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      Collecting Cell Phones for Soldiers to help troops stay connected to home this holiday season

      Cell Phones for Soldiers collection drive starts today and runs through January 6th

      C entral New Yorkers are encouraged to support our troops by donating used cell phones, to help our servicemen and women stay connected to home this holiday season.

      The A nnual Cell Phones for Soldiers collection drive starts Monday, and runs through January 6th.

      Look for boxes at your neighborhood library, school and shopping centers, where you can drop off your gently used cell phones.

      Th ey will be sold to a recy cling company, and the money they earn will go toward purchasing international calling cards for troops serving overseas.

      Al l cell phones are accepted -- no matter how old or new they may be.

      On average, each phone is worth enough to buy two 60-minute calling cards.

      "Sometimes it's a struggle being deployed from your loved ones; not being able to communicate with them, especially during the holiday season. It's also a struggle for family members at home who don't really know from a day to day basis whether their loved ones are safe," says Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Darville, a Battalion Commander with Syracuse Army Recruiting. He says Cell Phones for Soldiers and similar programs help servicemen and women stay connected to home on a more regular basis, and allows for communication without having a tremendous expense.

      The program helps soldiers like Staff Sergeant Alex Joy talk to their families in places where technologies including Skype, Facetime and other social media platforms may not be available.

      "Those luxuries we have here are definitely not available there. This program impacted my life and my family's specifically. I've been able to talk to my wife to and from transition from theater due to calling cards provided by this program as well as in theater ," says Staff Sgt. Joy, who was deployed in 2009 and 2011 for Operation Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.

      He says junior soldiers all the way up to senior officer ranks benefit from the program.

      "Your support to this project and those who use it are greatly appreciated by all service members," he says.

      Last year, Central New York collected more than 1500 cell phones, generating 3,000 hours of free talk time to troops.

      The local drive, spearheaded by Senator John DeFrancisco, has provided more than 12,000 free hours of talk time for our troops since it began six years ago.

      From now until January 6th, you may bring your used mobile phones to Senator DeFrancisco's District Office in Syracuse in the State Office Building on East Washington Street in Syracuse, as well as to any of the drop-off places listed below.

      Cell Phones for Soldiers was started in 2004 by Massachusetts teenagers Robbie and Brittany Bergquist.

      Drop-Off Locations: Baldwinsville Public Library, Fairmount Community Library, Fayetteville Free Library, Liverpool Public Library, Manlius Library, Marcellus Free Library, Northern Onondaga Public Library, Seymour Library, Skaneateles Library, Solvay Public Library, Onondaga Community College, Syracuse University's ROTC Office, Le Moyne College, The Army Recruiting Stations in Syracuse, Mattydale and Auburn, Clear Path for Veterans, the Great Northern Mall in Clay, ShoppingTown Mall in DeWitt and the Fingerlakes Mall in Auburn