Families given toys for Christmas

Published 9:55 am Friday, December 10, 2010

Shenna Lewis picks out toys during a giveaway hosted by the Trooper Hill Toy Drive and Salvation Army in Franklin on Tuesday and Wednesday.

FRANKLIN—Raised with 13 siblings, Donna Sauerbier thanks the Salvation Army for her childhood Christmases.

So helping Shenna Lewis provide toys and more for her four children was quite rewarding for Sauerbier, who oversees the Salvation Army in Franklin.

“It makes me feel good,” she said. “At least, she can pay the light bill or the rent. If we weren’t here, who would be. I know the feeling of not having money to buy your kids something.”

For a second year, the Salvation Army teamed up with the Trooper Hill Toy Drive to give thousands of toys to children from 266 needy Western Tidewater families. Toys were distributed Tuesday and Wednesday from the Franklin Sportsman’s Association building; the association donated the use of its facility on South Street.

For Lewis, it was a blessing.

“I guess it’s less that I got to buy,” said the Franklin mother, who relies on child support to take care of her 8-year-old and 10-month-old daughters and 3- and 5-year-old sons. “I’m mostly getting stuff they need.”

The Trooper Hill Toy Drive was initiated in memory of Virginia State Police Trooper Robert Hill Sr., who was killed the day after Thanksgiving in 2006 while conducting a traffic stop on Route 58 in southwest Southampton County.

A trooper for 19 years, Hill was known for his compassion and generosity, and spearheading a program of Christmas donations to children in Southampton’s Head Start program.

“Before he died, he would give out toys at Christmas,” said Kim Rideout, a volunteer with the Trooper Hill Toy Drive.

People donated the new toys, leaving them in boxes at the schools, grocery stores and other places. They also donated money to the Trooper Hill Toy Drive, which was used to buy hats, gloves, coats, underwear, shampoo, deodorant and other hygiene products, Rideout said.

Applications for recipients were taken in October. When volunteers opened the doors to the Sportsman’s Association building, there were about 25 people waiting outside. The stream of people continued throughout the day.