Cell phones for the needy

Published 5:07 pm Friday, August 22, 2008

Three senior citizens received emergency cell phones Wednesday as part of the Cell Phone Bank program.

The program collects old, unused cell phoness, refurbishes them and donates them to needy people in the community. Picayune Police Department is collecting the old phones and sending them to the program, said Picayune Police Community Officer Monica Jacobsen. When the phones return, eligible recipients, including victims of abuse and senior citizens, can come to the department to get a phone.

Cell Phone Bank phones allow those who possess them to call 911 free of charge. Access to that service provides a critical link between those who need the phones and emergency services, said Chief Jim Luke. That service would be beneficial to senior citizens who may suffer a medical emergency outside of their home or if they have an automobile breakdown, Luke said. Victims of abuse also would be able to call for help.

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Elderly citizens who make long trips but do not have a cell phone will now have access to help if they need it. Cell phone recipient Betty Barker makes frequent trips to Slidell, La., to visit her son and daughter. She said the phone she received is a blessing. Bill Leaumont, who also received a phone, said he makes frequent trips to the Veteran’s Hospital in Biloxi and the phone would be useful if he has an emergency on those trips.

Since the phones have only one function they may also be more accessible to people with limited knowledge of how to operate a cell phone. Barker said she has had cell phones that her children provided her with, but she found them confusing to operate. Cell Phone Bank cell phones are capable only of dialing 911 for assistance, which makes her feel certain she will be able to operate it.

Other recipients are unable to afford a cell phone, such as Jura Veron. With her Cell Phone Bank cell phone nearby, she feels safer from attacks and other criminal activity.

“I listen to the news enough to know they do focus on the elderly,” Veron said.

Veron considers the phone a blessing, allowing her to call for help if she needs it.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing they are doing,” Veron said.

Luke asks anyone who needs one of the free phones to call Jacobsen at 601-798-7411 Ext. 111. The phones come with an extra battery and a home charger, Jacobsen said.