With a Charity for Soldiers, Youths Make Recycling Pay

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  1. after a long day at school, Brittany Bergquist, 16, and her brother, Robbie, 15, come home to an extracurricular activity remarkable even among the high-achieving teenagers in this well-to-do Boston suburb: They run a nonprofit — with a hand from their parents — that has raised $1 million for phone cards for American troops overseas.

    They started the charity, Cell Phones for Soldiers, nearly three years ago with far smaller ambitions. Before school one morning, a few days after a cousin deployed to Baghdad, they watched a news story on television about a Massachusetts soldier struggling to pay off more than $7,000 in charges for cellphone calls home from the Persian Gulf.

    “It really hit home because we had a cousin serving overseas,” Brittany recalled “We felt it was kind of our duty to make a difference.”

    She and Robbie pooled $14 from their piggy banks and collected another $7 from classmates. The opening of an account at a local bank, which donated $500 to the cause, was followed by a bake sale, a yard sale and a car wash outside Town Hall.

    Their plan to help that one soldier broadened when the pair heard that recyclers paid for used cellphones. They began by asking friends for old phones.

    Three years later, the Bergquists’ recycling network spans more than 4,000 drop-off sites located in every state and in England, Canada and Japan, and yields some 20,000 cellphones a month, which fetch an average of $5 each from a Michigan recycling company that refurbishes them for resale.

    With the recycling proceeds and some cash donations, the Bergquists buy phone cards worth up to 60 minutes each in international calls. They send the cards to service members and their families or military units that place requests through the charity’s Web site, cellphonesforsoldiers.com.

    Nearly 400,000 cards have shipped.

    Though the family gets some envelope-stuffing help from volunteers, there is no paid staff. Bob and Gail Bergquist — both public school teachers — and their children handle much of the work from home.

    On Tuesday, the Bergquists opened an e-mail message — one of more than 50 they get most days — from Sgt. First Class Luis Arzadon, 42, of San Gabriel, Calif., a helicopter mechanic with an Army medevac unit in Iraq.

    “I want to let you know that although we don’t know each other, I am extremely proud of you,” Sergeant Arzadon wrote, thanking Brittany and Robbie for helping him stay in touch with his wife and two sons.

    In full


    Damned good show.
  2. Just when one begins to think that it's all bad news... Heartwarming!
  3. Fairs Fair to the lil tykes they have done a damned good job there.

    Now to convince my cousins et al that there is a desperate need for free Aunty in my minging pit in the land of sausage. 8O

    I'll even start them off with my old nokia "brick". :wink:

    But seriously folks, those kids have done really well by serving troops. Well done to them.
  4. Just read the same srticle- sometimes it really is the simple ideas that pay off. Nicely done, young 'uns.