Jeff Tatanus, a 16-year-old Boy Scout from Troop 113 in Webster, is volunteering his time and efforts for the national Call To Protect program, an organization that collects donated wireless phones for victims of domestic violence. Upon completion of his collection project, Jeff, a student at Aquinas Institute, will become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank for a Boy Scout to achieve.
Call To Protect is a humanitarian program overseen by the Wireless Foundation, a not-for-profit organization established through the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. Used wireless phones collected through Call To Protect serve as a lifeline for victims when an emergency situation arises.
“Collections conducted by Jeff and others like him help raise awareness about the issue of family violence,” said David Diggs, executive director of the Wireless Foundation. “It’s especially encouraging to see youth volunteers involved in the process.”
Jeff’s interest in the project was piqued after viewing a television public-service announcement suggesting uses for old wireless phones. Intrigued with the idea, he researched various collection agencies and found Call To Protect.
“I looked into it and decided it was a good cause,” he said. “Instead of the phones sitting in someone’s basement or going into a landfill somewhere, have them actually go to a good cause.”
Jeff has set up more than 70 collection boxes at various locations, including Bay View Family YMCA in Webster, Cellular Shop in Penfield, Hamlin Public Library, the T-Mobile store in Victor’s EastView Mall and Wireless Zone in Gates. The collection boxes, donated by AIM Corrugated Container Corp., will remain available for donations through the end of August. For a complete list of collection-box locations, visit Jeff’s Web site at www.donate585.org.
Wireless phones in any condition are welcomed. Batteries and chargers are also encouraged.
“Whatever you have, I’ll take it,” Jeff said.
Donated phones will be shipped to Dexter, Mich., where they will be refurbished and distributed to shelters across the country. The phones will be preprogrammed for 911 and one non-emergency number. Phones that aren’t restorable will be properly recycled, while others will be sold to support the Wireless Foundation’s educational programs and other agencies fighting domestic violence.
Jeff’s collection project is a culmination of his long-term commitment to Boy Scouts. At the age of 6, he joined Cub Scouts and has gone through the ranks to become a leader in the community.
“Being in the Boy Scout program has definitely helped me with leadership skills,” he said.
In addition to his role in Boy Scouts, Jeff is involved in several other activities, including sound design for the theater program at Aquinas; Masterminds; the Big Brother program, which introduces incoming Aquinas freshman to the community; and volunteer work for Webster Public Library. He is currently employed at Wegmans Eastway.
Jeff, a parishioner of St. Rita Church in Webster, recently completed a term on the church’s parish council. He was one of two young people elected to represent the parish’s youths.
“I help out a lot at church,” he said. “I find that very important to me.”
The time Jeff invests in his commitments pays off — he surpassed his goal of collecting 200 phones, and to date has gathered close to 700.
“Volunteers like Jeff Tatanus provide great value to the project,” said Heather Black, manager of programs at the Wireless Foundation. “Without committed young people like Jeff, we would not be able to reach nearly as many people through the cell-phone collection program.”
To Jeff, a substantial collection of phones is exciting, but he admits that getting too caught up in a numeric goal defeats the purpose.
“If only one of these phones saves somebody’s life, then the whole project is worth it,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on donating a used wireless phone to help domestic-violence victims, visit www.donate585.org, or contact Jeff Tatanus at email@example.com or at 585/671-1008.