Members of VFW Post 3772 in Mexico and non-profit Cell Phones for Soldiers Inc., are asking Audrain County residents to donate gently-used cellular phones to help troops call home during the holiday season.
You've likely seen the advertisement for the campaign – a graphic of a soldier kneeling on one knee, talking on a cell phone, along with bold, black words asking "if you have old or unused cell phones" that can be turned into cost-free calls for our troops.
Cell Phones for Soldiers is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing deployed and returning troops cost-free methods to communicate with family while serving in the United States military. Area residents can drop off their old cell phones at The Mexico Ledger, 300 N. Washington between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The phones will then be recycled for minutes by Post 3772.
According to local VFW members, "Cell Phones for Soldiers is a great way to honor the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who have given so much for so many." The Post receives roughly 2-6 donated cell phones weekly through The Ledger, and larger shipments are then sent out by the Post monthly.
Siblings Robbie and Brittany Bergquist founded Cell Phones for Soldiers in 2004 at the ages of 12 and 13. The charity has since provided more than 168 million minutes of free talk time to servicemen and women stationed around the world. Funds raised from the recycling of cellular phones are used to purchase pre-paid international calling cards. On average, Cell Phones for Soldiers distributes 12,000 calling cards each week to bases around the world, care package programs, deployment ceremonies and VA hospitals.
"Each year, we have been humbled by the amount of people and organizations that take the initiative to support our troops," said co-founder Brittany Bergquist. Cell Phones for Soldiers, she said, hopes to continue its mission. Each $5 contribution, or donated device valued at $5, will provide troops with 2.5 hours of free talk time.
"We want to continue to mend the communication gap between our armed forces and their loved ones as deployed troops continue to serve our country," Bergquist said.
With ongoing deployments to combat areas and elsewhere, as many as 290,000 troops are serving in the U.S. Military overseas. By donating the gently-used cellular phones, Audrain residents can provide troops with "precious connection" to loved ones back home.
"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," says the teens' father, Bob Bergquist. "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."
In July 2012, the Bergquist family launched a new program, "Helping Heroes Home," which will provide emergency funds for returning veterans to alleviate communication challenges as well as physical, emotional and assimilation hardships.
For more information, visit www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com, www.helpingheroeshome.org or http://www.facebook.com/JoinCellPhonesforSoldiers or contact a VFW Post 3772 member. The campaign serves all branches of the military.