We attempt to remain unbiased while reporting news about the free government cell phone program, but sometimes that’s just not possible. For example, we love naming names when we see Lifeline Assistance companies fail customers who desperately need their help. But this is NOT one of those cases. Just the opposite.
Blue Jay Wireless, a relatively small Lifeline Assistance company headquartered in Dallas, Texas, has come up with a unique slant on the entire free government cell phone business and we absolutely LOVE it.
This is a company that seems to be putting its money where its mouth is. As far as we know, Blue Jay is the only company whose mission statement recognizes the vast potential of its customers and brags about hiring them. So in effect, this small company is not just sucking up government subsidies, but giving back to the community by hiring those individuals who need jobs the most.
Blue Jay gathered a group of executives and handful of very special employees and put together a heartwarming video that explains its very successful Samaritan program. We felt the video was so powerful that we transcribed it for your reading pleasure.
Watch the video. Then go back and read the words of the people at Blue Jay. It may just make you love the company as much as we do.
The participants in the video are:
David Wareikis, CEO, Blue Jay Wireless
Melissa Slawson, General Counsel, Blue Jay Wireless
Stephen Loren, VP Operations Trainer, Blue Jay Wireless
Jaime Palmer, Consultant, Blue Jay Wireless
Lauren Moxley, VP Regulatory and Public Relations, Blue Jay Wireless
Greg Hofner, Representative & Agent, Blue Jay Wireless
Scott Prestwood, Regional Manager, Blue Jay Wireless
Pete Kraft, Chief Technology Officer, Blue Jay Wireless
Shannon Davis, Warehouse Manager, Blue Jay Wireless
Jeremy Davis, Warehouse Support Lead, Blue Jay Wireless
Announcer: In a competitive and diverse economy where opposing interests often compete for limited resources, it’s a tough job to make sure no one’s left behind. But that is just what Blue Jay Wireless has achieved through its conscientious implementation of the Lifeline program.
David Wareikis: The Lifeline program was created under the Reagan administration to help low-income Americans have basic phone service, because without that it’s tough to succeed in our fast-paced society. Families need to make a living. Employers need workers they can reach. So living without a phone in America is a bit like trying to breathe without air.
Announcer: It’s clear that giving the poorest among us access to a phone is the right thing to do. But it’s also good for the economy. When unemployed workers have the basic tools necessary to succeed they have a fighting chance to enter the workforce. The Lifeline program gives them a chance, but it only works if everyone plays fair.
Melissa Slawson: Blue Jay reps are paid an hourly wage with benefits and they don’t work on commission. If you take away that commission, you take away any incentive to lie on a Lifeline certification form. And that’s one way Blue Jay is helping to insure that they’re complying with the Lifeline rules.
Stephen Loren: In addition to that, every application that they submit comes to an audit team here in Dallas. That audit team reviews it for identification and for program eligibility and then submits an approval or denies it if something is awry.
Melissa Slawson: That second vetting process helps ensure that the customer is actually eligible for the Lifeline program and that we’re not enrolling someone who’s not. It’s better to be right on the front end than it is to make up for it on the back end.
Stephen Loren: So that two-step process coupled with their hourly wage, really helps ensure compliance across the board.
Jaime Palmer: Blue Jay’s committed to compliance because we’re a steward of the Lifeline program
Stephen Loren: Blue Jay does a great job of leading the industry in compliance. David brought in Lauren and Brandi from the USAC. He also brought in Melissa from the California PUC (Public Utility Commission). These are key players who understand the industry from the perspective of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and of the state PUCs. With those three alone we’ve been able to help our peers and industry move forward by putting rules and policies in place that make sure our compliance exceeds that of the FCC requirements.
Loren Moxley: When I decided to work in the private sector, I knew I wanted to work for the best company out there. Having done my homework, I really felt that Blue Jay was the best fit for me seeing as how they are the leader in the industry as far as compliance is concerned.
