What ever happens to mobile phones that are lost, found and unclaimed at theme parks? In Central Florida, home of some of the most popular park destinations in the country, many companies donate abandoned phones so that they aid others. Phones are donated to women's shelters or sold to generate revenue that other charity organizations receive.
Harbor House of Central Florida CEO, Carol Wick, claims that smartphones donated by Universal Studios Orlando and Walt Disney World alone generate nearly $50,000 each year when they are sold on sites such as eBay and Craig's List. This money is used to pay for food, medication, bus fare for relocation and other necessary supplies. Older mobile models are donated directly to women so that they are able to make emergency calls should dangerous situations arise. For what would otherwise become trash, Wick says this is a significant sum of money that impacts Harbor House efforts in an overwhelmingly positive way.
But don't worry that you'll be denied a fair chance to reclaim your mobile device. Walt Disney World manager of community relations Betty Lowery says that unclaimed phones stay within the park for a full 90 days before they are donated. Several lost-and-found locations throughout the park allow visitors to collect their mobiles. If you're worried about privacy, rest assured that the phones' memories are wiped before they leave the park.
Lowery says that phone donations are not new for the theme park; however, in 2011 the process changed a bit. Strategic, thoughtful donations became the focus for Disney's unclaimed mobile devices. Many women that Harbor House serves have little more than the clothes they wear. Phone donations offer these ladies and their children a lifeline for emergent situations. Harbor House receives donations of mobiles from Universal Studios Orlando and, starting in December of 2012, Sea World, as well. Disney parks donate phones to Goodwill, Coalition for the Homeless, Salvation Army and other local Florida charities, according to Lowery.
Cameras Contribute to Charity, Too
Mobiles aren't the only electronic devices that are being put to good use, however. Unclaimed point-and-shoot, digital and video cameras from Disney World get sent to HOPE Helps, an organization that operates a food pantry and thrift store to help prevent hunger and homelessness. Joan Faulkner, HOPE Helps' executive director, said she was blown away by how many high-end cameras the theme park had to offer on their first drop-off. Not only would these cameras help countless families in need, but there were so many lost and never reclaimed that Faulkner and fellow workers felt a sense of sadness for the previous camera owners.
HOPE Helps sold the cameras for around $45 each, posting a picture of the Canon, Olympus, Nikon and Sony cameras on Facebook before they were placed on the thrift store shelves. Faulkner reports that sales that week were among the highest of any in the year.
So, if you should lose a mobile phone or camera during an Orlando vacation, consider that it may be working to help a family in need; it may take the sting out of paying for a new device.
by Jaye Ryan, a freelance author who enjoys writing about both mobile technology and good deeds.