Johnia Berry project helps families of victims

Betsi JamesOur Town Eats, West Knoxville

Michael Berry, who works at Food City No. 694 on Morrell Road, is that store’s representative in the 2021 Claude P. Varney Volunteer Recognition Program. He volunteers in a program to collect toys in memory of his daughter.

Johnia Berry, 21, daughter of Michael and Joan Berry, was murdered in her apartment in December 2004. Officers investigated almost three years before arresting Taylor Lee Olson, 22, for the crime. He later killed himself while awaiting trial.

Johnia had graduated from East Tennessee State University and moved to Knoxville to attend graduate school at UT. She was studying to be a child psychologist.

Friends from ETSU, along with Food City and Radio Station WJHL in Johnson City, collect toys in the Tri-Cities area to donate through schools to families who are victims of murder. It’s a way, Michael Berry said, “to offer hope.”

His job is “to provide whatever help possible to support the families of murder victims.”

Each year Food City recognizes outstanding volunteerism among its associates through the Claude P. Varney Volunteer Recognition Program. Food City president and CEO Steven Smith created the program after attending a June 2002 White House meeting. He named it for Mr. Varney, a former president and board vice chair of Food City.

“Many of our associates volunteer their time and talents to numerous service organizations throughout the areas in which we operate, and we feel it’s needful to recognize the valuable services and support they provide,” said Smith.

Committees review associates’ volunteer activities and select store winners who compete within their district.

Twelve district winners are recognized with an award and a $250 contribution to their choice charity. Two divisional winners are then chosen and honored with a plaque and a $750 charity contribution. And finally, one overall winner is selected to receive the Claude P. Varney Humanitarian Award and be publicly recognized for their outstanding achievements in addition to a $1,250 charity contribution made on their behalf.

It’s awesome to see the volunteer work contributed by Food City associates. We are proud of every one.

Sam Buck

His Food City family was saddened by the Jan. 26, 2022, passing of Sam Buck, 78. Sam was a lifelong Tennessee resident and a graduate of Oak Ridge High School.

Sam Buck

He served in the U. S. Army as a Green Beret, parachuter and medic. After his military service, Sam served his community as a grocery store manager for 50 years, most notably at the A&P and Food City.

His family said Sam loved a bargain. He is remembered for his quick wit, love for his family and as an avid sports fan, rooting for his Chicago Cubs and Tennessee Vols. A memorial service will be held at the family’s home on Saturday, April 2. Contact [email protected] for service information. The full obituary is here.

Jobs, jobs, jobs: Food City continues to hire for full- or part-time jobs, entry-level or skilled positions. Interested candidates can apply online at or visit any Food City store to complete an application.

Betsi James is special events manager for Food City’s Knoxville and Chattanooga divisions.

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