Families benefit from toy drive

Published 10:44 am Thursday, December 15, 2011

Boykins sisters Amanda Piland and Mary Bryd look over items during the Trooper Hill Toy Drive at the Franklin Sportsman's Association on Wednesday for their combined six children. -- Gwen Albers | Tidewater News

FRANKLIN—A load of stress was taken off Mary Byrd’s mind on Wednesday.

Unsure how she and her husband, Donald, who has been out of work for 2½ years, would have Christmas for their four children, volunteers with the sixth annual Trooper Hill Toy Drive made it happen.

“We got a lot,” Mary Byrd said. “They are going to have a wonderful Christmas.”

For a third year, the Salvation Army teamed up with the Trooper Hill Toy Drive to give thousands of toys to nearly 500 children in Franklin and Southampton County, said toy drive founder and coordinator Michelle Buchanan. Toys were distributed Tuesday and Wednesday from the Franklin Sportsman’s Association building on South Street. Other sponsors were Franklin Cops for Kids, Fraternal Order of Police and Walmart.

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.

Fewer children are benefiting from this year’s toy drive not, however, because of a lack of donations.

“There are a lot more people, churches and foundations sponsoring (similar programs),” Buchanan said. “Last year, we did over 600 (children).”

Families receive toys by signing up with social service departments in Franklin and Southampton County.

“Southampton Social Services does an in-house toy drive and are helping 150 (children),” she said.

Erica Murphy found toys, bottles, socks and clothes for her 10-month-old daughter at the Trooper Hill Toy Dive.

“It think it’s a great idea, what they do,” said the 21-year-old Franklin mother of one who works as a part-time private care assistant for Nanny’s Home Health Care.

Her sister, Bontae Murphy, was also finding plenty for her 3-year and 5-month-old boys. The 23-year-old Southampton County woman was so thrilled to find a Buzz Lightyear, the character from the movie series Toy Story.

“He loves Buzz Lightyear,” she said about her older son. “That’s all he plays with from the time he gets off the bus until he goes to bed, it’s Buzz, Buzz Buzz. I didn’t expect to find one.”

As for the Byrds, the couple finds it tough to get by. Two of their children are disabled and on Social Security Income. Donald Byrd has a line on a job, but not in time for the holiday.

“(The toy drive) is actually helping us,” he said. “We have a $300 van payment and pay $675 for rent.”

“It’s very tough,” added Mary Byrd. “We struggle to pay the bills and trying to maintain the vehicle. We were very stressed until the applications came out for assistance. I pray to God every day.”