Recycled cellphones find second life with abuse victims

MATT BENOIT MURROW NEWS SERVICEApril 14, 2014 

Domestic Violence Services is combining the ideas of recycling and being good to the environment with helping others during its monthlong cellphone drive.

"We really, really hugely appreciate getting these cellphones," said Dan Aspiri, executive director of Domestic Violence Services of Benton & Franklin Counties. Citizens can donate their old phones at numerous locations throughout the Tri-Cities.

The donated phones are recycled and refurbished before ending up in the hands of those who might otherwise not have them in an emergency, Aspiri said.

Once donated, the working phones are sent to companies that clean the phones of old data, refurbish them and then ship them back to be distributed to DVS clients, Aspiri said. Non-working phones are recycled.

The phones clients receive come with either a limited number of minutes or 911 access for emergency use and are given only to those who need cellphones and would otherwise not have access to them, Aspiri said.

The phones allow clients -- survivors of domestic abuse, many of whom are attempting to start over -- the ability to communicate in emergencies, while job searching and to coordinate child care.

Many cellphones have the ability to dial 911, even if not equipped with other wireless services. Phones without other services, however, may not report location data, a feature often critical to emergency responders.

In some domestic violence situations, the inability to be found can be good and bad, as a phone's locating function can be used by an abuser to track a victim to continue abuse or harassment, Aspiri said.

"There's two sides to that," he said. "Yeah, you want to be located in an emergency, but you also don't want to be located if you're trying to maintain a safe location."

In addition to benefiting their clients with a phone, Aspiri said the organization also receives a small donation for each phone from one of the cleaning and refurbishing companies. Smartphones, he added, are especially valuable.

Aspiri said phone recycling efforts aren't limited to the month of April, as Domestic Violence Services accepts old phones at several locations year round, including at its administration office in Kennewick.

Those wishing to donate their old phones can do so at the Kennewick, Pasco and West Richland police departments, at Tri-City libraries or at several local businesses in Kennewick, Pasco, Richland and West Richland.

For more information, go to http://dvsbf.org.

-- Tri-City Herald intern Matt Benoit is a Washington State University student: 509-947-9277, mbenoit@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Matt_Benoit

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