Helping to fill stockings with care

Published 8:56 am Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Branigan Ruffin of Franklin looks over Christmas gifts for her four children as volunteer Robert Hill assists during the seventh annual Trooper Hill Toy Drive giveaway on Tuesday. The event is held in memory of Hill’s father, Virginia State Police Trooper Robert Hill Sr., who was killed the day after Thanksgiving in 2006. -- GWEN ALBERS/TIDEWATER NEWS

FRANKLIN—Out of work for a year and living with her sister, Stephany Wood hesitated about accepting charity so her three daughters could have Christmas this year.

“This is my first time (doing this),” the 30-year-old said Tuesday while waiting outside the Franklin Sportsman’s Association for the seventh annual Trooper Hill Toy Drive giveaway.

“I’m not working right now and need the help,” Wood said.

For a fourth year, the Salvation Army teamed up with the effort to give thousands of toys to nearly 500 children in Franklin and Southampton County, said toy drive founder Michelle Buchanan. The distribution will continue today, Dec. 12.

Other sponsors were Franklin Cops for Kids, Fraternal Order of Police, Walmart, Dillon Supply and the Sportsman’s Association.

Individuals and organizations donated toys and money at various locations. During the first-time “Stuff the Police Car” event on Saturday at Dillon Supply, six cops cars were filled with items, Buchanan said.

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.

Raising four children on one income doesn’t provide for extras for Branigan and Dajuan Ruffin. The toy giveaway will help the Franklin couple with Christmas, whose children range from 4 to 9 years old.

“It will help with the little stuff that I can’t get,” Branigan Ruffin said.

The 29-year-old has been out of work since breaking her foot. Her husband is a maintenance assistant for the Franklin Housing Authority.

Ambre Ruffin, who is Branigan Ruffin’s sister-in-law, welcomed the toy giveaway. On maternity leave from QVC in Suffolk, the 25-year-old Franklin woman had a baby girl one week ago and has a 3-year-old son.

“This will help a lot,” Ambre Ruffin said.

As for Wood, her 9- and 10-year-old daughters want only one thing for Christmas — Barbies.