America Supports You: Teens Keep Troops Calling Home
By Paul X. Rutz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2006 Some charities may see a lull in activity after the holidays, but one group has found ways to keep charging ahead to support deployed troops.
Soldiers in Kuwait hold up pre-paid calling cards on Valentine's Day. The cards were sent by Cell Phones for Soldiers, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit group that uses money from recycling cell phones to purchase phone cards for deployed servicemembers. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
"Cell Phones for Soldiers" has taken advantage of its relationship with other programs and used its voice at sporting events to continue its mission collecting used cell phones and recycling them for cash to purchase calling cards for troops overseas.
Even during the post-holiday calm, "we're still collecting old cell phones and all that good stuff," said 15-year-old Brittany Bergquist who, along with her brother Robbie, 13, started the effort in April 2004.
For Valentine's Day, the nonprofit group worked with "Best Buddies," a Weymouth, Mass., school program pairing mentally disabled students with other students in the school. The Bergquist teens' mother, Gail, who teaches disabled children, made the event possible.
"Best Buddies actually sent some Valentine's Day cards over to the soldiers, and they put our (phone) cards into the valentines, so that was really cool," Brittany Bergquist said.
Before the Super Bowl, the group partnered with Texas Best Foods, a company that ships poultry products to troops in Kuwait. Together, they sent $30,000 worth of phone cards to Kuwait, and after the game the cards were distributed to the troops. "It was a surprise for them," Bergquist said. "It was really exciting."
The teens continue traveling in support of their charity, most recently to be a part of the 44th running of the Rolex Daytona 24-hour race, Jan. 26-29.
"We got to go there and meet some of the drivers and really gained a lot of support," she said. "We're hoping that we'll get in with NASCAR and really make sure that everybody knows about Cell Phones for Soldiers."
The group also recently sent phone cards to every sailor on the cruiser USS Cape St. George, Bergquist said.
Having raised approximately $1,000,000 with 6,000 cell phone drop-off sites across the country, the teens and their parents have mastered the daily routine of running a nonprofit, she said. "My mom and my dad help out a lot," she said. "It's really just a grassroots organization run by our family."
The family spends a lot of time answering e-mails, working on the group's Web site and doing interviews to help make sure people know what they can do to support the cause, Bergquist said. They also handle the logistics themselves.
"It's a lot of work," she said. "At the end of the day we're very tired."