Many Thanks to Brittany’s Cell Phones for Soldiers Initiative
Aside from aiding the soldiers by giving them free communication to their families and loved ones, the work done by Cell Phones for Soldiers have also helped in taking care of the environment by recycling cell phones, thus reducing their impact on the landfills, as well as the harm done by decaying plastic to the environment. Currently, over 10.8 million cell phones have been recycled, which have greatly made a positive effect on the environment by keeping these phones out of the landfills.
Through Cell Phones for Soldiers, Brittany and her family have also initiated the Helping Heroes Home project, which focuses on helping the veteran soldiers returning home who are experiencing issues in terms of their finances, health, social, and emotional lives. This has made great impact in the lives of thousands of soldiers coming home from the war, who may have experienced a lot of hardships and emotional strain after fighting in the battles.
Acknowledged by Daughters of the American Revolution
Because of her extraordinary efforts to make a positive change in the lives of the soldiers, Brittany has received numerous awards and recognitions for her work. Brittany has been a recipient of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award and a Jefferson Award for Public Service, which are testaments to just how much impact Brittany has made in the lives of the people she is helping. Brittany has also received a National Youth Award from the group, Daughters of the American Revolution, and was recently included in the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People of the World by Youth Service America.
Brittany has always had a passion for serving her country. It was because of this powerful desire in her heart that she was able to conceive the idea of helping the soldiers. Though physically limited to become a soldier, Brittany considers her philanthropic endeavors as her service to her country. She says in an interview:
“When I was getting older, I considered joining the military; I really wanted to serve my country. Unfortunately, I have asthma and hip problems so I couldn’t pass a PT test. I consider CPFS to be my way of serving the country and showing my appreciation for the military. It’s given me a little bit of satisfaction that I’m still able to make a difference in the lives of the military.”
Brittany Thanks Soldiers through her Cell Phones for Soldiers Project
Brittany’s dedication and passion for helping the soldiers is deeply rooted in her understanding just how difficult life is for a soldier, who constantly faces the fear of getting killed by enemies, the loneliness of being away from his/her loved ones, and the physical, mental, and emotional strain brought about by the violence that he/she witnesses from the battles fought. She salutes them because in spite of the dangers, they never back down so that civilians like Brittany and her family can live in peace, harmony, and enjoyment. Brittany says this in a blog she wrote:
“Servicemen and women sacrifice their safety, comfort and time with friends and family to protect our country, our freedom, and our liberty. They are heroes in our society. Because they give up so much, I believe that each member of the military and each military family should be able to hear each other's voices on a regular basis during deployment and be supplied with the tools they need to reintegrate back into society.”
Seeing all the sacrifices that the soldiers make to ensure freedom and liberty has become a powerful motivation for Brittany to give back to them in a way she knows how—by getting them encouraged and make them remember what they are fighting for through connecting them to their families more often.
But while Brittany did have the information and the desire to help, it was her boldness and confidence to act on what she knew and desired that really helped make Cell Phones for Soldiers a successful organization. There are thousands of people who know and want to do something about the issues that soldiers are facing, but it is Brittany’s bold step of faith that made her a leader. Brittany says this in an interview:
“If you’re able to define what you’re passionate about, you will exude confidence and other people will want to join you because they see you as a leader—that’s part of the reason why CPFS is what it is.”
Brittany Bergquist’s Bio
Brittany’s amazing passion and brilliance in her work in the world of philanthropy is in her blood. She was born to two educators, Robert “Bob” and Gail Bergquist on November 28, 1990 in Norwell, Massachusetts. She is the older of two children, the younger being her brother Robbie. Brittany’s love for philanthropy came at an early age, inspired by her parents who were working in the area of education.
Brittany’s father, Bob, was born in 1947 in Hingham, Massachusetts. He was a graduate of Bridgewater State College and holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education. By the time of Brittany’s birth, Bob was already working as a Middle School Science Teacher in Norwell Middle School, a position he holds up to today.
