Servicemembers’ ‘Angels’ Recognized

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2007 – Georgia-Pacific, the maker of Angel Soft toilet paper, has recognized two teens as “Angels in Action” for their support of the nation’s servicemembers.
Timothy Calvert, 15, co-founder of Operation Iraqi Friendship, and Robbie Bergquist, 14, co-founder of Cell Phones for Soldiers, are among 13 teens recognized for “exemplary acts of community service” in the Angel Soft Angels in Action award program. The winners and finalists were chosen from a pool of nearly 20,000 nominees ages 8-18.

Cell Phones for Soldiers is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program highlighting the ways Americans are supporting the nation’s servicemembers.

“We created the Angel Soft Angels in Action Awards Program because we are dedicated to educating and inspiring families to help children develop a lifelong commitment to community service,” Nikkia Starks, Angel Soft’s marketing communications manager, said of the program now in its seventh year. “Both young men created innovative programs that put others ahead of themselves.”

Each of the young men, nominated by beneficiaries of their programs, receives a cash award and a year’s supply of Angel Soft toilet paper. Both agreed the money will help their organizations fulfill their stated missions.

As a grand-prize winner, Calvert, who said he was shocked at his selection for the award, will join the second grand-prize winner and the Program of the Year winner on a trip to Walt Disney World. He also will receive $10,000, which he said will help cover postage to send tote bags of school supplies to Iraq.

“Most of what we need for the school-supply totes is donated, but the shipping is not,” Calvert said. “The shipping is pretty expensive, about $7 per tote bag, so it will help get a lot more bags sent over for the Iraqi kids.”

The bags, which servicemembers distribute to Iraqi schoolchildren, contain school supplies including composition books, drawing tablets, construction paper, scissors, glue, pens, pencils, markers and crayons. A memo book with the word “Friend” on the front cover always is included, as is a toy.

“Some of the village classrooms had 50 students sharing just a few pencils and composition books,” Calvert said. “No one in our country could even really imagine a life where you couldn’t even have your own pencil.

“One of the really cool things our program has done (is to teach) American kids to have a little more respect and appreciation for what they have,” he added.

But as important as making sure Iraqi children have what they need to learn, Calvert, through Operation Iraqi Friendship, is helping U.S. servicemembers make positive connections with the Iraqi people.

“When the Iraqi people see our soldiers come with things to help better their life, it helps to build a better relationship,” he said.

Calvert said his family is often teased about the “warehouse decor” of their home. But when you take into account that his sister Bailey Reese, 10, also runs her own troop-support organization, Hero Hugs, from home, there’s no escaping the boxes of goodies waiting to be sent overseas.

Bailey was an Angels in Action grand-prize winner in the previous year’s program and has several other honors to her credit.

The story is much the same for Bergquist, an Angels in Action finalist, who with his sister, Brittany, began sending prepaid calling cards to servicemembers overseas in 2004. To date, they have sent 1.5 million minutes of talk time to troops serving throughout the world. They are humble about the accolades they have received, including the organization’s current nomination for a Volvo for Life award, which carries a grand prize of $50,000.

“I was surprised (to learn I was selected) because I know there are lots of kids doing amazing things to help others,” Bergquist said. “To be recognized for helping the troops makes me feel very proud. The troops are the real ‘Angels in Action.’”

He said his $1,000 prize money will provide another 30,000 minutes of talk time to help keeps troops in touch with their loved ones. But the recognition the award will bring his organization may be just as valuable.

“It lets the public know about Cell Phones for Soldiers and gives them information about how they can help the troops, … so we can continue to send prepaid phone cards and help military families with their phone bills,” he said.

Through their actions, both young men and all of the winners made a statement the Angel Soft company thought very important.

“A primary message these kids convey, … in my opinion, is that kids are out there making a difference and impacting the community, both here and overseas, in a variety of ways, which is truly commendable,” Starks said. “Year after year, we are always amazed to hear about outstanding children whose thoughtfulness and giving spirit touches so many lives.”

More information on the Angels in Action Award Program and all of this year’s winners and finalists is available on the Angels in Action Web site.