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Riverbend Medical Centers seek calling cards

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

Want to help a military family who has someone serving overseas? RiverBend Medical Group is participating in the drive conducted by US Family Health Plan to collect international calling cards during the month of September.

US Family Health Plan is an insurance company that provides health care to military families. The calling card drive is part of the company's "Year of the Military Family," which it has arranged for scholarships for children, treated families to movie screenings and paid for 150,000 family portraits.

Spokesperson Andrea D'Iorio said a clear plastic lock-box will be set up in the patient service department of RiverBend's three location: Springfield, Chicopee and Agawam. People who would like to contribute a card can simply buy one and place it in the case.

D'Iorio said the cards would be distributed later this fall to military personnel who will be deployed to Iraq. She said members of the military must pay $4 a minute out of their own pocket to call home from phones provided on base.

An Internet search shows that calling cards can be purchased with rates that vary from 5.8 cents to 45 cents per minute for calls between Iraq and the United States. Cards come in $10, $20 and $50 denominations.

She explained the cards would be given to the active personnel rather than the families because access to a phone can be difficult depending upon their deployment.

Cards can also be contributed by mailing them to The Calling Card Campaign, US Family Health Plan at Brighton Marine Health Center, 77 Warren St., Boston MA 02135.

D'Iorio said the company has an additional list of things people can do to help military families:

Shake the hands of veterans and thank them for their service

Have coffee with a soldier's parents

Hire a military spouse

Prepare a meal for a military family and bring it to them

Mentor a child whose parent is in the military

Mow the lawn of a military family

Baby-sit the children of a military spouse

Attend the baseball game, school play, etc. of a child whose parent is serving in the military

Offer to fix things around the house or run errands for a military family

Add a military family to your holiday list