more than 15 MILLION potentially harmful electronic devices from hitting our overtaxed landfills.

We’re so proud of that number, and are constantly working to push back against that tsunami of e-waste. This Earth Day, donate your unwanted cell phones, smartphones, tablets and mobile devices to Cell Phones For Soldiers. It doesn’t matter whether the device is working or not, broken, brand new or decades old. Make a difference in the lives of our troops and veterans, and in the life of our planet.

Cell Phones For Soldiers Celebrates 15 Years

April 7, 2019

Cell Phones For Soldiers reaches a milestone on April 12, 2019, as we celebrate our 15th anniversary! A lot has happened since the morning in 2004 when co-founders Brittany and Rob Bergquist, then 13 and 12 years old, piled their spare change and allowance savings to help an American soldier in Iraq who’d run up an $8,000 cell phone bill calling home.

Their first effort—raising $21 to help the soldier—quickly turned into Cell Phones For Soldiers. The siblings soon created a plan to turn donated cell phones and mobile devices into free talk time for our brave men and women in uniform around the world.

While completing middle school and earning their high school and college degrees, Rob and Brittany grew the nonprofit into a sophisticated, international operation. The organization, which uses the income from donated mobile electronic devices to buy calling cards for the troops, has collected more than 15 million devices. This has allowed us to provide well over 300 million minutes of free calling time to deployed troops through our Minutes That Matter program. With support from corporate partners such as AT&T, CapitalOne, Liberty Tax, Chevrolet, Santa Rita Wines, KIND and many more, as well as countless individual contributors, Cell Phones For Soldiers has provided communication services to our military, helping families stay connected.

In 2012, Cell Phones For Soldiers expanded its services to a new program, Helping Heroes Home. We use income from recycling and cash donations to help veterans needing help with the transition to civilian life. We have assisted more than 3,000 veterans with one-time grants to avoid eviction and foreclosure, as well as meet communication and household needs.

In the past 15 years, Cell Phones For Soldiers has been featured in local, national and international media. This week, as we #CELLebrate15, we’ll share some of our best memories and we encourage you to please help us ring in our anniversary by donating $15. Your donations will help us continue our mission to help America’s bravest.