Announcer: Every company’s success is determined by the quality and commitment of the people working to fulfill its mission. And that’s why we at Blue Jay are so excited about our new Samaritan program.
Stephen Loren: Blue Jay Wireless has agents in the field like most other ETCs (Eligible Telecommunications Carriers). We at Blue Jay Wireless call our agents Samaritans. Our Samaritans are the face of the company who interact with customers who are seeking Lifeline service.
David Wareikis: Through our Samaritan program we work to hire locally through the communities. Oftentimes our Samaritans are military veterans or have overcome a disability or a unique life challenge or homeless situation. It could be a customer of the Lifeline program that graduates to actually have a job, a career path opportunity with Blue Jay.
Stephen Loren: What it’s really doing is showing the public who we are as a company. We see ourselves as here to serve.
David Wareikis: We have some absolutely great success stories of people who have overcome homelessness or unemployment.
Greg Hofner: In March, 2011 I received notice that I’d lost my job at Kodak after 33 years of employment with them as a process engineer. So I kind of felt like my whole world was just kind of falling apart. (Tears up, has difficulty speaking) I then was later diagnosed with State 4 prostate cancer, bills are piling up, so (chokes up) I had to be humble and sign up for food stamps and Medicaid because in my family you don’t do that because it’s a sign that you’re a failure, you know. So reluctantly, and I was very angry, I signed up ’cause then you start getting the papers that you’re going to have to start going into classes for orientation. I sat in on a class where Brian Steeg (?) came in and gave a presentation on Blue Jay Wireless. In 2013 I was asked to join Blue Jay Wireless and in the process of being a representative and an agent I do presentations before classes that come in for WorkForce [EDITOR’S NOTE: WorkForce is program that connects federal and private sector employers nationwide with highly motivated college students and recent graduates with disabilities who are eager to prove their abilities in the workplace through summer or permanent jobs.] or Employment First [EDITOR’S NOTE: Employment First is a framework for systems change that is centered on the premise that all citizens, including individuals with significant disabilities, are capable of full participation in integrated employment and community life.] When I look at the faces of the people in the crowd, most of the time I see sadness. They’re at where I was at. They’re discouraged. They don’t want to be there. Their goal is they want to get their papers signed and get out, quite frankly, because I’ve been there, I’ve done that. But as I’m speaking you’ll see their eyes perk up. There’s actually hope at the end of the tunnel. There’s light out there. And I don’t know what it is, but they just want to open up and talk. I’ve actually had a couple times where people are sitting down and telling me their story at the table and we both kind of break down and cry even before they get their phone. This is bigger than just handing out phones, you know, because you’re really tapping into people because it’s a lifeline for people who are sinking. When they’re down and out if I just, if I can come along side and be the friend to them and comfort them, when they walk away they have a least maybe a smile on their face versus what they had when they first sat down in front of me to receive a phone, I feel like I’ve done my job.
Pete Kraft: In today’s world, this is a tool. Could you imagine living without a cell phone? Could you imagine trying to get a job without having a cell phone?
Greg Hofner: It’s just a cell phone, but it’s not. It’s a lifeline.
Stephen Loren: We have some stores in Colorado and we have a great regional manager there. He’s done a fabulous job of working with the local organizations that work with those that are either homeless or unemployed. And a few of those folks, some former military veterans, now work for Blue Jay Wireless.
Scott Prestwood: There were periods during my military career that I witnessed things that had a profound effect on me. The culmination of these different experiences pretty much lead me to a period of isolation. Isolation to the point that I didn’t even like leaving the house. I didn’t l Ike interacting with other people. I withdrew. Employment with Blue Jay was really kind of the beginning of a big change in my life. Obviously, I had employment, but more important, I was finally out of the house. I was out working with people again and I was interacting. When I see the change that has happened when these people get the phone, their emotional response — grown men crying, there have been many God bless you’s, thank your company for the great service you do — it’s an overwhelmingly positive result for me. Knowing that I’m doing something to help somebody, to provide a service, a much-needed service in these people’s lives, really fills me with a sense of accomplishment. I guess I didn’t realize how confined I had been for so long and I truly was appreciative of the opportunity that I had to once again be a part of the world.
