RSVP's new cell phone bank program to benefit elderly, domestic violence victims
To donate or get a cell phone that is part of the 911 Cell Phone Bank Program, call Robert Harlow at the Retired and Senior Program of Rock County at (608) 362-9593.
Alice, 80, has just met with friends for lunch.
On her short drive home from the restaurant, she begins to have trouble breathing.
Using the 911 cell phone she received free through the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Rock County, Alice is able to call for help.
Alice isn't real, but she could be your mother or grandmother. Many older residents don't want to own or learn to operate cell phones, but they could benefit from the new 911 Cell Phone Bank Program that RSVP launched informally earlier this month.
"The primary emphasis is to be able to have some sort of security device for both the elderly population and domestic abuse victims. So if they ever are in a situation, at least they have something they can try to get help with," said Robert Harlow, executive director.
RSVP began working with the 911 Cell Phone Bank Program after one of its representatives contacted Harlow about the program as a potential fundraiser. Although RSVP can make from $5 to $200 on each phone donated, that's not the goal.
"What I'd like to do is get it out to recipients," Harlow said.
After learning about the program, Harlow decided to get RSVP involved.
"It's not staff intensive, doesn't require expenditures of money, and no one else in Rock County is doing this," he said.
RSVP collects the phones and sends them to the cell phone bank, where they are refurbished for 911 use only and then returned to RSVP for distribution, Harlow said.
In just two weeks, RSVP received more than two dozen cell phones from people who learned about the program through fliers that RSVP distributed at the Beloit and Janesville senior centers and Beloit Memorial High School.
With the response so far, Harlow thinks the program, which will officially kick off after Jan. 1., has potential.
For now, people at the senior centers and the high school collect donated phones, which Harlow and assistant director Linda Kleven pick up weekly.
Once RSVP collects enough phones—about 25 or 30—to fill a box, Harlow sends them to the cell phone bank. They are cleaned up, given new batteries and programmed for 911 use only. They are then returned to RSVP for distribution.
Before donating their phones, owners should delete personal information—contacts, messages and photos—or have their cell phone companies do that for them.
Harlow stressed that the cell phones are not meant to replace the Lifeline service for elderly people with health issues.
"Lifeline would probably be more appropriate for that person," he said.
Most of the refurbished phones are small and can be kept in pant or shirt pockets for quick and easy access.
After Jan. 1, Harlow will distribute information about the program to other senior centers and programs that work with domestic violence victims and high schools throughout Rock County.
By the end of March, RSVP should have phones for distribution.