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Thumbs Up! - Jan. 30, 2012

Each year the Georgia Municipal Association recognizes the top local governments that are striving in innovative ways to work with their citizens. Last week, the Albany-Dougherty 3-1-1 Center was honored by being named a "Trendsetter" for 2012. Residents of both the city and county can use the 3-1-1 Center to report anything from a burned-out street light to a pot hole to an overflowing drainage ditch. And, during regular business hours, callers are actually connected with a live (and local) person. Any other time, a report to the call center can be sent by way of the Internet. A report is taken, a work order sent to the proper city or county department and, within a specified time, the issue is handled. Give 3-1-1 a try for your next non-emergency need -- it really works.

The fifth annual "Bearable Hugs for Georgia's Children" has kicked off. Teddy bears and other stuffed animals can be dropped off at any Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) location throughout the state. The DCSS and the Fatherhood Project are collecting the comfort toys to be distributed to children receiving care in pediatric facilities, women's shelters, law enforcement agencies and other organizations. Since the program began in 2008, more than 26,000 stuffed animals have been handed to children in distress. Whether from an illness, domestic upheaval or some other cause, the idea is simply to give a child something to hold on to, call his or her own and, hopefully, bring a smile to little faces.

Sixth-graders across Georgia are invited to become city leaders in the "If I Were Mayor, I Would ..." essay contest. Materials for the contest -- brochures and posters -- were mailed out to schools and city halls at the end of December. The deadline for entries is March 2. The contest is open to all sixth-graders, including home-schooled students and private school students. According to contest rules, every essay must begin with the sentence, "If I were mayor, I would ..." and essays may not be longer than 350 words. Entries may be typed or handwritten but must be legible and have the student's name and school on them. One winner will be chosen from each of the Georgia Municipal Association's 12 districts. Each winner will receive a $250 savings bond and other small prizes. Winners will be notified by the end of March, and will be invited, along with their teachers, parents and mayors, to a luncheon in Atlanta in April. Ask about the contest at your child's school or go online to http://www.gmanet.com.

Congratulations to Albany Tech nominees, 13 of them, for the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership. Of that number, four have been named as finalists -- Kayla Robinson, Reginald Sweet, Ivey Norton and Rolanda Bailey. The winner will be announced Tuesday at a banquet for all the nominees in the Kirkland Conference Center on campus. No matter which of the quartet is selected to compete at the state GOAL level, each one of the nominees can be proud of his or her personal accomplishment.

The idea of giving to others is difficult for a lot of children, especially if it means not receiving. Not so with recently turned six-year-old Travis Hughes of Worth County. Instead of toys for himself, the perfectly acceptable gift at his age, young Travis asked that donations of dog food be made to the Best Friends Humane Society. The birthday boy and his friends visited the shelter to deliver the bags of food (and play with the animals). Thank you and happy birthday from your four-legged friends.

-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board