Nationwide Program Aims to Help Soldiers Connect with Families - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Nationwide Program Aims to Help Soldiers Connect with Families

By Zahid Arab

KAHALA (KHNL) -- We all watch when we use our cell phones, picking the cheapest time to call our loved ones.

But what if you're a soldier serving overseas? You have to make the call whenever you can.

The program's called Cell Phones for Soldiers. It was started by two Massachusetts teens and now is ringing with enthusiasm across the country, including here in Hawaii.

"You start with one and you end up with five, that's what recyclers call spaghetti," said the teens.

These two Massachusetts teens are finding themselves tangled a lot these days.

And it all started after wanting to help a soldier who racked up about 8,000 dollars in cell phone charges calling home.

"That was our main motivation to start this program but it was also to enable our own cousins who are going to be deployed soon to try and help them call home as well," said Brittany Bergquist.

Functional phones are reconditioned and sold, the others are just recycled.

What started as $21 of their own money toward the cause has now grown to almost a million dollars in donations nationwide. Enough to buy a half million 60-minute phone cards for soldiers overseas.

"It just blew up the whole country found out about it, they started to love the program. Now we have 8,000 drop-off sites across the country," said Robbie Bergquist.

One of the biggest stresses on soldiers is separation from families and spouses. A cause for high rates of divorce. People say the best cure is communication.

"They're being deployed as they're leaving their families and then not being able to communicate not being able to communicate," said Helen Rapoza of Helen's Haven.

Cleansers to cell phones here at Helen's Haven in Kahala, these teens hope their efforts help pump up younger generations to get involved. Dialing into their duty as devout citizens of the country.

"Our generation is into caring about others a lot more than adults think we are and I think we should really make sure our voices are heard," said Brittany.

If you'd like to help, Cell Phones for Soldiers and AT&T are asking you to drop off your used phones at their Kapiolani store Tuesday at 10 a.m.

You can also meet the two teens behind the cause and help them get one step closer of their goal of collecting one-point-eight million cell phones by Earth Day of 2009.

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