For more than 50 years, people across the state have shared the Christmas spirit with patients at Georgia mental health facilities by offering gifts and donations for the Mayors' Christmas Motorcade.
Representatives from surrounding cities and towns descended on Augusta's East Central Regional Hospital to present their donations at a Thursday afternoon ceremony.
The donations will provide presents for nearly 450 individuals at the hospital's Augusta and Gracewood locations, said Regenia Harrison-Moore, the activity therapy supervisor in Augusta.
"During this time of year, the individuals are away from their families and loved ones," she said. "Everyone here doesn't have family support. We do everything possible to create a meaningful time of year for them."
Each resident will receive a Christmas gift they desire, with the most popular requests being clothing and shoes, Harrison-Moore said.
The donations benefit the patients not only during the holidays but year-round, providing for special occasions such as birthdays and enabling the hospital to purchase necessities such as toothpaste and socks.
Several cities and towns, including Thomson, Keys-ville and Blythe, sent representatives to Augusta for the ceremony.
Emcee Brian Mulherin recognized the city of Thomson in particular for consistently offering significant donations to the program.
The Rev. John Smalley, a city councilman, addressed the attendees and presented a check for $6,168.70 to hospital representatives.
Mayor Kenneth Usry and the Thomson Fire Department spearheaded donation efforts, which began last month.
"A lot of people here have nobody to visit them and give them gifts, and we want to make life easier and brighter for them," said Smalley, who has been involved with the program for eight years.
"The people of Thomson have very generous hearts, and I want to thank the people who gave donations and the fire department for their hard work."
Thomson Fire Chief Rick Sewell and Deanna Wall, the department's administrative assistant, represented Thomson at the ceremony.
Sewell has contributed to mayors' motorcade donation efforts for about 20 years.
As a token of their appreciation, several hospital residents offered handmade ornaments in return for the donations.
The Rev. Mickie Collins gave the invocation, and vocalist Latonia Smiley and saxophonist Gerald Scott performed.
The program, which began in 1958, is organized by the Georgia Municipal Association. It was started at the request of former Georgia Gov. Ernest Vandiver and his wife, Betty.
About 80 cities across the state contribute to the Mayors' Christmas Motorcade each year. The initiative benefits more than 3,000 individuals at seven regional mental health facilities.