Wesley Foundation collecting cell phones for service members

Freedom New Mexico: Janet Bresenham ENMU student Jennifer Hunter, left, and Wesley Foundation interim director John Lowry-King look over some of the used cell phones donated for the program, “Cell Phones for Soldiers.” Used cell phones will be collected through May 9.

By Janet Bresenham: Freedom New Mexico

The chance to call home and hear the voice of a loved one can make a big difference to military men and women serving overseas.

Making that possible can be as simple as donating a used cell phone.

The director and students at the Wesley Foundation in Portales are collecting used cell phones this semester to send to a national nonprofit program that exchanges the phones for calling cards, which are given to people serving overseas in all branches of the military.

The collection drive in Portales will serve as a service project for college students, according to John Lowry-King, interim director of the Wesley Foundation, which is a student ministry outreach of United Methodist churches.

“This is about military service members being able to call their girlfriends, moms, sisters, brothers and other loved ones,” Lowry-King said. “We have people overseas who are putting their lives on the line for our country. You have to respect that and honor that. That’s a big part of why we’re doing this.”

The Cell Phones for Soldiers program was started in 2004 by Norwell, Mass., students Brittany and Robbie Bergquist with $21 of their money, according to their Web site.

The Bergquist teens, who are now 17 and 16 years old respectively, have distributed more than one million minutes of talk time on prepaid calling cards, Brittany Bergquist said.

“We are still having an amazing response to our program,” she said. “All it takes is one person in each state who decides to pay it forward and make a difference in the lives of our troops. That’s what makes ‘Cell Phones for Soldiers’ work.”

Bob Bergquist, father of the teens, said they will distribute prepaid calling cards generated by the Portales collection of used cell phones to a local military family support group.

The program sends calling cards instead of the actual cell phones because of logistics and security concerns, Brittany Bergquist said.