ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) — Johnia Berry loved Christmas and helping children.

After their 21-year-old daughter’s murder in 2004, Johnia’s parents, Joan and Mike Berry, set out to share her love for Christmas and spreading joy to children in need.

2021 marks Food City’s 17th year hosting the toy drive in an effort to continue Johnia’s legacy of lending a helping hand to those in her community.

“Johnia was extrememly passionate about helping children, and Food City is proud to be part of the annual Johnia Berry Toy Drive, which donates thousands of toys to needy children in our area each year,” said Steven C. Smith, Food City President and CEO.

She was very happy. She was very ambitious, and she loved life…had the biggest smile and would light up the room when she came in.

Joan Berry, Johnia’s mother, WATE

Johnia’s Toy Drive, sponsored by WJHL, will launch on Nov. 6 and last through Dec. 3 to give community members the opportunity to spread Christmas cheer — all while putting a smile on thousands of children’s faces.

Community members can drop off toys and gifts in marked collection bins available at Food City locations throughout the region.

The Berry Family selected multiple local agencies to receive and distribute the holiday goodies, including the following:

  • Tri-State Children’s Home
  • Highlands Community Services – IDD Department
  • Safe Passage Women’s Shelter
  • Community Help Center of Northeast Tennessee
  • Cumberland Mountain Community Services of Cedar Bluff, Virginia
  • HOPE Center of Greeneville
  • Local schools across Virginia and Tennessee

The gifts will be distributed on Dec. 6, 2021, the 17th anniversary of Johnia’s murder in her West Knoxville apartment. She had wrapped Christmas gifts for children in need only a day before.

The graduate student at the University of Tennessee had moved from the Tri-Cities after graduating from East Tennessee State University.

She had been living in West Knoxville only six weeks before being brutally stabbed to death in her apartment.

Her parents continue to fight for justice system reform in regard to DNA collection on felony arrests.