With baby on way after father's death, donors step up

A tree bearing gifts for Britton's daughter, due any day. "It's amazing how generous everyone has been," the baby's mother said.
A tree bearing gifts for Britton's daughter, due any day. "It's amazing how generous everyone has been," the baby's mother said.
Posted: January 02, 2014

COLLINGSWOOD Toni Meriweather sat beside a pile of donated diapers, toys, and baby books Tuesday, rubbing her very pregnant belly and holding back tears from behind a shy smile.

"I try not to think about what I'm going to tell her, because it's hard, because I really don't know what to say."

Meriweather, 19, was due New Year's Day, less than four months since Carlington "Cally" Britton, the father of her unborn daughter, was struck by a bullet that wasn't meant for him while playing cards with a friend in Camden in broad daylight.

She plans on naming the baby Callie, though she had not arrived by early Wednesday evening.

Britton was 20, a graduate of Pennsauken High School, and a loved son, brother, and coworker at Collingswood Manor, where he was a certified nurse's aide. He got the job through older brother Khaleo, who had worked there for about five years.

Every year, Collingswood Manor raises money for a charity, decorating its Christmas trees based on the cause and collecting items to donate. This year, the trees were decked with wishes for baby Callie - cards with items like diapers and blankets and clothing, which were then purchased, wrapped, and delivered to Meriweather.

"It made sense. He was part of our family here and we wanted to support his family," said Annjel Harper, 43, a licensed nurse-practitioner at Collingswood Manor. Harper, who worked closely with Britton, called him an incredibly kind aide who, as the only male on the fifth floor, was able to develop a rapport with female residents who had previously insisted on only female attendants. She described him as the "funniest and smiliest on the floor."

Collingswood Manor also held the packed funeral for Britton at its chapel - providing the food and the purple decorations, Britton's favorite color.

Meriweather said she was shocked when she received the piles and piles of gifts - she'll have diapers for years, she jokes. "I can't even fit it all in my room. It's amazing how generous everyone has been." She said she's most excited for the books: "I want to read to her a lot."

Khaleo Britton, 26, still works at Collingswood Manor and canceled a trip to Las Vegas because he didn't want to miss the birth of his niece.

He and the rest of the family still have questions about what happened the night of Sept. 19 on the steps of a home on 41st Street in Camden when Britton was struck in the ear and ran across the street to get away from the gunfire. He died at Cooper Hospital a day later. The police have not arrested anyone in the homicide and have said Britton was not the intended target.

On Tuesday, Khaleo Britton again watched a video one of Britton's friends took from the crime scene as nieces and nephews in the living room ran around giggling and playing with new Christmas toys.

"I just miss having my brother around," he said.

Britton's death was the 40th homicide recorded in Camden in 2013, a number that rose to 57 on Tuesday when two males were shot and killed around noon.

The family was disturbed by the news but said there was some solace in the feeling that the human capacity for love can outweigh acts of violence.

"They gave me so much for her," Meriweather said of the donations. "The baby bag is packed and ready to go."

jterruso@phillynews.com

856-779-3876 @juliaterruso

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