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State's Attorney's Office lends cell phones to seniors for trips; Program meant to give peace of mind to elderly


For septuagenarians Bea and Roland, the frequent drives to Johnson City, Tenn., to visit their son are long and a bit frightening, but a borrowed cellular phone will ease their minds on the next trip.

The couple borrowed their phone from the Carroll County State's Attorney's Office. The office has 40 free "loaner" cell phones available for seniors who wish to feel secure when they travel.

"Driving along miles and miles of remote highway made me think about what would happen if we had some sort of problem," said Bea, 70, who lives in Carroll County.

Her last name is being withheld to prevent security problems. Bea visited the State's Attorney's Office in the Courthouse annex at 55 N. Court St. in Westminster Thursday to borrow a battery-powered phone that lets her dial 911 should an emergency arise.

"The phones do not allow local or long-distance calls, but are just for emergencies," said Gary Cofflin, investigator for the state's attorney's domestic violence unit.

Cofflin began lending phones to victims of domestic violence, especially those being stalked by abusive spouses or others.

When he became aware some seniors fear traveling or making short trips to shop or keep medical appointments because they feel insecure, Cofflin asked county businesses and residents to donate unused cellular phones.

"Dialing 911 is a free service, so there is no cost to our office or the borrower," Cofflin said.

To borrow a phone, seniors must stop in and sign a waiver, releasing the State's Attorney's Office of liability if the phone malfunctions.

"It's so easy," said Bea as Cofflin plugged the phone's 12-volt adapter into her car's cigarette lighter and demonstrated how to place an emergency call.

"I just hope we won't even need to use it," she said.

Pub Date: 1/31/99

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