Monday, December 10, 2007
Cell Phones for Soldiers
"Hey mom ... I love you and miss you, but I'm pretty busy ... so gotta go ... Bye." I talk to my mom several times a day, and probably like a lot of people, I take it for granted. That's a feeling that only gets stronger when you consider soldiers who are in a war zone this holiday season and how expensive calling loved ones overseas can be.

When Brittany and Robbie Bergquist of Norwell, Massachusetts, heard of a soldier having to pay almost $8,000 for a phone bill to call his family from Iraq, they wanted to do something. With $21, the brother and sister duo, then 12 and 13, respectively, started Cell Phones for Soldiers. The organization turns old cell phones into minutes of prepaid calling cards for U.S. troops stationed overseas.

People donate their old phones to the teens. They came up with the idea to sell them to a recycler for $5 and use the money to buy calling cards. Since they started three years ago, the pair has raised more than $1 million in donations and sent 400,000 minutes to troops. They hope to increase that amount nearly tenfold in the next five years so that more soldiers can call and say, "Hey, Mom."

Update: Watch the CNN.com Live Video interview
Dear Brittany & Robbie,

Back when I served in the Air Force (a long time ago!), there was no such thing as cellphones... we had to go weeks, and sometimes months, between calls home to family - and when we finally got the chance, even that didn't guarantee getting through - not everyone had answering machines back then either!). It was an extremely lonely existence. What you are doing for the troops is deeply and profoundly moving & the value absolutely priceless... you simply cannot put a price tag on connecting family members separated by miles & a war. I was moved to tears reading this article about your thoughtfulness. Thank you for such a wonderful holiday gift!

RL
How awesome is it that two kids, let alone siblings, would work together to support our troops?! I have served active duty for almost four years, and although I have yet to deploy, I know how important a phone call home is. I was stationed in Japan for three years. I'm so impressed by their compassion for people they've never even met, nor will they probably ever. Keep up the fantastic work! If our morale stays up, our ambition and motivation to protect our country stays up there with it!

M in DC
Brittany and Robbie, Very impressed with your idea and courage to find a noble way to recycle a product and satisfy the needs of Americans that are protecting the USA. Cheers to You!
Hi Brittany & Robbie:

You do rock! Congratulations on a great project! You are shining examples of the fact that all things are possible.

I am so glad to see this as a brother and sister project. Both of you saw a need and filled it. Your parents and family must be really proud of you! I am.

I am sorry to tell you that my company just replaced 450 cell phones. We donated them to a local domestic violence shelter for recycling so we missed you all this go around.

Hopefully your mission will carry on for years to come and we will get you covered in a few years. I put your site in my favorites.

Thanks for all you do and happy holidays!
Why in the world didn't you tell people where to send their old cell phones? I have several I'd like to donate.
What a great thing you both are doing! When it comes to holidays, our troops want nothing more than to talk with their loved ones.


Please go to http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com
to donate your cell phone
I admire you both. You seldom see teenage brothers and sisters working on a project together. Way to go.

On a side note...my son has served a tour in Iraq and is currently in Afganistan as an mp in the Air Force guarding pows. Unfortunately for him, he has not received cards, phone cards, goody boxes from outside sources and does not feel supported. Our family sends him a care box monthly. During his two tours, he has missed the birth of both of his children. He's lucky that he has friends and family...there are lots of guys and gals serving with no support.
I was wondering, how many minutes exactly are the soldiers getting a piece? Because although this is a WONDERFUL thing that Brittany and Robbie are doing, it doesn't seem like the soldiers would get that many minutes at all. So that was just a question I had. But keep up the good work guys!
WOW. That post was really great. It is so cool how those siblings chased something that they really cared about and ended up changing a bunch of soldier's lives. I've always wanted to make a huge difference in someone's life, and right now I'm trying to. I'm currently in the process of trying to save the Ganges River and the people who live in India. The post was super inspiring and I'll be back in the future. Great work!
---Lizbo
Wow! These kids rock!
WOW that's really great of what yall did. i think that's a great idea. i just did a project where we packed boxes and sent them to the soldiers, we also wrote tons of letters and gave them Christmas decorations. if you want to learn more you can read my blog at
www.trinityweblog.org/emmre0708

Great job :),
Emma
WOW What Can I say but Thank you to two wonderful young patriot Americans !!My 18 year old son is in the Army and was just deployed two weeks ago to Iraq! This will be a comfort and a blessing to be able to call home! Thanks again! aruss67
hey hope to increase that amount nearly tenfold in the next five years so that more soldiers can call and say, "Hey, Mom."

Wish that within 5 years, there will be no US troops abroad. Enough killing innocent people.

