AUGUSTA --- The 52nd Annual Mayors' Christmas Motorcade got a big boost this year from the generous monetary donations of residents from McDuffie County and surrounding communities.
A total of $6,162.91 was raised to help purchase Christmas gifts and other items for those less fortunate at East Central Regional Hospital in south Augusta. That amount is the most ever raised by firefighters with the Thomson Fire/Rescue, Chief Rick Sewell said.
During a special ceremony at the hospital Nov. 9, Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry presented the check to Nan Lewis, hospital administrator. Chief Sewell and Amelia Harrison, administrative assistant at the fire department, and Augusta's Brian Mulherin also participated in the presentation of the check ceremony.
"It's a real warm feeling inside when you realize that you've helped make the lives of others a little better," Mr. Usry told The McDuffie Mirror .
Chief Sewell echoed that comment.
"It's been a wonderful year, because of the tremendous support that we've received from so many people," Chief Sewell said. "Without their kind hearts and generosity, it would be next to impossible to do anything to help the people at ECRH."
City firefighters raised $4,410 from a boot drive they held at Walmart over a recent three-day period. The rest of the money was raised by them through solicitations from area businesses, churches and civic clubs.
"I can't say enough about what a great job our firefighters did this year to raise this amount of money," Thomson City Councilman John Smalley said. "I certainly appreciate what they all did from the bottom of my heart."
Aside from the money raised, clothing items, bathroom supplies and other items also were donated by individuals and businesses from surrounding counties.
Mrs. Lewis pointed out that the real story of the Mayors' Christmas Motorcade actually happens many weeks before the actual Christmas program, which this year included parades at both the Augusta and Gracewood campuses.
"It all comes together thanks to caring and compassionate individuals," Mrs. Lewis said. "Surrounding communities have committed to raising funds or collecting donations for this cause. I am amazed at the very small cities that consistently send a representative and the generous gifts that come with them.
Some drive for hours to get here and, despite being geographically distant from ECRH, are supportive of what we do here."
Many of them tell her what it means for them to be a part of this special occasion.
"Most shake my hand and tell me that it is a highlight of their Christmas season," Mrs. Lewis added. "Truly, it does represent the Christmas spirit of giving and sharing with those in need and less fortunate than ourselves. The gestures and support shown by our surrounding communities warms the hearts of our staff who have committed their professional lives to mental health. Those battling mental illness not only have to struggle with a very debilitating disease, but also with a stigma that often makes them forgotten or overlooked. Our Annual Mayors' Motorcade proves that there are those out there that never forget us. Thank you, thank you and thank you, again. You are making a difference in someone's life."
The Mayors' Christmas Motorcade was the brainchild of former Georgia first lady Betty Vandiver. It began in 1958 and has grown bigger every year. It is now in its 52nd year.
Mrs. Vandiver, the wife of former Gov. Marvin Vandiver, sought help and support from representatives with the Georgia Municipal Association to get the program up and running at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Ga.
"She wanted to make the holidays a better time for those less fortunate and away from their loved ones," association representative Yalonde Tanner said.