Greatly loved and admired by his students, Bob was known to be able to present his science classes in such a way that would spark his students’ interests in the subject. Currently, Bob volunteers as the president of Cell Phones for Soldiers.
Gail, Brittany’s mother, was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1956. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Special Education from Bridgewater State College, and went on to receive her master’s degree in general education from Cambridge College. A loving and caring mother to her children, Gail works fulltime as a special education teacher in Weymouth High School, and volunteers her time and service to Cell Phones for Soldiers as its clerk.
Growing up in a well to do family enabled Brittany to experience good life. Her parents’ kind and loving nature added to this, which developed in the young Brittany a love and passion for people. Even when she was still very young, Brittany already had a heart for giving. This was proven when she gave ten inches of her hair to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to children and teenagers that were suffering from long-term medical hair loss and could not afford to purchase hairpieces for themselves.
As a young person, Brittany was also energetic and full of life. She was outgoing, and loved to hang around with her family and friends. Brittany developed a lot of interests growing up, which included swimming, arts and crafts, bowling, cooking and baking, sailing, and physical fitness. Her beauty, charm and talents were truly extraordinary, and her friendly and kind nature enabled her to have lots of friends throughout the years.
In her early school years, Brittany not only was a bright and intelligent student, but she also exhibited leadership qualities which greatly developed as she matured in age. When she entered high school, Brittany’s stunning beauty and amazing personality put her on the spotlight, and she became a cheerleading captain for her school.
Brittany’s interest in serving her country through the military began when she witnessed the devastating events during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Even though she was only in her fifth grade during that time, Brittany began to understand just how significant the works of the soldiers were in protecting the country. In an interview made with her many years later, Brittany recalled:
“When 9/11 happened and a new war started, my brother and I were quite young, 4th and 5th grade, but that day had a serious impact on us—it rapidly changed everything we knew. There was much more of a focus on what was going on in the world and our troops—we had two cousins that were deployed.”
While Brittany had this desire to pursue a career in the military, her body would not allow her to do so. Since she had asthma, Brittany knew that she would not be able to pass the physical exam. In spite of this disappointment, and with the encouragement of her parents, she never gave up. Brittany had this desire to be able to help the servicemen and women who were out there, fighting for the things that she enjoyed, and if she was not going to be in the front lines with them, then she would find a way to at least give back.
Robbie Bergquist Helps His Sister
Opportunity finally revealed itself when she was 13 years old. One day, Brittany and her brother, Robbie, were watching the news when they heard the story of a soldier who had incurred an 8,000–dollar phone bill when he returned from Iraq because he kept calling home as he wanted to stay in touch with his family. The story moved Brittany and her brother after remembering their cousin who was just deployed a few weeks prior, and realized that for someone who was giving their life for their country, a phone bill should not be among his problems. Brittany related this experience in a blog she wrote many years later:
“I was watching the morning news with my 12–year–old brother Robbie when we heard the story of a soldier returning from Iraq with an almost $8,000 phone bill. Our cousin had recently been deployed and the story really hit home for both of us. How could a man who was serving his country not be able to call his family for free? He was sacrificing so much for all of us.”
At that moment, Brittany felt in her heart that she had to do something. After discussing this with her brother, as well as through the encouragement they received from Bob and Gail, Brittany and Robbie gathered what money they had during that time and raised 21 dollars.
Knowing that they would need a lot more, Brittany and Robbie went around the neighborhood, sharing the stories with their friends and their desire to help the soldier. They also held a car wash and collected around 1,000 dollars. When Brittany and Robbie went to a local bank to open an account for their collection campaign, the bank officer they spoke to was so impressed with what they were doing that they offered to give an additional 500 dollars to what they already deposited.
While it would seem to be a daunting task for two young teenagers to go around the neighborhood asking donations for a campaign that they recently started, Brittany and Robbie had no second thoughts about doing it. Their aim was to help that soldier whose story they heard, and focused on their goal in spite of the obstacles that they encountered.