Marica, Portage, MI
Congratulations on a job well done! I would like to know what adults helped facilitate this idea and in what way. Also, is there any way other students could get involved in something like this? Lastly, can you think of any other applications for this idea? Thank you!
I am CEO of a wholesale telecom company and would like to offer a large quantity of free minutes to your Cell Phones for Soldiers program. Contact me at JGG@USnationalTelecom.com
Do you delete the memory from the phones before selling them? I worry about my data being compromised, and I've read that old cell phones should be smashed and destroyed to avoid identity theft.
How can I donate? I would like to send in old phones and try to help? Please post some contact information. I am truly moved by your actions! Keep up the good work.
Brittany & Robbie, As a former Marine, I know that everyone appreciates what you are doing! You should tell everyone the address of where to send you their old cell phones, and the name of the company that accepts them. They deserve some recognition also. Not only are they helping out by recycling the phones for you guys but they are also helping out our environment! Thanks for all your hard work and dedication to this project and definitely KEEP IT UP!!
Dear Brittany and Robbie
To say I'm impressed is an understatement. I can only agree with the previous comments. But I am curious about one thing. And its about the company that ends up with these old cell phones. Lately in the news there has been reports about how some of these recycling companies end up "dumping" old USA electronics overseas. Basically creating an electronic wasteland in someone else's backyard. I was shocked. The word recycling usually has only good connotations. Now I'm not so sure.
this is an awesome idea, i got friends and loved ones in iraq and i wish more troops could get these cards, but its awesome that you guys are trying so hard.!


keep it up!!
These two kids are awesome and I am not just saying that because they are my cousins. What you see and hear in interviews is genuine. I wanted to answer Kendra's question about how many minutes the soldiers get. My brother Don is a Chaplain currently serving in Afghanistan. He has become known as the phone card chaplain as he hands out phone cards from cellphonesforsoldiers to any soldier he comes in contact with (which is a lot) He said these cards are awesome because they are through AT&T and are 60 true minutes of talk time back to the states (a little bit less for calls back to bases in Europe). The Army currently provides 2, 15 minute calls a month. As my brother says "I have a wife and 4 little girls at home. 15 minutes just doesn't cut it." Brittany and Robbie are truly making a difference in the lives of soldiers and their families. I am so proud of them.
I really admire your creativity and hearts on this efforts. This is a classic example on how ordinary people could make a difference. The fact that you have been doing this for the past 3 years alone is incredible. Please keep it up.
What a shame that people feel the need to leave negative or political comments here; when 2 young people have clearly done something so ouststanding...

As a Canadian, I can only hope that someone puts together a similar program for our troops serving overseas.

These 2 young people are the future, so be proud of what they've done.

Cheers.
What an amazing idea. It is so good to see our youth changing the world and the lives in it! You two are unbelievable jewels in such an ugly world.
Do the two of you have a personal connection with a member of the forces that helped spark your enthusiasm or is this something you just do because you care about people. I am sure either way you care, but was curious.
Appreicative of what you do as my loved one is deployed.
Carmen Cox
I hope the war isn't going on for 5 more years.
That's awesome! My brother-in-law was recently deployed to Camp Spechier. Have you ever thought about doing something with getting the soliders cheaper or even free internet access on their lap tops? I know they have access to it but the cost is sky high. They might even have free access at locations but I know by the time they get off, shower, and eat they don't have time to go any where. Just a thought.
BRITTANY AND ROBBIE. YOU GUYS ROCK!!!!!! CONGRATULATIONS ON ALL THE SUCCESS!
Brittany and Robbie,

I applaud you and your spirit. Providing funding for calls to our troops is admirable and you are doing a great service to them. In addition, you are preventing tens of thousands of pounds of trash from ending up in landfills. I have just one question in this regard. On your website, you mention that you sell phones to a company for recycling. I was wondering if you were aware of that company's methods for recycling. For example, have you looked into whether the company is environmental responsible? Cellphones contain metals and plastics that can be harmful to humans and the environment when recycled improperly. Thanks!
Hello All,

The work these guys are doing is awesome. However there are some things I don't understand.

Why calling from Iraq should be so costly for US Army? Why we are talking about minutes at all?

If they use VOIP, like skype phone, they can call USA any number of minutes for flat $25 a year, provided they have access to Internet connection (which I think US Army can make easily available)
Dear Brittany and Robbie,

What a wonderful idea. My son was in Iraq, and I only got to speak to him twice in a year and a half. Would that we only had a President who was as caring and thoughtful as you. I had to send my son gun cleaning kits twice, the troops don't even get the basic necessities! Appalling!
Yesterday we did a lesson in class on what it means to make a difference. We read about Brittany and Robbie.

The students at Oceanside School #5thought Brittany and Robbie were inspirational people.

