Chilean Winery Lends Group Top-Shelf Support

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2007 - A Chilean winery, through its U.S. marketer, is helping to make sure servicemembers stationed away from home this holiday season can stay in touch with loved ones.

Santa Rita wines and Palm Bay International, a Florida-based wine importer, are working to donate $100,000 to help Cell Phones for Soldiers send phone cards to servicemembers this holiday season, Michael Preis said.

Cell Phones for Soldiers is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

"There are three components to our program," said Preis, a portfolio director for Palm Bay International who works with Santa Rita. "One is a cash contribution."

Preis presented Cell Phones for Soldiers founders, siblings Brittany and Robbie Bergquist, with a $25,000 check on behalf of Santa Rita during Veterans Day weekend.

The cash donation is in addition to the 2,500 drop boxes located at participating retailers around the country where Santa Rita consumers can donate their used cell phones. Cell Phones for Soldiers collects and recycles cell phones, and uses the proceeds to purchase pre-paid phone cards for servicemembers.

Publicity is the third component of support the wine maker is offering. "We have put out not just the drop boxes, but 500,000 'neckers' that go on bottles," Preis said. "(They) give information about the charity and how people can contribute directly."

The program is raising awareness about Cell Phones for Soldiers on a national basis, Preis said. He added that support in all aspects of this has been "unbelievable and without precedent."

"It goes to show that social marketing causes where you're supporting charitable efforts really have an impact and a link with consumers," he said.

Preis said there's a very reasonable, and historic, explanation for why a Chilean winery wants to support U.S. soldiers. The story begins with an 1840 battle fought on what is now Santa Rita property.

"(The) battle was ... led by a gentleman by the name of Gen. Bernardo O'Higgins," he said. "He was basically the Chilean equivalent of George Washington."

As it turns out, O'Higgins would be instrumental in the country's struggle to emancipate itself from Spain's rule. Because of that history, Santa Rita officials identify with the United States, its early struggles for freedom and its strong support for the military, Preis said.

The winery expressed its desire to support U.S. servicemembers during a strategic planning meeting with Palm Bay International personnel in March, he said. It was shortly after that meeting that he learned about the Bergquists and Cell Phones for Soldiers while reading a New York newspaper.

"We wanted to do a focused program for (the Army and Air Force Exchange Service) and (Navy Exchange Service Command) showing that Santa Rita supported the troops," he said. "Buying phone cards was one of the ideas that came up, and in the New York Times ... was this article about these two unbelievable teens that had started Cell Phones for Soldiers three years ago."

After contacting the Bergquist family directly, the rest, Preis said, is history.

The program supporting Cell Phones for Soldiers will continue through Dec. 31, and Palm Bay International is accepting requests for cell phone collection boxes. Veterans of Foreign Wars chapters and Boy Scout troops, among other groups, have requested boxes, Preis said. "(The extended outreach) been a really nice side benefit," he said.

Even nicer for the Bergquists is the fact that Santa Rita and Palm Bay International are working on extending their support of Cell Phones for Soldiers.

"We are going to be working with them on an ongoing basis, and the relationship will continue," Preis said. "We're actually looking at ways right now to extend the program into 2008 and beyond."

*Related Sites:*
Cell Phones for Soldiers  [ ]
Chilean Winery Lends Group Top-Shelf Support [ ]