CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Being able to plug in and charge up our cellphones is something many of us take for granted. Imagine being unexpectedly admitted to the hospital for days or weeks at a time, with no visitors allowed due to COVID restrictions, and realizing you don’t have that critical lifeline to stay connected to your loved ones.
Reina Ciccarone said after seeing a number of posts on social media and hearing stories from friends and family who work in the healthcare field, she learned that cellphone charges were in short supply and high demand at local hospitals.
“We were pretty inspired to want to help,” said Ciccarone.
She’s a marketing specialist and her husband, Tony, is a web developer. Together they decided to use their skills to create 518 Powerup. They created a website with step-by-step instructions on how to donate a new or used charger. Once they receive the accessories, they distribute them to local hospitals.
“I just feel like the nurses are doing so much and if you can help in any way to give them something to provide to their patients then it’s totally worth doing,” said Ciccarone. “It really just feels good to help the community. We’re a family of six, we have children, and to me it’s important to teach them the importance of helping their community even if it’s in a small way,” she added.
They’ve set up drop box locations at several locations including MochaLisa’s Caffe in Clifton Park and Venture Realty Partners in Troy. For parents and students in the Shenendehowa School District they are accepting donations at Orenda Elementary.
They also have a dedicated PO Box:
PO Box 1372
1764 Route 9 Halfmoon, NY 12065-9998
So far, they’ve collected hundreds of new and used charges. Some of the donations are anonymous, while others have come in from local organizations. Owners of Impact, an Athletic Center coming soon to Clifton Park, provided their biggest donation yet with more than 100 accessories. Co-owner, Andrea Litchfield, said they felt compelled to help out.
“I do have lots of family members who work in the ER and who work in the hospitals, and throughout the pandemic, obviously, they could not share their personal chargers or phones, so it became an apparent need,” said Litchfield.
The Ciccarones have coordinated with many local hospitals, including Albany Medical Center, Saratoga Hospital, and Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital. CEO of Sunnyview, Kim Baker, told NEWS10 ABC they were incredibly grateful for 518 Powerup.
“It’s been extremely difficult on families to not actually be able to reach out and touch their loved ones and be there for them, so we have relied solely on social media and virtual visits to be sure that we connect families,” said Baker.
“Our patients love them! On so many different levels, they have been challenged by the impact of COVID-19. Community support to provide help and relief has been wonderful. The phone charger donations helped solve an unexpected challenge for patients and families, being able to stay connected,” said Ann Marie Cross, the Administrative Director for Emergency and Urgent Care Services at Saratoga Hospital.
Statement on behalf of Albany Med: “The connection to family, friends and loved ones is a powerful part of the physical and emotional healing process and is so important for our patients. We are grateful to 518 Powerup for its generous support that will help improve our patients’ quality of life while hospitalized.”
While this started as a small local effort, word is spreading, and they’ve decided to broaden their reach statewide. They recently started working with a hospital in Dutchess County as well.
“Even without COVID there are certain trauma situations where people are unprepared, so as long as they have that inventory there, that’s what we’re looking to accomplish,” said Ciccarone.