UnitedHealthcare brings solar cell phone charging station to Appleton

Published: Apr. 2, 2021 at 4:44 PM CDT
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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - When visiting Appleton’s Public Library, people may notice a new solar charging station out front. It’s one of three UnitedHealthcare has installed statewide .

The station is something Renee Ladewig-Lathrop and another UnitedHealthcare employee came up with after noticing a particular problem.

“As we all know, we have that serious panic when our cell phone battery is about to die. And for most of us, it’s really not an issue,” said Ladewig-Lathrop. “But if you’re homeless or you’re housing insecure that can really be a problem.”

Ladewig-Lathrop, who is the Social Determinants of Health Program Manager, noticed in the pandemic those populations lost access to the places where they’d typically charge their phones - like the library, cafes, and so on.

“We know that our phones are our lifelines,” said Ladewig-Lathrop. “So if you don’t have a phone you can’t make doctor’s appointments, you can’t get your transportation through your Medicaid, you can’t call your case manager. So it’s a huge issue.”

So they brainstormed and searched, discovering the solar-powered charging stations. UnitedHealthcare purchasing the station from a company called goCharge in Chicago.

“Each of the stations have ten lockers. So, you open it up and they each have different cords that should fit almost all phones. It also has a UV cleaning light inside,” said Ladewig-Lathrop.

Other lights flash while a phone is charging and will turn completely green when it’s fully charged. She says it’ll take about an hour for a dead phone to get fully charged.

People can lock their phones in by selecting a four-digit code of their choice, turning a knob to set the code and lock the phone inside. Though people need to scramble up the numbers around before leaving to truly ensure the phone is secure.

The Appleton location is one of three solar charging stations UnitedHealthcare installed in the state, with Appleton native Ladewig-Lathrop making sure one found a home in the Fox Valley. She says with the Appleton Public Library being a gathering place for the public already, plus having the Valley Transit station located nearby, it’s a great location for the charging station.

“My hope is that we can get them in more locations across the state but then also across the country,” said Ladewig-Lathrop.

Even if the pilot program doesn’t expand, the one in Appleton is set to stay.

“As long as people are taking care of it, it should be here for the long haul,” said Ladewig-Lathrop.

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