An old cell phone can be turned into free minutes for soldiers to call home. That’s the message the Arizona Builders Alliance (ABA) sent to its members earlier this year, and they responded by collecting 1,015 phones—equivalent to 507 hours (30,450 minutes) of calling time for overseas military members.

The initiative benefitted Cell Phones for Soldiers, a family-run nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free communication services to active duty soldiers and veterans from all branches of the military. The organization sells donated phones to recycling firms and uses the resulting funds to buy calling cards for soldiers overseas.

Since 2004, when Robbie and Brittany Bergquist of Norwell, Mass., founded Cell Phones for Soldiers at the ages of 12 and 13, the organization has provided servicemen and women with an estimated three million pre-paid calling cards. One hour of calling time is donated for every two phones collected.

The ABA collects cell phones for the drive all year long through its Community Service Board, with a big push between February and May. In 2012, the first year for the drive, the group collected 500 phones. That number more than doubled by 2014.

The board also manages the ABA’s backpack drive for Children’s First Academy and holiday toy drive for Sunshine Acres and Sunshine Group Homes. “Every event is a team effort,” says Josh Marriott, chairman of the Community Service Board and an estimator for the Southwest Division of McCarthy Building Companies. “We have many passionate, generous people who lead and give their time and talents.”

Kerwin Kortman, director of business development for Phoenix-based Kortman Electric, is responsible for bringing Cell Phones for Soldiers to the attention of the ABA Community Service Board. As the liaison between the two groups, he promotes the drive and sorts, packs and personally delivers the phones to the local Cell Phones for Soldiers office. “Construction companies, and the industry as a whole, have the biggest hearts when it comes to volunteering and giving their time to help others,” Kortman says.  

“Being a Navy vet, I understand the value of being able to communicate with family. I was fortunate to be stationed stateside, but it is much more difficult to reach home when overseas,” he says. “This is one small way that we as an industry can help support the troops.” 

Joanna Masterson is senior editor of Construction Executive. For more information, email, visit or follow @ConstructionMag.