Brittany Bergquist’s BIO
IN THE SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW
1. How did you first become involved in the non-profit sector?
Brittany: We first became a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2004 when I was thirteen years old and my brother Robbie was twelve.
Robbie and I were watching the morning news and heard the story about a young soldier from Natick, Massachusetts who had rung up a cell phone bill of more than $7,000. His cell phone company had shut off his service and we thought that this just wasn’t right. We asked our parents, “Why should he be worried about paying his cell phone bill when he really should be worried about keeping himself safe?”
We decided to raise money to pay his cell phone bill. We had a car wash and bake sale and when the cell phone company decided to waive his bill, we investigated and found that this soldier wasn’t the only one who was having difficulty paying high cell phone bills.
That’s when Cell Phones for Soldiers was born. We had the idea to collect and recycle used cell phones – everyone has one lying around the house. I contacted cell phone recycling companies to see if one would pay us for the cell phones that we would collect. I found one and we work with them to create drop off sites for used cell phones. Currently we have around 15,000 collection sites across the nation. With the funds raised, we purchase prepaid international calling cards that troops can safely use on landlines in the Middle East and elsewhere. So far, we have distributed more than 2 million cards to troops around the world.
As a member of the Sr. Mgmt Staff in a mid size NPO, I can appreciate that the leaders wear several hats in accomplishing day to day responsibilities. Please share with me how you manage your multiple responsibilities.
As a sophomore in college, I have had to delegate the many responsibilities of running a non-profit. We are still very active in Cell Phones for Soldiers. We travel for media appearances, speaking events, to collection sites and help as much as we can with the day-to-day operations of the charity.
Robbie and I have help from our parents who are both public school teachers. We also have assistance from the recycling company who collects all of our phones. They help us with the day-to-day emails and phone calls.
Our recycling partner, ReCellular, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been very supportive of our program.
2. What are your favorite tools (tech or otherwise) for managing areas of your life that are most important to you?
Brittany: I would have to say that my phone is my favorite tool for managing my non-profit. I’m able to answer emails, check and update Facebook and contact donors and volunteers no matter where I am.
3. Best advice received when you began leading your NPO?
Brittany: “Don’t worry about what others say about you, you know that you’re doing the right thing and should be proud of your efforts.”
That was told to Robbie and me by our parents. As young people starting a non-profit, we sometimes felt that we weren’t taken seriously by some adults. Our peers were not always supportive of our efforts either. We had to toughen up and not let negative comments keep us down.
My parents knew that it was difficult for us, but they encouraged us to stick with it and I’m so glad they did. We wouldn’t be able to support troops like we are without having been given that support. We just set a goal for 2011 – to distribute 750,000 communication tools to troops. We wouldn’t be able to pull that off without great advice like that from our parents.
4. What’s been your proudest achievement at Cell Phones for Soldiers?
Brittany: My proudest achievement at Cell Phones for Soldiers is that we have been able to send over 114 million minutes of talk time to our troops while keeping more than 8.3 million cell phones out of landfills.
It’s an achievement in multiple ways since not only are we supporting our troops on a daily basis; we’re also keeping hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals found in cell phones out of our landfills and water supplies across the country.
Receiving thanks from troops we are able to reach and support also is what makes this all worth while. We receive letters and emails all the time thanking us for the calling cards. Knowing that we have reached so many already and have the opportunity to reach so many more moving forward is what makes me proud.
Reaching our goal for 2011 and sending our troops 750,000 means to call home will definitely be my most proud moment so far. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that we will reach our goal!
To donate your old cell phone (or just money), click on the NPO’s logo to the left!
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