L-13 collects phones for soldiers

Retired L-13 member Rich Gresko, left, helps cash in used cell phones for phone cards. With him are Brian and Rob Sacks, who started collecting phones at the Radnor, Penn., high school, and fellow Marine Corps veteran Robert Hubbard.

Program buys calling cards for troops

ONE OF THE biggest sacrifices service members make when stationed overseas is being away from loved ones. Local 13 (Philadelphia) is doing its part to help American soldiers stay in touch with their families. Since April 2009, the lodge has collected nearly 1,000 used cell phones, which have been cashed in for more than 56,000 minutes worth of calling cards. The cards are distributed to military personnel for free.

Local 13’s effort is part of a nationwide program called Cell Phones for Soldiers. Founded in 2004 by Robbie and Brittany Bergquist, who were then barely in their teens, the program has generated millions of dollars in calling cards. Local 13 got involved at the urging of retired member Rich Gresko. (A U.S. Marine combat veteran, Gresko is a Navy Cross recipient who many feel deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was featured in the Jan-Mar 2009 issue of the Reporter.)

Local 13 dispatcher and trustee Bill Bradley said the union hall serves as a processing point for used cell phones, which are collected from various community drop points such as the local police station.

BM-ST Jim Banford called Cell Phones for Soldiers “a great way to help our troops and their families.” He added, “Not only are we doing something for our service members, we’re also recycling cell phones that might otherwise have ended up in a landfill. And setting up the collection site was really simple.”

For more information about the program, visit www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com.