This is what made them very successful in their first try. If someone in their twenties or thirties tried to do what Brittany and Robbie did, he/she would be overwhelmed by the sheer idea of the numerous challenges and risks and might decide to simply quit—but not Brittany. She related this in an interview with her many years later:
“My brother and I were so young that we weren’t afraid to put ourselves out there, to speak our minds and to try and make a difference. It didn’t matter if we heard “No”—it wasn’t going to kill us. That’s the challenge as we get older; we get more fearful of going against the standard and trying to break the mold. I think people just have to have more confidence in their passion.”
Brittany’s campaign did not stop there. Eventually, the local media was made aware of the project that Brittany and Robbie were doing, and in just a few days it was all in the news. Then it began: massive donations from a lot of people poured in, and Brittany and her family knew that their work is beginning to materialize.
When Brittany and Robbie were brought into the attention of the national news, the support was just overwhelming that they decided to turn what they were doing into a foundation. With the help of their parents, Brittany and Robbie, in 2004 founded Cell Phones for Soldiers, which aimed to help every service member to be able to contact their families at home free of charge.
Partnering with ReCellular, Inc.
Through a partnership that they found with ReCellular, Inc., Brittany and her family began to collect old cell phones so that ReCellular can process them. For each phone that was collected, Cell Phones for Soldiers was paid for an average amount that can give a 60–minute call card for international use.
From that year onwards, it was only up for Brittany and Cell Phones for Soldiers. As the number of supporters grew, so did the number of soldiers that benefited from the constant efforts of the organization to collect old cell phones and recycle them, which are primarily overseen and done by Brittany and her family.
Millions of Cell Phones and Minutes Donated by Cell Phones for Soldiers
To this day, Cell Phones for Soldiers has collected over 2.5 million cell phones, and has donated over 150 million minutes of talk time to the service men and women of the United States. When Brittany was interviewed many years later, she commented on how surprised she was about what the organization had accomplished all these years:
“It’s unbelievable and overwhelming to know that we’ve been able to help out families that we’re never going to see; that we’ve had an impact on their lives.”
Brittany’s passion for her philanthropic endeavors is shared by her family. In fact, everyone in her family devotes time and effort into the organization, something that Brittany holds dear to her heart. In a blog she wrote, Brittany gave credit to her parents, who wholeheartedly supported her in her work with Cell Phones for Soldiers:
“Even today, the day-to-day operation of Cell Phones for Soldiers is overseen almost entirely by myself and my family. I'm thankful to have had my parents there to guide and encourage me along this journey. They've always been my biggest supporters and inspired me to dream big and serve our community despite my young age.”
AT&T Scholarship and General Motors Internship
In 2009, after graduating from high school, Brittany received a scholarship from AT&T, one of the organization’s most supportive partners, and enrolled at Stonehill College to study Business Marketing. She is looking forward to graduating this year and earning her bachelor’s degree.
Also in 2009, Brittany received a number of accolades and awards for her work in the area of giving back to the United States military servicemen and women. Among these awards were an AXA Achievement Award, a National Youth Award from the well-known Daughters of the American Revolution, and the popular Prudential Spirit of Community Award.
Brittany did internships with several companies since 2011. During that year’s summer, Brittany worked with General Motors as an intern in the GM Military Discount program. The following year, Brittany worked with Target and was assigned in the executive stores. Currently, she is doing internship with the Boston Bruins in the group’s Community Relations Department.
Brittany’s time in working has greatly developed her skill and passion for philanthropy, and she often gives credit to the companies she worked with for helping her become better at what she is doing.
Launching Helping Heroes Home
In 2012, Brittany and her family launched a new project which they called Helping Heroes Home. Through Helping Heroes Home, Brittany expanded the reach of Cell Phones for Soldiers by not only giving free talk time to those who were serving in the military, but also aiding and supporting the soldiers who have come home from service and are in need of assistance in their financial and social life. The project was well received by the public and is currently helping thousands of veteran and returning soldiers.
