(WJHL) — Food City began hosting the Johnia Berry Toy Drive a year after its namesake and ETSU graduate 21-year-old Johnia Berry was murdered in her Knoxville apartment on a cold December morning in 2004.
The annual effort, sponsored by WJHL, will kick off Nov. 4 and run through Dec. 3 with one goal in mind: to spread smiles on children’s faces just as Johnia had enjoyed doing. To donate, Food City shoppers can drop off the toys in specially marked containers in the grocery store.
“Johnia was extremely passionate about helping children, and Food City is proud to be part of the annual Johnia Berry Toy Drive, which donated thousands of toys to needy children in our area each year,” said Food City President and CEO Steve Smith in a news release on Tuesday.
The Berry family selected multiple local agencies to receive the goodies in Johnia’s memory, including 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, HOPE Center of Greeneville and local schools in Virginia and Tennessee.
Pharoah’s Car Club of Northeast Tennessee volunteered to distribute the toys on Dec. 6 — the 19th anniversary of Johnia’s death.
Johnia had moved to Knoxville as a graduate student at the University of Tennessee. She was an ETSU and Sigma Kappa alumna who loved to help children in need. Witness statements to the police claimed that she had been wrapping Christmas gifts for children the night before her murder.