By Michael Turnbell
Steve Bryant loved kids. That love and his passion for serving others soon will bless thousands of children in the Caribbean and Latin America.
A longtime employee of Gleaning For The World, a Food For The Poor partner, Steve was especially fond of the organization’s Teddy Bear Brigade that collects stuffed animals year-round for children in need.
Steve was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident earlier this year. His family asked for donations in his memory to Gleaning For The World, which in turn wanted to honor his commitment to the organization as well as his love for kids.
On Tuesday, members of Steve’s family gathered at Gleaning’s Concord, Va., warehouse to help load a special shipment of stuffed animals and toys in his memory to be delivered to FFTP. The 53-foot trailer arrived Thursday at the charity’s Coconut Creek warehouse.
Each year, Gleaning For The World’s Teddy Bear Brigade accepts new and gently used stuffed animals that are packed by volunteers and delivered to partners like FFTP, which give them to children whose lives have been upended after a natural disaster and to children living in extreme poverty.
In addition to the thousands of stuffed animals that were collected for FFTP, everything from basketballs, soccer balls, dolls, puzzles, sidewalk chalk, coloring books and educational toys were loaded into the trailer.
FFTP plans to deliver the toys to children in the charity’s Angels Of Hope homes in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Mark O’Brien, warehouse manager at Gleaning For The World, worked with Steve for 18 years. Steve, a warehouse logistics specialist, drove trucks for the nonprofit during his 19-year career with Gleaning For The World, delivering toys to children in need. Over the years, Mark estimates Steve was directly involved with 3,200 containers or tractor-trailer loads of goods.
In 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the country, Steve helped with distribution of food and toys at local schools.
“Steve had a big heart. You could see the smile on his face. He loved playing Santa Claus with those kids,” Mark recalled of his co-worker and friend, a father and grandfather who loved family gatherings and attending his children and grandchildren’s ball games.
“I know he would have the joy of knowing that these toys would be going into hands of kids who may not have anything or get anything, and that he took part in that,” Mark said.
Steve also was an avid Chicago Cubs fan. Mark said he wanted to include something from Steve’s favorite team in the assortment of toys.
By chance, Mark was in a consignment shop to pick up clothing when he saw a Cubs action figure. He knew he had to buy it. The owner of the shop, moved by the story of how Gleaning For The World wanted to honor Steve, donated it to the toy drive.
Over his 19 years with Gleaning For The World, Mark said Steve took several mission trips to Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.
“He got to see the conditions in which a lot of the kids live in,” Mark said. “Those are impactful moments that stay with your heart. Steve lived that every day.”