Surplus cellular phones donated by Columbia County may save a woman's life.
At a Tuesday meeting, county commissioners approved the donation of about 200 surplus cell phones to Safe Homes of Augusta - a shelter for abused woman and children, which also serves Columbia County.
County government officials switched cellular service providers from Verizon Wireless to Alltel last month, making the Verizon phones obsolete for county purposes.
"None of the Verizon phones will work with Alltel, so instead of attempting to sell them, we thought it would be nice to donate them to the shelter," Columbia County Procurement Manager Greg Woodlief said.
"They'll be able to let their clients utilize them for free. All cell phones will call 911 for free. In an emergency, they'll be covered."
Verizon Wireless donates free air time to Safe Homes, the non-profit organization's executive director Sandra Johnson said. Each phone that Safe Homes gives to their clients comes with 30 minutes of free air time. Once the air time runs out, the phones still will be able to call 911 in case of an emergency.
"It's a safety net for the women, because sometimes they are totally isolated," Johnson said. "The abuser will pull the phone out of the wall, and if they can have one of these and have it hid somewhere, then it can be a lifesaver."
Through a program sponsored by Florida-based Global Refurbishment Corp., Safe Homes can also give any surplus phones to the company in exchange for monetary donations. Johnson said several shelters across the country participate in the same program to help fund their operations.
Columbia County Emergency Management Services often collects and donates used cellular phones to Safe Homes as part of a program started two years ago, Woodlief said.
Anyone interested in donating an unwanted cell phone to Safe Homes can drop it off at the county EMA office in the Evans government complex off Ronald Reagan Drive or call Safe Homes at 736-2499.
Woodlief's office will also be selling several Nextel phones that are not compatible with Alltel. Anyone wanting to be included on a list of potential bidders for one of the Nextel phones can call his office at 868-3305.
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