Benefits of used cell phone drive come full circle

Benefits of used cell phone drive come full circle

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A used cell phone collection drive organized and run by Oak Bluffs Police Department clerk Jeannie Pierson proved a resounding, yet quiet, success.

Since February, Islanders filled up six boxes at the police department and one at The Times office with used cell phones of every vintage and type, plus accessories. Ms. Pierson organized the collection drive to benefit HopeLine, a phone recycling program run by Verizon Wireless to help victims of domestic violence.

HopeLine uses money generated from recycling to provide wireless phones to law enforcement agencies and domestic violence organizations to distribute to those who have no means of calling for help or contacting anyone.

HopeLine’s recycling proceeds also are used to provide financial grants to local shelters and nonprofit organizations that focus on domestic violence and awareness.

Last week, the benefits of Ms. Pierson’s collection drive came full circle. Verizon Wireless donated $2,500 to CONNECT to End Violence, a program of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (hereafter referred to as Connect).

Mike Murphy, Verizon Wireless New England Region public relations manager, made a trip from his office in Wilmington last Thursday to present a check to Connect in a ceremony at the Oak Bluffs Police Department (OBPD).

Verizon Wireless asked that Connect use the money to help fund its 24-hour crisis hotline for victims of domestic and sexual violence, Mr. Murphy said, which he noted is a fitting endeavor for a communications company to support.

Aita Romain, Connect’s volunteer and hotline coordinator, accepted the donation on behalf of program director Carrie Giacomini-White, who was unable to attend.

Connect advocate Melanie Bilodeau and interns Ana Carvalho and Kendall Johnson also attended the ceremony, along with Ms. Pierson and Times reporter Steve Myrick.

“We just really want to say thank you,” Mr. Murphy told Ms. Pierson. “The proceeds from what you collected will go towards new phones for victims and financial grants to agencies that help them.”

He noted that HopeLine, a nationwide program, has collected more than 7 million phones and donated more than $8 million in financial grants.

The OBPD collected used cell phones and donated them to Verizon for several years. Ms. Pierson stepped up those efforts after Mr. Myrick’s daughter Allison, a 19-year-old Fitchburg State College student, was murdered in January by an abusive ex-boyfriend.

Ms. Pierson knows Mr. Myrick as a result of his regular news coverage of Oak Bluffs. “This really hit close to home for me. When I heard about Allison, I thought, what can we do to make people more aware of domestic violence?” Ms. Pierson said.

After coming up with the idea of a special cell phone drive in Allison’s memory, she found information about the HopeLine program online. Ms. Pierson set up the drive with Mr. Murphy’s help and the support of Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake. Mr. Myrick donated the first phone as soon as she put out a HopeLine collection box.

“I’m grateful to you,” Mr. Myrick told Ms. Pierson after the ceremony. “You’ve done a lot of nice work.”

Verizon Wireless’s donation last week to Connect also stemmed from Ms. Pierson’s efforts. In talking to Mr. Murphy about setting up the collection drive, she asked about HopeLine grants she had read about and told him about Connect’s work, which led to last week’s donation.

In addition to the crisis hotline, Connect provides direct services through a support center for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their family members. Awareness and prevention also are strong components of the program.

“We’re absolutely indebted to Jeannie for thinking about us and giving these women a chance to escape abuse,” Ms. Romain said. Connect also has received 15 phones from Verizon and has given out 2 so far, she added. Ms. Pierson said she plans to keep the cell phone collection drive ongoing at the OBPD and has received a lot of encouragement for her efforts, including a letter from State Representative Tim Madden.

“I am writing to applaud your recycling drive, in support of Verizon Wireless’ HopeLine Program. This is a truly selfless endeavor. I was happy to read about it in The Vineyard Times,” Mr. Madden wrote to her on March 23. “It is dedication from individuals such as you that help these initiatives flourish. Turning these used wireless cell phones to help support victims of domestic violence is a noble cause. I congratulate your commitment to this cause and I hope you inspire others to do the same.”