A.J. Toops began his crusade to help other people at the age of ten. He heard a teacher at school talking about collecting blankets at her church for homeless people and asked if he had to be in a group, or church to do that. He was told that he didn’t and off he went with a wagon going to the neighbors asking for coats because he thought the homeless people were cold and needed coats. He sent out e-mails and made fliers and in two weeks had 125 coats. The coats were donated to the Phoenix Rescue Mission and they were glad to have the coats.
The following year he asked some of the neighboring kids to help and before long he had eight other kids collecting clothing and coats. This time they had 50 bags of assorted clothing. People from California even shipped boxes to A.J. because they were so happy to help him. Then it started to snowball, other people seeing AJ help, started to help, the teachers at his school served a meal at the Phoenix Rescue Mission for Christmas, other family members became donators to the Mission. AJ worked a radio tell-a-thon for the Phoenix Rescue Mission on a local radio station.
When the clothing drives first started it was once a year, in the fall, when the weather got colder, no people bring donations to our house, or ask at school, and it has turned into a year round long clothing drive. Each year AJ would add something or change something, once he collected stuffed animals for the kids at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. He had 95 stuffed toys to donate. He made toiletry bags with toothbrushes, soap, and other personal hygiene needs for the homeless also. Each year more and more people help. When AJ started high school at Brophy College Prep, he asked the football team to help and they did! He requested that the football team bring water bottles and they collected over 30 cases of water at one game! The hot summer months are very dangerous in Phoenix for the homeless and hydration is important. They also donated socks and underwear, sunscreen, and hats. The motto at AJ’s school is “Men for Others”, and he truly is that!! At the age of 16 he does more for the local community than any young person. In the past six years, AJ has helped hundreds of people and donated thousands of items of clothing to help those in need.