Phones for minutes

Mark Antinoch knew he wanted his company to be actively involved in helping others, but he wasn’t sure how.

So when he met a United States soldier on an airplane returning home to North Carolina from a recent deployment, Antinoch realized he wasn’t giving soldiers and veterans the appreciation they deserve.

“We’re all aware of what’s going on with deployed soldiers, but until I had an actual personal connection, I hadn’t realized the amount of sacrifice these individuals give for us,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to do something for the soldiers that would benefit them and their families.”

Antinoch is a financial advisor at Ameriprise Financial in Ballantyne Corporate Park, where he helped start the business’s annual Veterans Day Cell Phones for Soldiers Charity Drive. This will be the second year the group has done a Veterans Day drive, working with Cell Phones for Soldiers, a nonprofit organization that collects and recycles used wireless phones and purchases prepaid phone cards for military families. For each cellphone given to the cause, the organization can purchase two hours of talk time. Over the past two years, Ameriprise Financial has collected enough phones to purchase 50,000 minutes of talk time for soldiers.

Although the organization is hosting their drive in honor of Veterans Day on Nov. 12, they collect phones for the cause all year long since the business is actually a drop-off site for the devices.

“Someone can come and drop off a phone anytime,” Antinoch said. “It doesn’t have to be coordinated on any day. We accept them any day and every day. We just try to maximize the message on national holidays to try and increase awareness.”

Antinoch said the drive also helps the environment by keeping cellphones out of landfills.

“It’s also a benefit to the environment,” he said. “Instead of landfills, phones are going to a much better focus,” adding that helping soldiers connect with their families really makes the cause worthwhile.

Antinoch said the company doesn’t necessarily have a goal for the Veterans Day drive, but just hopes to help double the number of phones from the previous year. Last year the group gathered 150 phones. So far this year, they’ve already collected 188.

Ameriprise Financial is located at Ballantyne One Building, 15720 John J. Delaney Drive, Suite 300.

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