UTICA — In honor of Veterans Day and Military Family Appreciation Month, state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome, was recently joined by AT&T and the Central New York Veterans Outreach Center to kick off this year’s Cell Phones For Soldiers collection drive.
For every donated phone, mobile device or tablet valued at $5, Cell Phones For Soldiers is able to provide 2.5 hours of free talk time to deployed troops via calling cards. All proceeds from the recycled devices will be used to buy long distance calling cards and other communication services for troops at home and abroad.
As many as 200,000 troops are serving in the U.S. military around the world and by donating to Cell Phones For Soldiers, local residents and businesses can provide a valuable lifeline for America’s bravest men and women to connect with loved ones back home, according to collection organizers.
The collection drive began on Veterans Day and runs through Saturday, Dec. 11. The public and businesses can drop off gently used and unwanted cell phones and/or tablets at collection bins in AT&T stores throughout the region and at several public locations throughout the senator’s district.
Drop-off locations include:
Jervis Public Library: 613 N. Washington St., Rome;
Adirondack Bank Center, 400 Oriskany St. W., Utica;
Central New York Veterans Outreach Center, 726 Washington St., Utica ;
Utica Public Library: 303 Genesee St.;
Chanatry’s Hometown Market: 485 French Road, Utica;
State Office Building: 207 Genesee St., Utica;
Turning Stone Resort Casino: 5218 Patrick Road, Verona;
New Hartford Public Library: 2 Library Lane; and
Lloyds of Lowville: 7405 S. State St.;
AT&T Stores at 4777 Commercial Dr., New Hartford; 1319 Erie Boulevard W., Rome; 224 N. Genesee St., Utica; and 220 Genesee St., Oneida.
This is the sixth year that the drive has taken place, lead by Griffo and AT&T. Residents throughout Griffo’s district have donated approximately 5,801 devices and have provided troops with more than 500,000 minutes (8,300 hours) of free calls.
“The holidays can be a difficult time for members of our military because they are often so far away from their families,” Griffo said. “The simple sound of a loved one’s voice can go a long way to lift their spirits. These brave men and women have stepped up to serve our nation, and I am proud to be teaming up with AT&T, the Central New York Veterans Outreach Center, Cell Phones for Soldiers and local businesses and organizations to help connect these troops to their families back home.”
“As a company that connects the world, AT&T believes that one of the best ways to support and thank the brave men and women that protect and serve our country, and the veterans before them, is by helping to keep them connected with their family, friends and loved ones,” said Greeley Ford, AT&T senior network engineer.
“We are so grateful to AT&T, Senator Griffo, and his constituents for their ongoing support of our mission to connect America’s bravest,” said Rob Bergquist, founder and president of Cell Phones For Soldiers. “As we approach our 19th year of helping military service members and veterans, we continue to serve those who served our country and look forward to expanding our mission. We now have the capacity to put donated mobile devices — collected through events like Senator Griffo’s and AT&T’s drive — in the hands of low-income and at-risk veterans. These devices will be lifelines to help veterans in need connect with critical resources.”
Cell Phones For Soldiers was founded in 2004 by Robbie and Brittany Bergquist at the ages of 12 and 13. The charity has since provided more than 300 million minutes of free talk time to servicemen and women stationed around the world through its calling card program, Minutes That Matter.
A donation of a mobile device to this community collection drive doesn’t just help connect active military and veterans with loved ones, organizers said, adding it also helps protect the environment by properly and safely recycling them so not to cause electronic waste, which can be extremely harmful to the environment if it ends up in a landfill.