If you're planning to get a new cell phone, you might want to stop before you toss out the old one and consider using it to bring some cheer to troops and their families.
A Seminole couple have joined the Help Them Call Home campaign and hope people will drop off their used cell phones so that they can be turned into "phone minutes" for members of the military. The condition of the phones does not matter.
In Largo, donations will be collected at the city's Police Department, 201 Highland Ave. The Help Them Call Home campaign began when Pensacola resident Jodie Butler's brother-in-law died Dec. 1, 2005, while serving in Iraq. Before he died, Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Clay, a Marine, had written a letter to his family that was to be read if he did not make it home. It said, in part:
"As a Marine this is not the last chapter. I have the privilege of being one who has finished the race. I have been in the company of heroes. I now am counted among them. Never falter! Don't hesitate to honor and support those of us who have the honor of protecting that which is worth protecting."
Butler began the program to honor Clay and to support his fellow troops. Each phone that is turned in earns the troops a free calling card with 250 minutes on it. Cash donations also are accepted. Each $40 donated earns the troops a free calling card with 1,200 minutes.
Lee and Gloria Ornstein became involved after attending the graduation of Lee Ornstein's son-in-law from Officer Candidate School in Pensacola. Gloria Ornstein's son is also a soldier who has been stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is scheduled to return to Afghanistan.
The Ornsteins got the support of Seminole's Fire Department and Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue, which are letting them put collection bins at fire stations.
Times staff writer