November 30, 2012

Meet Cell Phones for Soldiers: Where Old Phones Do Good

Have an old cell phone lying around the house collecting dust? Time to get rid of it!

Next week, the Lookout Mobile Rescue Squad will go on a mission to collect phones from tech companies around the Bay Area, including Airbnb, LinkedIn, Pandora, Square and more! We’re collecting phones this holiday season and donating them to Cell Phones for Soldiers (CPFS), a non-profit organization that turns old phones into calling cards so troops can call home during the holidays.

We interviewed CPFS’ founders Robbie, 20, and Brittany Bergquist, 22, college students that started the non-profit out of their home in 2004, to learn more about the cause and the unique individuals who made it possible for soldiers to easily connect with their families while overseas.

What inspired you to start the company?

Robbie: Back in 2004, we heard of a soldier who had accumulated an $8,000 cell phone bill while calling home from abroad. We were taken aback and wanted to make sure he didn’t have to pay that cell phone bill!

We started with bake sales and car washes – anything we could manage to do at just 12 and 13 years old! We started collecting old phones and created drop off locations, realizing there was a huge market for old, unwanted phones.

Brittany: We even had eight phones in our drawer down stairs! It seemed like a no brainer to collect phones.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Brittany: I think one of the hardest challenges we’ve faced is being taken seriously as young people. Once people realized this was our passion, and saw the impact we could make, they decided to help.

What is the most memorable story about a military member you’ve helped?

Brittany: There was a soldier who was determined to make a call home to his family. He had been working for 24 hours straight and had a short break in between going back to work. He traveled a great distance and waited in line for 4 hours to make a phone call back home. After the call, it was straight back to work with little to no rest. That kind of commitment in order to connect with his family was shocking and inspiring. These phone calls mean a lot to families and the call minutes we are providing are critical to them.

Okay, now for the fun questions. What type of cell phones do you have?

Brittany & Robbie: We both have the iPhone 5. We’ve had every single iPhone!

What’s your favorite app?

Brittany: Pandora.

Robbie: Not sure – I admit, I don’t use my phone that much.

How often do you check your phones a day?

Brittany: All the time. I depend on it!  Also, I’m a huge techie and love anything new, shiny and electric.

Robbie: Not that much! I probably should get better at using my phone.

Have you ever lost your phone?

Robbie: I’ve lost two phones and I never found them. I seriously need to get Lookout.

Brittany: Oh my gosh – I lost my phone on campus. Got it back, though. I was lucky to have a good samaritan return it.

How do you balance running a successful charitable organization and going to college?

Robbie: Over the years we’ve learned how to balance. Sometimes, you just need to rest, and sometimes you need to give it everything. I missed my prom and Brittany wasn’t able to be on the cheerleading squad in high school, but at the end of the day we are happy we made sacrifices for a good cause.

Now for a little word association game! Tell us the first thing that comes to your mind when we say:

“Mobile Security”

Brittany: Critical. I have so much on my phone that I would never want anyone else to have access to.

Robbie: Hmm. Tricky. My answer is, if you don’t have a passcode, you don’t have mobile security.

“Your Phone has been stolen”

Robbie: Apocalypse.

Brittany: Crisis on my hands. I’m panicked. It’s the worst feeling in the world.

You’ve been hacked”

Robbie: Distress!

Brittany: I feel violated. Crap. What do I do?

Now that you’ve learned a bit more about the Cell Phones for Soldiers’ cause, it’s time for you to do your part. Donate an old, gently-used phone this holiday season – we all know you won’t miss it! Hop on over to our phone hoarding page to learn more.

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