'Cell Phones for Soldiers' Wins Grant, Vies for Another
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 29, 2006 The teenage co-founder of an "America Supports You" organization in Massachusetts that distributes prepaid phone cards to deployed troops has earned a $5,000 grant and is competing for another.
Robbie Bergquist, 13, who started "Cell Phones for Soldiers" two years ago with his sister Brittany, is among nine "BRICK Award" winners competing for a second $5,000 grant from "Do Something," a national organization that encourages young people to become involved in community service.
America Supports You is a Defense Department program that spotlights efforts by the Americans to support men and women in uniform.
According to the Do Something Web site, its BRICK Awards program recognizes six outstanding leaders 18 and under each year, as well as three leaders in the 19-25 age category. The winners under 18 receive a $5,000 higher-education scholarship and a $5,000 community grant for a not-for-profit organization of their choice. The 19-25-year-old winners receive a $10,000 community grant.
A poll is under way at the Do Something Web site to determine which 2006 BRICK Award winner will receive an extra $5,000 grant. Robbie Bergquist is among those competing, and voting is open to all Web site visitors.
The Bergquist youngsters started out trying to raise money to help a deployed Massachusetts soldier who had run up a large telephone bill calling loved ones from Iraq. When they found the soldier's bill had been forgiven, they set their sights on making it possible for as many deployed troops as possible to call home for free.
In addition to cash donations, Cell Phones for Soldiers accepts used cell phones, which are recycled for cash to purchase phone cards. The organization's reach has grown to boast more than 6,000 phone drop-off sites around the country, and it has raised more than $1 million.
"All the money that we raise goes directly to purchasing prepaid phone cards for our brave men and women serving our country," Robbie said.