That same year, Brittany was honored by Youth Service America by including her in their list of the 25 Most Powerful and Influential People in the World, which simply proved just how much of an inspiration Brittany has been in changing the lives of the soldiers in the United States. She, along with her brother Robbie, has been invited numerous times to speak in various events and conferences to share their experiences and encourage the audiences to do their part in giving back to their servicemen and women.
Today, Brittany continues to actively work with Cell Phones for Soldiers and Helping Heroes Home in giving back to the people who willingly lay down their lives for the sake of their country. Seeing the impact she has made on the lives of the thousands of soldiers that she helped keeps Brittany motivated and satisfied in doing her charity work. She said in her blog:
“Building this program has been the most positive and motivating experience of my life. I'm so proud to have started something that motivates corporations and individuals to work for the betterment of our military communities. As long as the servicemen and women continue to give back to us, I will continue to give back to them.”
Brittany Quotes Her Dad
Brittany’s life is a story that truly inspires us to never be afraid of taking action in what we believe in. Her courage, boldness, happiness, and passion in advocating for the welfare of the servicemen and women of the United States in spite of the risk of being rejected is a powerful reminder that we need not fear what other people might say as long as what we are doing positively contributes to our society.
“My dad always says, “If your job is what you love, then you’ll never work a day in your life.” That’s my goal; to be passionate and happy when I go to work every day.”
Important Facts provided by Cell Phones for Soldiers
Cell Phones for Soldiers Fast Facts
• In 2012, Cell Phones for Soldiers shared more than 515,000 communication tools with military families, providing 31 million minutes of talk time.
• The program collected and recycled more than 815,000 phones in 2012.
• Since 2004, Cell Phones for Soldiers has provided troops with 181 million minutes of free talk time.
• Since 2004, more than 10.8 million cell phones have been recycled, reducing the impact on landfills.
• Approximately 12,000 calling cards are mailed each week.
• A $5 donation warrants 2.5 hours of talk time; a $100.00 donation gives 50 hours or 3,000 minutes of talk time
• There are more than 2,600 collection points across the nation.
• In 2012, Cell Phones for Soldiers launched its newest program, Helping Heroes Home. Helping Heroes Home provides emergency funds for returning veterans to alleviate communication challenges as well as physical, emotional and assimilation hardships
Military Member Benefit (Statistical information provided by the Center for American Progress)
• Due to extreme work conditions and lack of family interaction, 42 percent of military personnel have reported feeling like a “guest” in their home following deployment.
• Divorce rates nearly doubled for military members from 2001 to 2004 and have risen steadily ever since. Cell Phones for Soldiers works to keep families close by helping them communicate regularly during deployment.
• One in five returning troops from Iraq and Afghanistan show signs and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), stemming from extreme work conditions and lack of emotional support.
• Thirty percent of deployed troops suffer from PTSD, depression or anxiety.
• Studies by the United States Army reveal a direct correlation between PTSD and family problems.
• The Military Benefits Deployment Center lists staying in touch with loved ones as a top-five “how to survive deployment” strategy.
• Currently in the United States, one in four homeless persons is a veteran.
• Each year more than 130 million cell phones are decommissioned.
• Cell phones contain hazardous chemicals and heavy metals which pollute the earth if placed in landfills.
• The charity works with Mindful eCycling to recycle the donated devices.
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Cell Phones for Soldiers
- Helping Heroes Home
Awards and Achievements
- 2009: Received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award
- 2009: Received the Build-A-Bear Huggable Hero Award
- 2009: Received the National Youth Award from the Daughters of the American Revolution
- 2009: Received the Mass. Conference for Women Be the Change Award
- 2009: Received an AT&T Scholarship
- 2009: Received the AXA Achievement Award
- 2009: Received the Best of You Award from Glamour Magazine
- 2010: Received the Amway Positivity Award
- 2011: Received the Women Doing Good Award from SELF Magazine
- 2011: Received the Jefferson Award for Public Service
- 2012: Included in the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the World by Youth Service America