JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Santa’s workshop came to life this week as volunteers begin sorting the toys collected from the 15th annual Johnia Berry Toy Drive.
After a month of collecting toys for the drive, volunteers began sorting the toys Wednesday night, resulting in a mountain of stuffed animals, dolls, games, puzzles and action figures.
Joan Berry, the drive’s organizer, said the toys will be hauled off to their destinations on Friday evening.
“We have lots of toys and lots of work to do today which is a blessing,” Berry said Thursday morning. “I think it’s going to bring a lot of joy to some children on Christmas morning, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Friday also marks the 15th anniversary of Johnia Berry’s murder. Johnia was 21 years old when she was murdered in her apartment.
She loved children, so her mother, who has organized the toy drive in her daughter’s memory, said it’s a way for her to feel close to her daughter.
“I think it helps keep her in my presence without dwelling on the past,” she said.
Volunteers scattered across the previously-vacant workspace adjacent to Food City, 2120 S. Roan St., to separate the toys into designated piles. As volunteers worked to sort, more donations kept pouring in.
For the past month, more than 20 Food City locations have collected toys for the drive. TVA Credit Union also contributes donated toys.
In 2018, the drive donated 3,000 toys to children in the region. Berry said she believes donations are up from last year.
“I’m thankful for everyone – the community has been so, they’ve been so giving, and without their donations, we wouldn’t be able to do this so I’m just overwhelmed and thankful to everyone,” she said.
Organizations will be picking up the toys at 6 p.m. on Friday at the Food City on South Roan Street in Johnson City.