AT&T Connects with Cell Phones for Soldiers

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2007 - Brittany and Robbie Bergquist, respectively 16 and 15, got a pleasant surprise recently when telecommunications giant AT&T responded to their request for help and agreed to support Cell Phones for Soldiers, their troop-support organization.

"I actually e-mailed AT&T directly and explained our need for phone cards and what Robbie and I have been doing to support the troops, and I received a response," Brittany said. "AT&T/Cingular has recognized what Robbie and I have started and have offered to help, which is amazing because they are such a big corporation."

The company is providing the non-profit organization with 10,000 prepaid calling cards valued at nearly $270,000, said Susan Bean, an AT&T/Cingular spokeswoman. For those who would like to donate a cell phone, the company has designated Cingular stores in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington as drop-off points, with a national effort rolling out soon.

Cell Phones for Soldiers and AT&T Cingular are members of America Supports You, a Defense Department program highlighting the ways individual Americans, home front groups and companies are supporting the nation's servicemembers.

Bean said Cell Phones for Soldiers efforts fall in line with what the company is already doing. It has provided servicemembers with 6 and a half million pre-paid calling cards in the past several years, she added.

"I was familiar with (Cell Phone for Soldiers) already, so I knew it was something we believed in," Bean said. "But what they're doing is just so infectious and gave people the opportunity to do what everybody wants to do, which is help the (servicemembers).

"I just felt like that was just a great thing for us to support," she added. "It's kind of a no-brainer."

The Norwell, Mass., siblings started the nonprofit Cell Phones for Soldiers -- which was featured on last night's edition of CBS Evening News -- three years ago with the intent of helping servicemembers stay in touch with loved ones back home. The group does this by collecting cell phones and recycling them for cash. The cash is used to buy pre-paid calling cards for servicemembers.

Bean said AT&T/Cingular's sponsorship of the Bergquist's program also allows the company to commend "this incredible effort by these kids."

"We have kids, too. We know what it's like, and all of the distractions that there are, and how much they care about one thing one day and let it go the next," she said. "These guys have been doing this for ... years. It's unbelievable."

>From the Bergquists' perspective, the sponsorship is making it much easier for Cell Phones for Soldiers to keep deployted servicememberts in touch with their families, the siblings said.

But the benefits extend well beyond the tangible or financial, Robbie said.

"With AT&T/Cingular sponsoring us, this will let more people know what we are trying to do to help the troops," he said. "We will be able to help so many more troops and their families keep in touch.

"That's a great feeling," he added.

Brittany agreed with her brother. "To have an internationally recognized corporation such as AT&T/Cingular sponsor our program is awesome," she said.

AT&T/Cingular will officially announce its sponsorship of Cell Phones for Soldiers on April 12 at its Cingular store on Madison Avenue in New York City.

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