They're more than just a hairy face

Posted at 7:00 AM, Jan 31, 2016

PEEBLES, Ohio -- Members of theSouthern Ohio Beard Society are growing their whiskers and growing in numbers.

Formed in October, the society is a group of men who want to help those in need. Their earliest efforts have focused on children, but their sights are set on outreach for everyone from veterans to cancer patients.

“We want to try to bring that unity and that community purpose as much as we can,” said society President Josh Tolle.

The group started out with four members as the result of some lighthearted banter between Tolle and his friends. When Tolle put a beard and crossbones sticker on his truck, his bearded comrades joked they should do the same to help recognize one another on the highway.

The conversation quickly turned serious as they discussed their desires to better their community. 

“We wanted to be kind of the outreach that – I guess that nobody expects you to be because we’re all bearded, tattooed guys,” Tolle said.

While their appearances may to some seem incongruous with outreach, beards seemed like a natural source of unity for the group, said Tolle, who at 29 has been growing his beard since high school.

“Beards are the in thing now, so we thought there’s no better way to bring people together,” he said.

Santa’s Not the Only Bearded Giver

For the group’s first project, they decided to give toys to children in need for Christmas.

“We just wanted to step up to do something for them,” said Ricky Lamb, vice president of the beard society.

They set aside portions of each of their paychecks, expecting to buy gifts for about 10 kids. In the end, they wound up supplying gifts to 42 children.

The group has since grown, and so have their efforts. Now with 10 members – most of whom hail from Adams County – they’ve created merchandise to help fund their outreach. Hats, sweatshirts, T-shirts and stickers can be ordered through the group’s Facebook page, and an official website is expected to be up in February.

“Everything that we sell, we put back into current or future events,” Tolle said.

Beard society members recently raised $300 selling merchandise at a basketball game to help the family of a 3-year-old diagnosed with leukemia.

The group also plans to send care packages to deployed troops and will be participating in a walk to benefit Alzheimer’s patients.

Members Have Many Talents

While beards are a commonality among the men, society members each bring to the group unique skills and passions. Members include a pediatrician, a local author, college teachers and construction workers.

“We have all these avenues that we may not have been able to travel down alone, but… one of us will be able to help them one way or another,” Tolle said.

For Lamb, a driven personality contributes to making sure the group meets their goals to help those in need.

“I’m outspoken,” he said. “I’m blunt at times. But you know, I’m driven, I guess, in stuff that I do. When I see something that needs to be done, I get it done. I do whatever I can to get it done.”

The mindset seems to be contagious. Not only has the group grown – members are seeing more community members stepping up to give back.

“Ever since we started the group, it seems to be a chain reaction,” Lamb said.