BY ASHLEY FIELDING
GAINESVILLE— Santa came to Gainesville on Friday morning, but it was city employees who brought the gifts.
Carol LaMonica, senior secretary for Gainesville’s Community Service Center, presented a check of $2,200 to a representative for AVITA Community Partners at the 49th Annual Mayor’s Motorcade.
Mayor’s Motorcade is a statewide initiative to bring the holiday spirit to patients at the state’s behavioral health facilities, some of whom are forgotten, Mayor Robert "Bob" Hamrick said.
This year, the city collected gifts for the patients of Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital in Rome, a behavioral health hospital that serves the Gainesville area, and donations for AVITA Community Partners.
Hamrick welcomed those in attendance — Fair Street Elementary students, city employees and senior center regulars — and thanked all who made the donations possible.
"I appreciate everything you’ve done to ensure the success of this event," Hamrick said.
Adrian Niles, director of Gainesville’s public works department, gave the invocation. He thanked God for every gift that had been collected, and asked God to bless the recipients.
Entertainment was provided by the City Celebration Quartet, made up of city employees from various departments, as City Council members served punch and cookies to the senior citizens. The group sang "Deck the Halls" and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas." Melody Marlowe, Gainesville’s chief financial officer, traded in her expense reports for the hour and accompanied the quartet on the keyboard.
It could have been the City Celebration Quintet if Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall had been allowed to join, Hamrick said.
"Kelly begged and begged and begged to sing, but it would have been a disaster," Hamrick joked.
Even Santa Claus traded in his sleigh for the day, and arrived on a Gainesville Fire truck with lots of candy canes for Fair Street Elementary boys and girls.
Santa danced with some of the attendees and told the Fair Street students to study hard before he headed back to Milton Martin Honda. From there he was to get a ride to take him back to the North Pole.
Later Friday, LaMonica rode on a Hall Area Transit bus to Rome, where she presented the donated gifts to the Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital. Hospital staff will wrap the gifts and give them to their patients for Christmas.
The statewide event serves about 3,200 of Georgia’s mental patients who currently reside in the state’s seven regional mental hospitals every holiday season, according to the Georgia Municipal Association Web site.