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Over the past year, Boilermakers Local 13 inPhiladelphiahas collected nearly 1,000 used cell phones to enableU.S.troops stationed overseas to remain in contact with their families.

“One of the biggest sacrifices made when stationed overseas is being away from loved ones,” said a spokesperson for the local, who also noted that the cell phones have been cashed in for more than 56,000 minutes worth of calling cards.  The cards are distributed to military personnel for free.

Local 13’s efforts are part of a nationwide program called “Cell Phones for Soldiers.”  Founded in 2004, it has generated millions of dollars in calling cards.  Local 13’s participation resulted when retired member Richard Gresko, aU.S.marine combat veteran who also is a Navy Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, urged union officials to make it a priority.

Said another spokesperson for the local, “Not only are we doing something for our service members, we’re also recycling cell phones that might otherwise have ended up in a landfill. And setting up the collection site was really simple.”