County seeks cell phones for seniors

Program gives the elderly emergency access to 911

Albany County officials are asking for donations of old cell phones to provide emergency 911 coverage for the elderly as the program's own stockpile dwindles.

The program began in May 2008 and provides free, used cell phones that have been deactivated for normal service. Even though service has been cancelled, the phones can still call 911 and provide emergency coverage for seniors.

Due to the program's success, Albany County Sheriff James Campbell is making an appeal for more phones. Campbell noted that it is vital that people donating the phones also donate the chargers.

When they realize all they have to do is punch 911, it makes it easier for them, he said. "We're trying to keep up with the demand."

After they are collected, the phones are checked to make sure the 911 function is still operational, and then the Albany County Department of the Aging issues the phones to those who have requested them.

"Since its inception, this program has been highly successful. Hundreds of phones have been donated and distributed to seniors throughout Albany County. Due to this fact, our supply of phones is running low so we are asking the public for their help in donating their phones," Campbell said in a statement.

Campbell said that even though seniors from other areas have made requests, only Albany County residents are eligible, as there are a limited number of phones.

Alicia Roney, aging service assistant in the county, said the program allows residents to keep the phones in the community and help neighbors in need.

The program has no sign of being discontinued, and she said as long as there are elderly residents expressing an interest in having the phones, the county will continue to collect them.

The county has run out of phones for now, and there is a waiting list of about 15 names, Roney said.

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