VALDOSTA -- South Georgia Medical Center will soon welcome a familiar "friend" to its lobby area -- an 8-foot tree covered in white lights and gold and silver ornaments inscribed with the names of loved ones past and present.

Jointly sponsored by the South Georgia Medical Center Foundation Inc. and Volunteer Auxiliary for more than a decade, the Love Light Tree serves as an annual year-end fund-raising initiative. Foundation Director Elizabeth Vickers said anyone who wants to honor or memorialize a special person during the holiday season can participate.

For a $10 or more donation, individuals and families can place an ornament bearing the name of a loved one on the Love Light Tree. Gold ornaments are for memorials. Silver ornaments are for honorariums. They will hang on the tree throughout December.

At the same time, all honored or memorialized individuals will have their names placed in either the Book of Memory or Book of Honor, both of which will sit on a stand next to the tree. A card will be send to announce the special gift, and all tax-deductible donations are recognized in the medical center's quarterly publication, "The Center Window," and on the Web site, www.sgmc.org. Gift amounts are kept confidential, Vickers said.

Love Light Tree proceeds will benefit the Langdale Hospice House construction, renovation and expansion of the Dasher Memorial Heart Center and technology upgrades for the Pearlman Comprehensive Cancer Center. Vickers said she hopes to raise $20,000.

Incorporated in 1978, the South Georgia Medical Center Foundation promotes health care in the region by providing funding for the purchase of state-of-the-art, life-saving equipment and for the development and expansion of vital care-giving hospital departments. The Foundation strives to provide a means for increased participation, understanding and communication between the community and South Georgia Medical Center; plan, implement and support health-related service programs that will benefit the community; and provide the means to generate needed donations to maintain, enhance and expand the healthcare services provided by South Georgia Medical Center.

The Volunteer Auxiliary works to enhance service to South Georgia Medical Center customers in a variety of departments and settings.

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