By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Don’t toss away that old cell phone! Bring it to the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce instead and you’ll be making a military service member happy during the holidays.
Thanks to a new partnership between the Chamber and AT&T, discarded call phones will be donated to service members overseas to help them keep in touch with their families in the US as part of Cell Phones for Soldiers, a nationwide program aimed at bringing military personnel and their families closer together.
The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce (BCC) is serving as a drop-off point for people who want to donate their old, unwanted, and unused phones. The cell phone drive will take place between now and Dec. 13.
Residents can place their old devices in specially marked bins at the BCC’s headquarters at 335 Adams St., Suite 2700.
The phones will be donated to Cell Phones for Soldiers, which uses recycling proceeds to buy and send pre-paid phone cards to military members stationed away from home.
Cell Phones for Soldiers was founded in 2004 by Brittany and Robbie Bergquist, who were teenagers at the time living with their parents in Boston. The siblings wanted to find a way for military members serving overseas to keep in touch with their families back home. Since 2004, Cell Phones for Soldiers has recycled 10.8 million cell phones and has provided military service members and their families with 192 million minutes of free talk time, according to the group’s website.
With the support of AT&T and cell phone donations by its customers, Cell Phones for Soldiers has generated more than $3 million to help connect military members to their families back home, according to the Chamber.
"All Brooklynites are united in honoring the extraordinary service of the men and women who serve in our nation's armed service. These heroes deserve all our respect and admiration. The least we can do is help to keep these men and women serving abroad connected to their families," said Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the BCC.
"The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is honored to be working with AT&T on this year's Cell Phones for Soldiers drive. It is especially important for these families during the holiday season. Let's say thank you to these men and women by dropping off your old or unused cell phone at our offices. It will go a long way in making sure soldiers stay connected to their family this year and beyond," Scissura said.
"AT&T is committed to supporting our troops at home and overseas, and we understand the importance of keeping troops and their families connected, especially during the holiday season," said Marissa Shorenstein, New York State President of AT&T.
"Working with Cell Phones for Soldiers to provide troops away from home pre-paid phone cards is one way we can thank them for their service. I'm so glad AT&T is able to partner with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to bring this program to New Yorkers across the five boroughs and I encourage everyone to donate their old cell phones to this important cause," Shorenstein said.
Before donating devices, individuals should remove any SIM card, erase their data and restore their device to factory settings.
AT&T is also supporting Cell Phones for Soldiers' new initiative called "Helping Heroes Home,” which provides emergency funds for returning veterans to alleviate communication challenges, as well as physical, emotional and assimilation hardships.
In 2012, AT&T and the AT&T Foundation supported "Helping Heroes Homes" through a financial commitment of more than $450,000.