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Cell Phones for Soldiers drive help military overseas

If you have an old cell phone stashed in a drawer that you don't use any more, you can help a soldier overseas keep in touch with home.  Central New York's "Cell Phones for Soldiers" annual collection drive continues, as does the need.

Here's the way it works: the non-profit Cell Phones for Soldiers group sells the donated cell phones to a Michigan-based recycling company. With that money, they are able to buy international calling cards for the troops.

Jackie Wren, who returned from a nine-month stint in Afghanistan this fall, says it's not cheap to use cell phones from overseas.

"You have soldiers who are from different level of rank, and different level of family back home that they're taking care of.  So to have something that they can just grab and they don't have to pay for.  Cell phones you have to pay for, and international minutes are expensive," she said

Wren said that while there are forms of Internet communication like Skype, that doesn't work for everyone in different situations. And she said the calling cards specifically made a huge difference in her life.

"While I was deployed, I knew I was returning to not having a job full-time because I'm in the National Guard.  About midway, I really started focusing on having a job," said Wren. "So for me, having phone cards and being able to call back for interviews was very important and it wound up getting me a job here in Syracuse with the Army Recruiting Battalion."  

The cell phone drive goes through mid-January. In Syracuse, the yearly drive is spearheaded by New York state Senator John DeFransisco.  Phones can be dropped off at his office or in any marked box placed at local malls, libraries or recruiting stations. 

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.