Old cell phones will lead to free prepaid calling cards for troops

TAYLOR — Police Cpl. Joel Pinnegar has started collecting old cell phones as part of an effort that will send prepaid calling cards to U.S. troops stationed overseas.


Pinnegar has set up a collection box inside the police station, 23515 Goddard Road, just east of City Hall. All phones collected will be forwarded to the organizers of Cell Phones for Soldiers.


The phones then are sent to ReCellular, which pays Cell Phones for Soldiers for each donated phone — enough to provide an hour of talk time for soldiers abroad.


Pinnegar, whose son, Jacob, just enlisted in the Air Force and will be a member of security services, said he researched the Cell Phones for Soldiers effort and learned it was started in 2004 by teenagers Robbie and Brittany Bergquist of Norwell, Mass. The brother and sister have raised millions of dollars and distributed more than 500,000 prepaid calling cards.


“They send phone cards to Iraq and Afghanistan so our troops can freely call home,” Pinnegar said. “It’s grown to huge proportions.”


After getting permission from the Police Department administration to solicit old cell phones, Pinnegar registered as a drop-off site — one of more than 3,000 collection locations nationwide.


Pinnegar said a collection site has to be organized by someone with a fairly high profile and has to be readily accessible to the public.


“We’re open every day, every minute,” Pinnegar said. “I figured we’d go ahead and do it.”


For the second time, Pinnegar also is leading a collection effort for old bulletproof vests to send to the U.S. armed forces. A couple years ago, he sent out a notice that he was collecting vests for service personnel and wound up sending 10 to a military police unit in Iraq. At the time, a member of Pinnegar’s church was in that unit.


“His unit got the vests and used them,” Pinnegar said. “Now we’re doing it again. I know several guys going through boot camp. My son, Jacob, will be getting one of my vests. The military doesn’t issue the body armor that we have, which stops pistol rounds.”


For more information on the cell phone collection effort, visit the Web site www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com.