By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
December 4, 2019
VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- Santa had a few extra helpers in Valdosta on Wednesday.
The Mayor's Motorcade is an annual tradition unlike any other in the City of Valdosta. For five years now, Mayor John Gayle, along with the Valdosta Fire Department, help to bring Christmas to residents at the Parkwood Development Center.
"I saw that when we carried gifts to the state hospital in Thomasville, what a need was there. So I realized that we have those same needs here locally," Gayle said.
Dozens of toys, books and handmade cards were handed to Parkwood residents with grins from cheek to cheek, all made possible through community donations.
"It's an example of how giving Valdosta is," Gayle said. "Valdosta is a city, I've come to realize, that gives and gives way above their means, in some cases."
Parkwood staff said the residents look forward to the event for months. But it also helps others get to know the residents as members of the Valdosta community.
"It is so heartwarming. We really get a kick out of the clients every year when they get to see the fire trucks, they get to see the gifts," said Parkwood recreation Director Pat Newbern. "People have concepts that are not necessarily right. Our folks are just like everybody else, they have the same wants, the same needs, same social desires. They want to be a part of the community, they want the community to be a part of us."
Newbern said there is immense support from the community, with several organizations helping to bring the holidays to residents. She added, anyone who is interested in getting involved with the center or hosting an activity with the residents can contact staff.
Mayor Gayle started the motorcade about five years ago. This will be his last event before retiring from office this year, but said he hopes, and expects, the tradition to continue.