T.O.Y.S. group plans a unique school supplies giveaway today

ALBANY, Ga. -- Starting at 1 p.m. today, Albany State University student volunteers will show up at several locations throughout Albany, dispatched to hand out school supplies, T-shirts, socks and other items to children ages 5-12.

At some of the locations, food will be provided, and at others bouncy houses will be set up for the kids to burn off energy. Some locations will even provide free haircuts and another will offer free manicures and pedicures for girls.

The group behind the giveaway is T.O.Y.S. -- Teaching Our Youth Success -- a band of some 13 or so individuals who decided to pool their money and efforts to benefit school-age children in the community.

Parents who might want to personally shower T.O.Y.S. members with words of praise and appreciation will have to be content to ask the Albany State volunteers to pass their thanks along. The actual members of the organization will not be on hand for the event.

"We're not doing this for recognition," one of the T.O.Y.S. organizers said during a recent meeting of the group. "For us, this is like Robin Hood. We're going to give back to this community simply because it's the right thing to do. We're not looking for publicity; we will remain anonymous."

Today's T.O.Y.S. distribution is just the first of what the group plans to be monthly events. Kids from throughout the community are welcome to come by Best Dress in the Junebug Plaza, Bliss Nails on Nottingham Way, River Road Church of Christ, Athlete's Foot on Dawson Road and Gordon Park in southwest Albany between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to pick up school supplies, T-shirts and socks, get their hair cut, enjoy a mani-pedi or snack on some of the food provided at certain locations.

"Really, we want these things to go to the less fortunate, to the kids who really need them," a T.O.Y.S. member said. "But we're not going to turn any kid away."

Teaching Our Youth Success was organized when a group of Albany friends, most from the region but a couple from the Atlanta area and another from Miami, decided to maximize their humanitarian efforts by joining forces.

"We were all doing the same kinds of things," one said. "We figured we could do more if we unified."

The loosely organized group unanimously decided to keep the focus on its cause and thus chose not to publicize its works, other than to announce the locations of the giveaways. There are no titles among group members, no official group spokesperson, no organizational chart to worry with.

Just a collection of community-minded individuals who've decided to make a difference. And do it anonymously.

"We got some support from the Hilton Garden Inn, Olive Garden and other places in the community, but we pretty much all just reached into our own pockets to provide the stuff we're handing out," a group member said. "We hope to get a website up soon so that anyone who's interested in contributing can contact us. But we're not going to go out and actively solicit donations. This is just something we all want to do."

The members of T.O.Y.S. have already started planning their next community events, but their long-range plans reach beyond such activities.

"We've only been together a couple of weeks, and we're working on a three-year plan right now," a group member said. "We're hoping to have an event like the one Saturday every month through the end of the year. But we think the potential to help this community is unlimited. We've just started talking about it, but the idea of creating a charter school has been discussed.

"As we get deeper into our plan, we're not going to be afraid to dream big."