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

In honor of Veterans Day and Military Family Appreciation Month, Griffo was joined by AT&T, Central New York Veterans Outreach Center and military representatives 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, R-Rome, said in the release. "The least we can do is give them the opportunity to talk with their loved ones this holiday season. I would like to thank AT&T, Cell Phones for Soldiers and the Central New York Veterans Outreach Center for helping to kickoff this collection drive."

Proceeds from the recycled devices will be used 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.

The annual collection drive started Monday and runs through Wednesday, Dec. 13. Gently used and unwanted cellphones or tablets can be dropped off at collection bins in AT&T stores throughout the Mohawk Valley region and at several public locations throughout the senator’s district. Those locations include:

• 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

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

• AT&T at 4777 Commercial Drive, New Hartford

• AT&T at224 N 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."

As many as 200,000 troops are serving in the U.S. military around the world and by donating to Cell Phones For Soldiers, local residents and businesses can provide a valuable lifeline for America’s bravest men and women to connect with loved ones back home, the release said.