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COLUMN: Support our soldiers with cell phone donations

— I am once again teaming up with the charity Cell Phones for Soldiers to help our military families stay connected, especially during the holidays. You can support this outstanding program by dusting off your gently-used cell phones and dropping them off at my various collection sites throughout Central New York.

Cell Phones for Soldiers, founded by teenagers Robbie and Brittany Bergquist of Massachusetts, distributes prepaid calling cards to soldiers stationed around the world. Donated phones are sent to a Michigan-based recycling company and funds raised from the recycling of these phones is used to purchase international calling cards for our deployed soldiers. The average recycled phone is worth enough to provide about two hours of free talk time.

Since its inception in 2004, Cell Phones for Soldiers has recycled more than 10 million phones and provided more than 160 million minutes of cost-free calling time to our deployed troops. The charity also has launched a new program, called “Helping Heroes Home” to provide emergency funds for returning veterans.

You can deliver your used cell phones to my Syracuse office, located in the State Office Building at 333 East Washington St., Syracuse. I will also have drop-off boxes at the customer service centers in Great Northern Mall, ShoppingTown Mall and the Fingerlakes Mall. Additional drop-off sites include: Baldwinsville Public Library, Fairmount Library, Fayetteville Library, Le Moyne College, Liverpool Library, Onondaga County Public Library, Seymour Library, Skaneateles Library, Solvay Library, Student Central at Onondaga Community College, Syracuse University’s ROTC Office and the U.S. Army Recruiting Stations in Syracuse, Mattydale and Auburn. All phones are accepted.

Thanks to the consistent generosity of Central New Yorkers, my annual collection drive has raised nearly 5,000 donated cell phones over the last five years. As a result of this outstanding response, Cell Phones for Soldiers has been able to provide our troops with approximately 10,000 prepaid calling cards. I am confident we can keep this momentum going to keep our troops connected with their loves one back home.

For more information on the Cell Phones for Soldiers program, please feel free to contact my district office at 428-7632.

Our brave men and women serving abroad continue to make tremendous sacrifices to serve our country. Please answer the call this holiday season and donate your gently-used cell phones to my annual Cell Phones for Soldiers collection drive, which will run through mid January. I hope you have a joyous holiday season.

John A. DeFrancisco is a New York State senator representing residents of the 50th Senate District, which includes the towns of Lysander and Van Buren.

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