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Published: Monday, 6/22/2009

Donated phones sought to protect domestic-violence victims

BY MIKE SIGOV
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Some 150 cell phones to be provided to local domestic-violence victims will save lives, a women's shelter director said Sunday in announcing the start of a collection program.

The cell phones are programmed only to dial 911, and cannot accept incoming calls.

"This help is critical," said Lynn Jacquot, director of Toledo YWCA's Battered Women's Shelter.

The agency, which has run an informal cell-phone donation program in the past, is short of cell phones and has no money to buy them.

During the current fiscal year, the agency experienced a 25 percent increase in the number of women and children staying at the shelter, from about 450 people, Ms. Jacquot said.

Neither count includes people helped by its crisis line, who also are eligible for phones, she said.

The present cell-phone donation program was started a week ago by Toledo mayoral candidate Ben Konop, a Lucas County com-missioner who bought three collection bins and organized the donation. It is just taking off, he said.

The commissioner announced the donation of 150 cell phones during a news conference yesterday in the lobby of the downtown YWCA, 1018 Jefferson Ave., where the phones were on display.

"[The program] provides these women with a tool to protect themselves," Mr. Konop said.

He added that he is proud to work with the YWCA and the Catherine S. Eberly Center at the University of Toledo, which also agreed to accept donated cell phones.

The idea for the program occurred to him after a similar 9-1-1 Cell Phones for Seniors program that he had started with the Area Office on Aging two years ago proved a success, the commissioner said.

In the seniors program, recycled cell phones are given to Lucas County residents 60 years old or older to call for help in an emergency.

More than 1,300 cell phones have been collected since, mainly at area Kroger stores for use by seniors who need the ability to report illness, injury, crime threats, or other emergencies.

Advocates said women in need of a 911 cell phone should call YWCA at 419-241-3235. Local businesses interested in serving as a donation site should call Mr. Konop's office at 419-213-2155.



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