VALDOSTA – Residents at Parkwood Developmental Center received some Christmas cheer Wednesday when the City of Valdosta rolled in with lots of gifts during the Mayor's Motorcade.
Each year, city officials partner with the Valdosta Fire Department to donate clothes, toys, games and other items to Parkwood.
The motorcade is an annual program sponsored by the Georgia Municipal Association that began gifting residents of a Thomasville medical facility with Christmas presents many years ago, Valdosta Mayor John Gayle said in a previous interview.
When the facility closed, Gayle said he advocated keeping the program local and decided upon Parkwood as the recipient.
Wednesday marked his last year with the motorcade as he completes his final term as mayor at the end of this month.
“As I do my last things, it’s beginning to get a bit emotional because I enjoy these kind of things. … I love the things that we do that really helps people,” Gayle said.
Officials did more than offer gifts; they interacted with the residents and the VFD allowed them to explore one of its fire trucks.
The excitement on residents' faces is the real purpose of the motorcade, Gayle said.
“This is an event that is so important to these kids, these adults, because some of them don’t have families to look after them and it’s a shame at the time of year they don’t,” he said. “So, we fill in, we fill that void.”
Valdosta Fire Chief Brian Boutwell has been connected to the motorcade for several years though this year is his first time being involved as fire chief.
He said being able to give gifts to the residents at Parkwood is a blessing for his department and he will work to continue the program.
“For us to be able to come out and see the smiles on their faces, the residents' faces, it truly makes us understand the importance of being a community servant and it reminds us of how blessed we are this holiday season,” Boutwell said.
The Mayors Motorcade doesn’t just bring joy to Parkwood, it brightens the day of VFD personnel, as well, he said.
“I’m just thankful to have the opportunity to come out and be able to do this again. It is a blessing,” Boutwell said. “This time of year, sometimes we are busy this time of year and to be able to come out and spread blessings to the residents here is just such a great thing to be a part of.”
Upon exiting as Valdosta mayor, Gayle said he plans to communicate to the incoming mayor that the motorcade should carry on to future years.
He leaves his last words to the residents at Parkwood.
“I just want to tell them how much we love them and we’ll continue bringing gifts just as long as we can,” Gayle said.