BOB BERGQUIST / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
Helen Rapoza, left, owner of Helen's Haven, chatted yesterday with Cell Phones for Soldiers co-founders Robbie and Brittany Bergquist.
Teens help troops stay in touch
Brother and sister Robbie and Brittany Bergquist founded Cell Phones for Soldiers to make sure no soldier has to worry about phoning home.
Initially, they wanted to give soldiers recycled cell phones when they started four years ago, but found it easier to provide them phone cards, said Brittany, 17, who just arrived with her family from Norwell, Mass., for a first-time vacation to Hawaii.
The teenage Bergquists were invited to attend and be honored yesterday at Shinnyo-En Hawaii's 10th annual Memorial Day floating lantern ceremony. They were to go to Holy Family Catholic Academy to pick up hundreds of cell phones collected by students and to give phone cards to children of deployed military.
Yesterday the teenagers
met with Helen Rapoza, owner of Helen's Haven in Kahala,
to thank her for being the small-business drop-off point for used cell phones in Hawaii. Rapoza already has collected 50 old phones since she started spreading the word a couple of weeks ago.
"It's the right thing to do," said Rapoza, who recalled her anxiety when her father and brother were deployed. It is vital to support the significant number of troops stationed in Hawaii, especially with repeated deployments overseas that are being prolonged, she added.
"Just to know they're safe, that they're OK" is essential to morale, Rapoza added.
Brittany said she and her brother, 16, started the company to help pay off an $8,000 bill a deployed soldier had racked up allowing others in his unit to use his cell phone.
Parents Bob and Gail, and sister Courtney, all help with the project several hours a week, added Robbie.
The Bergquists have sent about 450,000 phone cards, worth more than $2 million, to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan over four years, Brittany said.