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T.O.Y.S. group offers righteous giving

Opinion Column

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

When it’s giving and no taking, I will be by your side.

— The Black Crowes

This week, dozens and dozens of youngsters in Dougherty County returned to school wearing new socks and T-shirts and carrying new bookbags filled with pens, crayons, pencils, paper and notebooks, all of which they picked up free of charge Saturday at various locations around Albany.

Back-to-school giveaways have become an annual rite of the season, as local churches, nonprofits and civic organizations reach out to underpivileged kids in the community. These groups wave their banners proudly as they dole out school necessities in an effort to help kids start the year on as equal a footing as possible.

It was Albany State University students and other volunteers who handed out the supplies Saturday in Albany. The college students had been recruited to bring a little joy into area kids’ lives by a group that not only didn’t call attention to themselves for the donations, they chose to make them anonymously.

They’re calling themselves T.O.Y.S. — Teaching Our Youth Success — this band of friends who collectively decided to enhance their individual humanitarian efforts by joining forces and combining resources. As they turned their focus on ways to make life better for school-aged kids in the community, they came to a consensus agreement: All of their work would be done with zero fanfare.

No group titles. No self-congratulatory proclamations. No appeals for public support. No affiliations, demographics or limitations.

Just doing good for the betterment of the community ... for the sake of doing good.

“At some point, we’ll set up a website so that if people decide they want to help with the cost of some of our events, they can,” one T.O.Y.S. member said. “But we’re not out asking people for money. We went into our own pockets to buy the school supplies that we gave away, and that’s the way we plan to continue to operate.

“We don’t intend to be at the events, because we want to remain anonymous. We’ll let people in the community know that we’re having an event — and we’re planning at least one a month through the end of the year — and we’ll get volunteers to handle distribution. We’re going into this with no plans to limit ourselves. We’re working on a three-year plan right now, and we’ve actually talked about creating a charter school at some point. Sure, that’s down the road, but we’re not afraid to dream big.”

Such selfless acts tend to bring out the cynic in people, and there have already been a few “What’s the catch?” queries surrounding the Saturday T.O.Y.S. giveaway. For such doubters, something to ponder: When members of T.O.Y.S. met with me to tell me about their plan, they insisted on a couple of conditions: No photographs that might identify members and no names.

“We’re not looking for praise; we’re not out for pats on the back,” a member said. “Giving back to this community is, for us, its own reward.”

For all their faults, Americans are generally a generous lot. There’s no shortage of people willing to lend a helping hand. But human nature being human nature, most people or groups who make sacrifices for the good of others want at least for their sacrifice to be acknowledged. Often, such acknowledgement is the highest form of vindication.

To find a like-minded group of citizens willing to reach out to the less fortunate in their community with no expectation of reciprocal reward is indeed rare. And, in an age when we see more and more groups with their hands out while seeking 15 minutes of fame they feel is due them, it’s rarer still to come across such selflessness. It’s enough, in fact, to revive belief in an American spirit that most of us thought had long been dead and buried.

Email Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.