Belleville library officials are partnering with a group that helps overseas troops call home.
The Belleville Public Library and Information Center and the non-profit group Cell Phones for Soldiers Inc. are asking Belleville residents to help troops call home by donating gently-used cell phones.
The cell phone group officials say that with ongoing deployments to combat areas and elsewhere, as many as 369,000 troops are serving in the U.S. military overseas.
By donating to the groups, Belleville residents can provide troops with that precious connection to loved ones back home by adding pre-paid minutes to the phones, the group said.
The library is inviting residents to donate their phones at the Belleville Library, 221 Washington Ave., according Joan Taub, library director.
Siblings Robbie and Brittany Bergquist founded Cell Phones for Soldiers at the ages of 12 and 13, the group officials said.
“Each year we have been humbled by the amount of people and organizations like the Belleville Library that take the initiative to support our troops,” said co-founder Brittany Bergquist. “We have also watched the communication gap between our armed forces and their loved ones continue to grow as more troops are deployed for their third or fourth tour overseas.”
The charity has since provided more than 114 million minutes of free talk time to service men and women stationed around the world.
Funds raised from the recycling of cell phones are used to purchase pre-paid international calling cards, officials said.
Belleville resident Joseph Fornarotto chairs the township’s veteran’s council, and said the effort is a good idea.
“The veterans of Belleville will do their part to help donations,” Fornarotto said Tuesday. “In fact, I have one to donate myself.”
On average, the cell phone charity group distributes 12,000 calling cards each week to bases around the world, care package programs, deployment ceremonies and Veterans Administration hospitals, officials said.
Fornarotto said he is particularly pleased that phones are going to veteran’s hospitals, which are so much in need of help.
Donated phones are sent to Michigan-based ReCellular for recycling. For every donated phone valued at just $5, Cell Phones for Soldiers is able to provide two and a half hours of free talk time to deployed troops.
Cell Phones for Soldiers Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing deployed and returning troops cost-free methods to communicate with family while serving in the U. S. military, according to Robbie Bergquist. Based in Norwell, Mass., the group was founded in 2004, Bergquist said.
From the recycling of used mobile phones and cash donations, the organization has raised more than $7 million, collected more than 8.3 million cell phones and provided troops overseas with more than 114 million minutes of free talk time, Bergquist said.