As the leaves fall and we prepare our homes for Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season, you may not be aware that there are several thousand people whose only home is one of Georgia's seven regional mental health hospitals. Many of these patients have lived in the hospitals for decades and have little, if any, support from friends or family.
Fifty-one years ago, Gov. Ernest Vandiver's wife, Betty, visited our state mental health hospitals and recognized the need for some way to encourage gift-giving that would enable patients to experience joy during the Christmas season. So working together with the Georgia Municipal Association, the Mayors Motorcade was born. Since then, thousands of gifts have been delivered to mental health clients each year.
GMA facilitates gift drives in more than 100 cities throughout Georgia during the fall and in early December, participating cities deliver presents to the hospital in their region. The hospital staff and volunteers wrap and personally address presents for each patient "from Santa."
I had the honor of participating in my first Mayor's Motorcade when my husband, Casey Cagle, was elected lieutenant governor. That first time I visited Central State Hospital was a very moving experience, as I heard firsthand from staff members that without these gifts, hundreds of clients would simply be forgotten during the Christmas season. Since that time, participating in the Mayors Motorcade has been something I have committed myself to each year.
The city of Norcross has long been an active participant in the parade, and I am asking for your help in supporting mental health patients in your region. If your family, church, neighborhood or office is looking for a new way to serve this holiday season, please consider dropping off a gift.
For more information on your local gift collection drive, call Philomena Robertson at 770-448-7327.
To value and regard all members of our community is a lesson that my husband Casey and I hope to instill in our three boys. And it is a lesson that our state has risen to the challenge of answering each holiday season for the past 51 years and counting. It is our shared responsibility and privilege to remember the least of these. It is in this spirit of service and generosity that we can all make a difference.
Nita Cagle is the wife of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.