The Southern Main Agency on Aging (SMAA) has partnered with Scarborough High School’s Environmental Club of Scarborough (ECOS) to collect cell phones for area senior citizens who can use them to dial 911 in case of an emergency.
Elder Advocate Mary Hadlock said the project began last fall when she was an intern with SMAA. She contacted Scarborough High School looking for students to assist with the collection of cell phones and found ECOS already collected used cell phones to recycle. The students agreed to donate the phones they collected with the understanding the phones will be recycled if they are not used by the seniors.
According to Hadlock, a benefit to having an emergency cell phone is that they still work when there is no electric supply, unlike a Lifeline-type of devise which needs electricity to work. Seniors are encouraged to have more than one emergency notification device.
Emily Sherman, ECOS teacher, said the students began collecting cell phones years ago when it seemed students were upgrading their phones even when the current ones were functioning properly. She said the increase in e-waste in landfills is excessive and the students want to lessen environmental impact anywhere they can.
ECOS donated more than 200 phones to the program, mostly from students. Sherman said next year the club plans to focus more on education about recycling alongside with the phone and battery collections.
More than 30 students are active members of the club, which has a roster of nearly 80. They are a dedicated crew according to Sherman who also said that the students decide what recycling programs they will participate in and what causes they will support. Hadlock said it was her goal to bring generations together with the program. Hadlock also worked with Jobs for Maine Graduates, Portland High School and a collaborative education class in Gray - New Gloucester to collect cell phones for the program.
Once the phones are collected, Hadlock sends them to the 911 Cell Phone Bank. The program is like a bank—she deposits a number of phones and is allowed to withdraw the same number of phones by ordering them. They come back to her cleaned of personal information and individually packaged with an extra battery and charger.
“We are hoping it will be an ongoing community service project for the students,” said Hadlock. For more information about the senior emergency cell phone project at SMAA, call (207)396-6500.