UTICA — State Sen. Joseph Griffo and AT&T announced Monday a month-long partnership with the nonprofit Cell Phones For Soldiers to give servicemen the opportunity to call their loved ones, a news release said.

The program collects and recycles old cell phones, and uses the proceeds to buy long distance calling cards for troops abroad and veterans at home, the release said. For every donated phone valued at $5, the program will be providing 2 ½ hours of free talk time to deployed troops via calling cards.

Griffo was joined by representatives of AT&T, the Central New York Veterans Outreach Center and the military to kick off the annual collection drive, which is in its third year.

“Our brave troops give up their own time with their families and loved ones so that we can enjoy time with ours,” Griffo said in the release. “The least we can do is give them the opportunity to talk with their loved ones this holiday season.”

The local collection drive started Monday and runs through Wednesday, Dec. 13. Gently used and unwanted cellphones or tablets can be dropped off in collection bins at AT&T stores in New Hartford, Rome and Utica, and at several public locations throughout Griffo's district. Those locations include:

•Jervis Public Library: 613 N. Washington St., Rome

•Chanatry’s Hometown Market: 485 French Road, Utica

•Turning Stone Resort Casino: 5218 Patrick Road, Verona

•Herb Philipson’s: New Hartford Shopping Center, 1 Center St., New Hartford

•Herb Philipson’s: 1899 Black River Blvd., Rome

•TOPS Friendly Markets: 7395 Lowville Heights Road, Lowville

•Utica State Office Building: 207 Genesee St., Utica

“We are honored to collaborate with Sen. Griffo and Cell Phones For Soldiers again this year to encourage the community to join us and donate their used cell phones and tablets to give back to those that have given so much for our country,” Marissa Shorenstein, president for the AT&T East Region, said in the release. “Helping to keep the brave men and women who protect and serve our country connected to their friends, family and loved ones, especially with the holiday season upon us, is just one way to honor and thank them for their courage and duty.”