City of Residence: Byron
Occupation: Byron city clerk
Q: You’re involved in the Mayor’s Christmas Motorcade. What is it?
A: It’s a Georgia Municipal Association coordinated drive to provide holiday gifts for patients of Georgia’s mental health and retardation hospitals. Participating cities collect items and give them to hospitals across the state.
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Q: How long has it been going on?
A: It started back in 1958 when a governor’s wife had the idea. I imagine there was a personal connection or something that really touched her heart for people in the hospital at Milledgeville and spurred here to start it. Originally, it was just for patients in Milledgeville but in the 1980s it was expanded.
Q: How long has Byron been involved?
A: We’ve done different things through the years, but this year we decided to go big. My thing is we’ve been so blessed here in Byron we need to pass that along and be a blessing to others. People in Byron help a lot of people in many charitable ways and always have, but this gives us an opportunity to help people that are often left out and forgotten. Mayor (Larry) Collins and all the members of council got excited about the idea of starting to make a big deal out of this and let it grow each year.
Q: What items are donated?
A: Well first, know that there are more men than women at the hospitals and the average age is 39, but of course there’s a wide variety of ages. Items should be new and unused and kept unwrapped. That will be taken care of for you. Good gifts include all kinds of clothing sized medium to 4XL, including pants, shorts, sweaters, hats, socks, underwear, slippers, shower shoes and all kinds of other gifts like drawing pads, composition books, stationary, playing cards, puzzles and puzzle books. You can give personal care items and toiletries. Snack items are good, too, like individually wrapped candy and cookies. Paperbacks, CDs and board games are also mentioned. Some things aren’t allowed, like it’s better to give crayons than colored pencils. They also ask for donations of wrapping materials, but don’t wrap the gifts yourself. Monetary donations are also taken.
Q: What are some restrictions?
A: Well, use common sense, and you can contact us or look on the GMA website for more details, but things like no gum. They don’t want metal items, even like the fact composition books are better than spiral wire notebooks. No aerosol cans, no parental advisory CDs, no acetone nail polish remover, no romance novels -- just give things a little thought.
Q: Where can you donate?
A: We have boxes around town, but definitely at the Byron Municipal Complex and the Byron Welcome Center at the Peach Shops near I-75.
Q: How long can you give?
A: Until Dec. 8. We’re hoping to get everything collected by Dec. 8 and then get them to Mayor Randy Toms in Warner Robins. He’s the mayor coordinator for the area and will get the items to West Central Georgia (Regional Hospital) in Columbus for us. That’s another good thing about the program, the way so many communities cooperate with one another to help others.
Q: You mentioned donations.
A: You can donate directly by writing a check directly to the hospital and get it to us. If anybody has questions you can call Pam or I at the Byron Municipal Complex, 478-956-3600. Remember, these are mental health patients and there are many whose families have left them and they really have no one. Many are childlike and get such a kick out of Christmas -- it’s real for them and this can mean so much. I’m pretty excited about getting to do this. I’m hoping for a great response.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.