They would like to know what inspired them to do Cell Phones for Soldiers? Did they have any help from other people? Also, what advice could Robbie and Brittany give to young people who want to make a difference but don't know where to start?

Keep up the good work!

Sincerely,

Mrs. T
Britney and Robbie,
I just spoke to my son for the first time from Kuwait. He just got there last week starting his 15-16 month deployment. It was a huge blessing for us to be able to talk to him, but I could tell from his voice that he was more in need of the call than we were. As a parent of a soldier I wish I could tell you how much your efforts mean to our family.Thank you and God bless you.
da
Dear Britney and Robbie,
What a thoughtful, compassionate project you have undertaken. Commendable!
When I was in the service in 1968 I was stationed in Vietnam. The only communication I had with home was by snail mail. It would have been so wonderful to be able to hear the voices of my family back home at holiday time. And especially to be able to know they were safe and healthy.

The ability to call loved ones is a gift that cannot be measured in dollars and cents.
Bless you both.
I think this is a very noble task these kids have undertaken. Question: The article says they have raised 1 Million dollars and sent 400,000 minutes to soldiers. Those seem like very expensive calling cards @ $2.50/minute. Does that seem right?
That being said, every little bit counts, it would just be nice if a big corporation would give these young philanthropists a discount for a good cause.
Wow! Great, great, great work! I'm a former US Army soldier and believe me when I say stuff like this is TRULY appreciated by the Joes and Janes overseas!

Man, whenever I get the feeling that a single person (well, two in this case) can't make a difference, I'll just have to revisit this!

Awesome job!
Wow, what an awesome idea you two!! So wonderful to see young people with such care and concern for others and for trying to make families a priority. Great job to you both!!!! Good luck with your future.
Wow it's so big of these kids to collect cell phones to send to war zones where people live under brutal circumstances and literally starve to death. How very self indulgent and American of these obnoxious little brats. They hardly deserve to be applauded. Why not raise some money to feed the Afghans and Iraqis these mofos are slaughtering in your imperialist quest? It's the least you can do for people when you destroy their country and commit genocide. Or you could at least admit what you're doing instead of pretending to be the heroes of the very people you murder and maim under false pretenses daily.
Yesterday on the TV show "The View" each were awarded a 100,000 dollar college scolarship to the college of their choice. Good going!!!!
I think this is a great thing that these two siblings are doing for our troops! And they are just that...OUR troops. Despite whatever political views one has, we should all show support to the people who endanger their lives for us to have our freedom. Brittany & Robbie, what you are doing not only helps the troops and their families but it also gives everyone a little bit of hope in the future generations of children. Thank you for that! :)
Where can I send my old phones? I did not see an address in this report.
My hat/helmet is off to you both.
proud to be American Vet.
i think it is a wonderful idea and comes from the heart. i commend you on your efforts but has anyone considered the security aspects of every soldier carrying a cell phone? cell phones these days can also be used as locators, by their gps capability. the idea, although heartfelt, is it wise in a war zone?
This is terrific. It warms my heart to hear of teenagers doing something like this. And just to think of all of the people that they are helping. Fabulous job, Brittany and Robbie! I commend you!!
Happy new year,,,first of all...im sooo touch w/ this blog..ive been in iraq as OCW.even im not an American..im a Filipino..and i know the situation of U.S. soldier...they have to fall in line for 2 hours before they call thier love ones...sometime no phone cards...the internet is down...im soo thankful..for your guys..you do the this for them...all people in IRAQ and AFGHAN..are all heroes...i salute you...keep up the good work...Brittanny and Robbie...May the LOrd...bless you always...Take care always...love yah..Lanie
Brittany and Robbie,
This is an amazing thing you are doing you guys do absolutely ROCK! Phone calls home from over seas give our soldiers everything they need to keep pushing on and it gives their families everything they need to keep pushing on as well. You have no idea how much it means to these soldiers just to hear a loved one on the other end of the phone say I love you and I miss you. And for the other end just to be able to hear I'm okay, I love you too, and I miss you more. What your doing is amazing keep up the great work and I will be sending my old phones!
Thank You
Just another Army Fiancee
BRITTANY and ROBBIE,
IGNORE THE IGNORANCE AND CONTINUE WHAT YOU HAVE BEGUN. YOU CANNOT SAVE THE WORLD, STOP THE WAR, NOR PROVIDE MINUTES FOR ALL - BUT IF ONLY ONE CAN INFORM HIS PARENTS THAT HE IS STILL ALIVE - THEN YOU HAVE ACHIEVED something that is unreplacable. As an ex-GI living abroad I can say if I had received one minute then it would have been well used and remembered FOREVER. The only thing that would have been worth more is a prayer. And that is just exactly what I just did for you. Thanks Daryn
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