David Wareikis: Military veterans are old pros at working within a system that’s designed to meet the highest compliance standards. Veterans have an element of trust. They have a history of service to our country. And they are perfect individuals to help us achieve our mission.
Shannon Davis: One of the first workers that we hired here in the warehouse was staying at the Samaritan Inn homeless shelter. His name is Jeremy Davis and he came on as a temporary worker, but he worked so hard, he shined so bright, he was working like he was getting paid a million dollars a day. He came in early. He left late. And now he has worked his way to be the warehouse support lead, and, really, my right hand man.
Jeremy Davis: My responsibilities here at Blue Jay Wireless go from everything to getting SIM cards activated and uploaded to operating the forklift and getting other employees trained on different things.
Shannon Davis: Jeremy does a little bit of everything here, but he’s definitely responsible for activating our SIM cards, sending out our bulk shipments that go directly to the Samaritans out in the field. Pretty much everything we do touches Jeremy’s hands at some point.
Jeremy Davis: Every day I come to work knowing that I’m working for a company that offers service to a population that without it might not have that service offered to them. Having been in a situation where I’ve been jobless and homeless and in need of help, coming to work every day and knowing that I’m working for a company that’s directly involved in help is very fulfilling and makes coming to work that much more enjoyable.
Jaime Palmer: It’s easy to look at someone that fallen on hard times and make assumptions as to why they’re there. The reality is there’s a lot of stories.
Jeremy Davis: Without a phone you have people who wouldn’t be able to receive calls from people who are trying to offer them a job or maybe a doctor who has information for them regarding their health.
Jaime Palmer: Our Samaritan program tries to take into account that everyone should have an opportunity.
Lauren Moxley: You know, I think the great thing about Blue Jay and what makes Blue Jay special is that you have a group of individuals here who really want to do good and, you know, provide a service that’s so critical and means so much to people who are in need.
Announcer: Blue Jay team members genuinely care about the work we’re doing here. And that’s one reason we’re able to provide superior customer service to our clients. Like the sales staff, customer service representatives go through extensive training to ensure that they provide clients with accurate information and help Blue Jay remain in compliance with all regulations. And through extended hours and short hold times, clients have easy access to our customer service center.
Shannon Davis: We’re just so focused on customer experience. As soon as an application comes in we turn around and get that phone out within 24-to-48 hours. Usually same day.
David Wareikis: Many people find themselves at times during their life out of work, out of a job, no money. Ultimately, if you’re going to try and find a job and if you’re going to try to get in touch with some potential employer, you need a basic phone. You need a phone number to provide to that employer that’s not the homeless shelter or your cousin or your friend. It’s a basic need for today’s society.
Jaime Palmer: Compliance is important because we, at the end of the day at Blue Jay, are distributing a subsidized benefit. And as such, it ensures that the individuals who truly need the benefit get the benefit and no one else. At the end of the day, compliance really is what drives and ensures that the program survives. Without compliance there is no Lifeline.
Melissa Slawson: In working with Blue Jay I realized how important compliance is to them. And in the grander scheme of Lifeline companies, Blue Jay is really a shining example of what a Lifeline provider should be. They have a very dedicated commitment to meeting all the regulatory requirements and exceeding them.
Announcer: When the Lifeline program is properly implemented it not only changes lives, it gives a boost to our economy. Because it gives people who are a little down on their luck the basic tool they need to step back into the workforce. We at Blue Jay Wireless are proud to be part of a program that does so much good and we’re committed to getting the job done right.
As we said earlier, heartwarming. And very impressive. We wish all Lifeline Assistance companies would take this approach instead of simply screaming, “Free! Free! Free!”
There’s an old saying that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
That’s the difference between other companies giving away free government cell phones and Blue Jay giving their customers job.
Congratulations, Blue Jay Wireless. Well done.