- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas landed on the doorsteps of hundreds of Southeast children living in the Barry Farms housing complex yesterday when two separate Toys for Tots campaigns arrived with truckloads of donated gifts.

Santa, along with about 30 volunteers from the Springfield-based Interstate Van Lines and the D.C. fire department, distributed the toys door to door to about 400 children in 102 families, said Bud Morrissette, the company’s executive vice president.

The company is owned by the Morrissette family, which adopted Barry Farms about 10 years ago because of its strong ties to Southeast. Family members were raised in the community, considered the most impoverished and underserved part of the District, and the company opened its first office there in 1943.

“We grew up over here [and] we all have to take care of each other,” said Mr. Morrissette, 45. “Quite frankly, with some of these families today, this is the only thing they’ll get. They have no other means. So this is truly Santa Claus.”

Tears rolled down the cheeks of Nicole Browner, 34, as she watched her daughters, Ahmani, 5, and Jeniaia, 2, hide and smile as Santa came to their door.

“It’s beautiful because I’m a single parent,” said Miss Browner, a bus attendant for D.C. public schools who moved to Barry Farms in July.

“I’m so thankful me and my kids can share this,” she said as her sons, Khalil, 8, and Paul, 14, stood beside her. A large bundle of donated toys lay by her feet. “I feel ecstatic. Words cannot explain.”

Down the road, the Marine Reserves and the Metropolitan Police Department stood on trucks and distributed about 6,000 toys to hundreds of families who lined the street.

They were joined by Ward 8 Councilman and former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, for whom the complex was named.

“For some people, these are the only toys they ever get for Christmas,” said Mr. Barry, who shook hands with residents and put his arm around several, guiding them to the front of the toy line. “It will hopefully make their life a little bit easier and nicer.”

James Tyre, 23, said he was grateful for the toys because he had few to give his 3-year-old son, Malik, and what money remained could now go toward Christmas dinner.

The gifts were all or nothing for Deborah Fletcher, a single parent who got a job just last week.

“I don’t get paid until next week,” said Miss Fletcher, 45, who received a basketball set and other toys for her 11-year-old son, Michael. “From me, he wouldn’t have gotten anything except my love [so] it’s a blessing. There’ll be something under the tree this year.”

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