Retirees continue making a difference

  • Published
  • By Valerie Mullett
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs Office
It has been one year since the members of the Montana Retiree's Council voted to become partners with the Cell Phones for Soldiers program and the successes they have seen have been many. In keeping with their motto, "Happy to Still Serve," council members Denis and Gloria Miller, are passionate about their commitment to this program. 

"We will keep doing this as long as there is a need," Mr. Miller said. "When I was in [the Navy], we always looked forward to a letter from home to boost our morale. Knowing the troops are benefiting from our efforts makes all the work worthwhile." 

Since starting the program in January 2008 with two drop boxes, one at each of the First Interstate Bank locations, the Miller's have expanded the program and now boast 20 drop box locations - including several here at Malmstrom (BX, Commissary, Clinic and Bldg. 500) and one at the Montana Air National Guard (Headquarters building). 

The others are located at:
· All 1st Liberty Credit Union Locations
· Big Sky Harley Davidson
· VFW Post 1087
· Just Nails
· Sign Pro
· Bison Ford
· Montana State University
· Both branches of First Interstate Bank
· Great Falls Clinic Main location and Specialty Center
· Wal-Mart's employee lounge and public drop box in the Connection Center 

More than 800 unused, unwanted cell phones have been collected by the Retiree's Council members in 2008. Each of these phones equates to a deployed member receiving a calling card once a month during their deployment to use to call home. The Miller's hope to see that number increase this year. 

"I'd like to get more than a 1,000 phones this year," Mr. Miller said. 

Cell phones are sent to a recycling center contracted by the program's founders, Brittany and Robbie Bergquist, of Norwell, Mass. The recycling center then donates $5 for each phone back to the program to use toward purchasing phone cards for those deployed.
The National Program ( donated 12 million minutes; which equates to 500,000 phone cards and it collected $2 million in donations to support phone card purchases. 

According to a press release provided by the organization, the Bergquist family hopes to raise more than $9 million in the next five years to fund new programs, such as providing video phones and prepaid service to allow troops abroad to see their families on a regular basis. 

"The biggest challenge we have faced over the last year is getting the word out about the program," Mrs. Miller said. "We have our magnetic signs on our vehicle, which get a lot of attention. But we don't really have an avenue to advertise it regularly. This is a great way to recycle that old phone and help the troops at the same time." 

Helping the troops includes those members of our own Great Falls and Montana communities. 

"I just returned from six months in Afghanistan and I received 15 calling cards while I was over there, all from the Cell Phones for Soldiers program," said Staff Sgt. Marcus McDonald, 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs Office NCOIC. "It was phenomenal to get that kind of unexpected support." 

Comments like those are what makes this program a success and what keeps the Miller's passionate about continuing their support. 

"Our first collection last year netted us 13 phones," Mr. Miller said. "Our first collection this year, we brought back 74 phones. It's starting off on a good note and I am excited to see how much we accomplish this year." 

Anyone with questions about the program or with cell phones to donate, can contact the Miller's at 866-0683, or leave the phones at one of the drop off locations listed above.