As Independence Day nears, opportunity to help military families arrives

Have you upgraded your cellphone recently and have the old one still sitting in a drawer? Mark Antonich wants you to take it out and do some good with it.

Antonich and his Ameriprise Financial office is collecting used phones for the nonprofit Cell Phones for Soldiers. The national group recycles the phones for a cash credit, using the money to purchase calling cards so military families can stay connected while their soldiers are overseas. It’s one of the daily conveniences that many may not appreciate – but for military families, it’s a lifeline that stretches thousands of miles.

“To a military family, a phone call home is priceless,” said Lori Antonich, on behalf of Mark Antonich. “Phone calls are expensive – a phone call from overseas can cost $7 to $8 per minute. Cell Phones for Soldiers helps our troops communicate with their loved ones for free.”

Mark Antonich decided to get involved in the effort after meeting a soldier on a flight home. “After speaking with the soldier, he had a new understanding of the amount of sacrifice they give for us so we can enjoy our freedom and he wanted to find a charity that would benefit our soldiers and their families,” Lori Antonich said. A connection was made with Cell Phones for Soldiers, and ever since then the Antonichs have collected phones at the Ameriprise Financial office at 8832 Blakeney Professional Drive near Elevation Church.

“Without our partners, our mission to provide cost-free communications tools to active-duty military would be a challenge,” said Ashley Harker, with Cell Phones for Soldiers. “Their donations of gently used cellphones can provide valuable talk time for our military to connect with their loved ones at home. A donation of $5 or a cellphone valued at $5 can provide two and a half hours of international calling time.”

Antonich has never spoken to any of the soldiers who rely on the donations, but it’s clear how much the effort is appreciated.

“Mark received a call from a Charlotte mother whose son was stationed in Afghanistan,” Lori Antonich said, “she thought the idea was wonderful and was so appreciative of what we were doing. She donated her phone and a few others from colleagues at her office.”

While donating phones goes a long way toward accomplishing the nonprofit’s goals, Harker said Cell Phones for Soldiers also needs help in other ways. People can make their business a drop-off location for donations, with the nonprofit providing publicity material to help a drop-off spot gain attention. Monetary donations also are accepted at the nonprofit’s website.

Antonich will collect phones through July. They hope to get another great turnout this month.

“Donors believe the idea is great and simple,” Lori Antonich said of the Ballantyne response. “… So far we have donated 427 phones, which is equivalent to 64,050 minutes of free talk time for the troops.”

For more information, visit www. or www.cellphones

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