Cell Phones for Soldiers has a simple mission: Help our troops call home.
Making that mission successful were the T-Mobile USA volunteers stationed at each entrance to CenturyLink Field Sunday, collecting secondhand, gently used cell phones and monetary donations from fans attending the Seattle Seahawks Salute to Service game.
Donated phones help active duty military and veterans connect with loved ones no matter where they are in the world. Cell Phones for Soldiers provides free calls home to active duty military members through its Minutes That Matter program and assists veterans with free communication tools and emergency funding through its Helping Heroes Home program.
The nonprofit organization was founded in 2004 by two 12- and 13-year-old siblings with only $21. Since then, the organization has recycled more than 11 million cell phones, distributed more than 11 million minutes of free talk time and more than 185,000 calling cards, with most of the effort going to service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The Seahawks and team sponsor T-Mobile recently found out about these two young peoples dedication to serving the troops, and quickly established drop-off locations at its stadium during home games.
The T-Mobile volunteers giving their time collecting money and phones were veterans themselves. Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class John Hicks served for 20 years, including a stint at then-Fort Lewis with I Corps as a chief information officer. Hicks and his colleague, Marine Corps veteran Sgt. Ben Dorey, are both part of a new group created at the telecommunications company designed to recognize its employees who are military veterans and offer ways to give back to those who served the country.
(Cell Phones for Soldiers) is a good cause and an opportunity to donate to the troops overseas and support the Seahawks at the same time, Hicks said.
Doreys six years in the Marine Corps were mostly served at Yakima Training Center in a tank unit. While he did not see any combat deployments during his time in the military, he does have friends who have deployed and heard first-hand how much money it costs to try to call home from Afghanistan. He said Cell Phones for Soldiers will help folks overseas save thousands of dollars.
This is one of the best campaigns out there, Dorey said.
Also fully supporting service members and the Seahawks was Joe Arden, a die-hard fan who along with his wife brought their old cell phones to the game to donate. The Seahawks have been advertising for Cell Phones for Soldiers for several weeks during their previous home games, which is how Arden found out about the donation opportunity.
I just had these old phones in my closet, and thought it was a great cause, Arden said.
For anyone who was not able to attend the game, Cell Phones for Soldiers has several donation options. Phones are accepted through the mail or at one of its more than 3,000 drop-off locations, including most T-Mobile stores in Western Washington. Visit the website at www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com for more information.
The Seahawks organization is continuing to support service members and their families at the Dec. 2 home game against the New Orleans Saints when the U.S. Marine Corps kicks off their annual Toys for Tots holiday drive. Marines will be stationed outside each gate collecting new, unwrapped toys or cash donations from fans planning to attend the game.