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Thumbs Up! - Dec. 23, 2013

ALBANY HERALD EDITORIAL: Highlights of good things going on in and around metro Albany

When Ryan Adams of Bainbridge was 8 years old, he decided to hold a hot chocolate sale as a way to earn some extra money for Christmas. At that young age, the $150 raised no doubt seemed quite a bankroll. Then Ryan heard about a local resident losing her home to a fire and gave it all away. The youngster held a second hot chocolate sale the next year and a tradition of giving was established. Last year, at the ripe old age of 13, Ryan raised $2,500, enough money to help 16 or so families in his community, as well as the donation of 12 electronic space heaters to elderly residents. At the time of this writing, it is not known how much money was raised Friday at the 2013 sale, but Ryan and his cousin Jewel Anvar, as well as many of his high school wrestling teammates, know exactly where the money will go. Half of the proceeds will assist Secret Santa with new toys and the other half will go to families in and around Decatur County that, for whatever reason, are not doing so well this holiday season.

H.E.A.R.T. (Hands Extended Across Reaching Together) CEO Anne Johnson Milledge saw something back in 2009 that made her own heart ache. A young student, right here in Dougherty County, was holding his sneakers together with a trash bag. It was that awful sight that led to Shoes from the HEART, a campaign to provide the neediest students with a good pair of athletic shoes. Last week, 400 pairs of sneakers were given out to children at Northside, Jackson Heights, Alice Coachman and Turner elementary schools. Administrators from the schools select the children and, unfortunately, there are more students in need. A donor has stepped up to help acquire another 100 pairs of shoes, which will be distributed in January. Since its start, Shoes from the HEART has distributed more than 2,300 pairs of quality sneakers to Dougherty County students in grades K-5. H.E.A.R.T. members also participate with the schools throughout the year in a long list of ways.

A parishioner at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church started a memorial fund for pets. A number of years went by, with donations adding up to “a good sum of money,” and it seemed time to do something animal-related with the dollars. Meanwhile, Lee County resident and war veteran Larry Barfield was suffering with severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and was rarely leaving his house. Back at St.Paul’s, a group heard about the K9s for Warriors organization and decided to make a real difference in Barfield’s life. In addition to funds on hand, Barney’s Run for Warriors was organized and turned out to be a great success. All that remained to do was find a dog. Animal shelter resident Camo, due to be euthanized in just one day, was saved from that fate. The pair spent three weeks together at a Florida training facility and life has greatly improved for both. A second run is planned for January at MCLB-Albany so that Shadow, yet another shelter dog, and another veteran can team up.

Officially, the Toys for Tots drive was over and distribution completed. But, and there always is one, Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Director Leland Burkart, businesswoman and city commissioner-elect B.J. Fletcher and Frank Wilson of the Albany Civil Rights Institute were not quite finished with their Christmas chores. An impromptu toy drive was held last Tuesday at the Hilton Garden Inn, where folks could drive up, drop off toys and get a free cup of coffee. The items collected will go to those who are in real need. Residents responded well to the short notice and many, many toys are on their way to make a children’s eyes light up on Christmas morning. Poking a bit of fun at Fletcher’s newly-coined word, Wilson said, “I guess this proves there’s a lot of ‘spiritedness’ in Albany.” That it does. Here’s wishing everyone, those that give and those that receive, a very Merry Christmas!

— The Albany Herald Editorial Board