By Renee Hobbs

Contemplating what you should do with your old cell phone? You can now donate it and help our troops. Cell Phones For Soldiers (CPFS) is a national nonprofit organization helping troops and veterans with free communication services and emergency funds. Chief Operating Officer Charles Taylor said, “We are always in need of smart phones, which we repurpose or recycle. The proceeds from that allow us to purchase phone cards.”

There are two programs within CPFS. Minutes That Matter is to help service people call home for free. The other program is Helping Heroes Home. It is one time emergency grants to help veterans transition back into civilian life. Taylor said the program began with two kids concerned about a news story that stated a soldier owed an $8,000 phone bill. CPFS was founded in 2004 by Robbie and Brittany Bergquist, who were 12 and 13 at the time.

One local collection site is the Live and Learn Compound Pharmacy at 13224 Boyette Rd. in Riverview. Pharmacist Leott Wydetic said she discovered this organization a few years ago when she realized she had a drawer full of old phones and she wanted to do something worthwhile with them. Wydetic said she researched CPFS and decided she wanted to be a part of this endeavor and has been involved ever since. The pharmacist went on to say that as of now she has over 30 lbs. of phones to ship to CPFS.

“People bring them in by the bagfuls,” she laughed.

In 2015 CPFS helped troops stay in touch with family and friends who were deployed in more than 25 countries. Also that year, CPFS distributed over 76,000 international calling cards, which equaled more than 4.6 million minutes of talk time. The group was also able to help over 1,300 veterans with emergency aid in 2015. CPFS shipped about 1,500 calling cards a week last year.
More than 8,300 were sent to soldiers in Afghanistan, the most of any country. Service members in Iraq received the second highest number, 2,300.

For more information about this program, visit cellphonesforsoldiers.com or liveandlearnpharmacy.com.

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