Centers collecting cell phones for seniors

Baltimore County sheriff starts program that aims to ensure access to 911

February 25, 2002|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

When Baltimore County's sheriff discovered that old cellular telephones can be reprogrammed to dial 911, she got an idea that might help senior citizens in distress.

Sheriff Anne K. Strasdauskas has launched a program, Cell Phones for Seniors, that is aimed at giving the elderly quick access to police and fire departments.

She's asking people to donate cell phones to the county's senior centers for distribution. The phones will be altered so that callers won't be able to make routine calls but will have 911 access.

"You can't order pizza, but you can order help," Strasdauskas said she tells senior citizens.

In just a few days, she said, the county collected 125 phones and received requests from about 160 seniors.

She is coordinating the effort with the county Department of Aging.

"We have a lot of low-income clients who don't have the money to pay for a regular telephone on a monthly basis. At least this gives them an opportunity to get a free phone," said Charles L. Fisher Jr., director of the department.

The cell phones also could be a help to seniors who have phones in their homes but might feel more comfortable carrying a phone with them in case of emergency.

"In many ways, it's like a security blanket," Fisher said. "It can give somebody a peace of mind."

The program is similar to initiatives in Howard and Montgomery counties through which cell phones are distributed to victims of domestic violence.

Anyone wishing to donate cell phones may call the sheriff's office at 410-887-4070. Seniors may call the same number to request one.

The phones should be easy to use and include batteries and chargers.

These centers are accepting donated phones:

Catonsville, 501 N. Rolling Road; Liberty, 3525 Resource Drive; Pikesville, 1301 Reisterstown Road; Bykota, 611 Central Ave., Towson; Cockeysville, 10535 York Road; Parkville, 8601 Harford Road; Ateaze, 7401 Holabird Ave; and Essex, 600 Dorsey Ave.

Cell phones also may be dropped off at the sheriff's office, 401 Bosley Ave., Towson.

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