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Veteran GMC-Duluth volunteer puts hospital in Christmas spirit

Photo: Andrew McMurtrie Dorothy Rainey poses for a photo by the Christmans tree during a special tree lighting celebration held in her honor earlier this week at the Gwinnett Medical Center in Duluth. Rainey, 90, volunteers at the hospital and donated an 18i Christmas tree to Gwinnett Medical Center.  Her only stipulation was that the tree is lighted on November 1st.  The tree topper is a replica of the hospital logo.

Photo: Andrew McMurtrie Dorothy Rainey poses for a photo by the Christmans tree during a special tree lighting celebration held in her honor earlier this week at the Gwinnett Medical Center in Duluth. Rainey, 90, volunteers at the hospital and donated an 18i Christmas tree to Gwinnett Medical Center. Her only stipulation was that the tree is lighted on November 1st. The tree topper is a replica of the hospital logo.

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Photo: Andrew McMurtrie Dorothy Rainey looks at her Christmas tree after it is lit atop the Gwinnett Medical Center in Duluth.

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Photo: Andrew McMurtrie Dorothy Rainey, right, talks with Fred Williams, left, and Linda Storey, center, at a tree lighting celebration held in her honor at the Gwinnett Medical Center in Duluth.

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Photo: Andrew McMurtrie An 18-foot Christmas tree donated to the Gwinnett Medical Center Duluth by Dorothy Rainey decorates the roof of the Hospital following a special tree lighting earlier this week. The tree topper is a replica of the hospital logo.

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Photo: Andrew McMurtrie Dorothy Rainey smiles and laughs during a special Christmas tree lighting celebration held in her honor at the Gwinnett Medical Center in Duluth. Rainey, 90, volunteers at the hospital and donated an 18-foot Christmas tree to Gwinnett Medical Center. Her only stipulation was that the tree is lighted on November 1st. The tree topper is a replica of the hospital logo.

DULUTH 'Tis the season already? At Gwinnett Medical Center-Duluth it is, thanks to Dorothy Rainey.

The tiny, energetic lady has volunteered at the Duluth facility, and Joan Glancy hospital before it, for 27 years. If it's really true that a smile and a kind word have healing properties, then Rainey should be considered an honorary doctor. She loves Gwinnett Medical Center, the staff and patients. They are, in her words, "my family."

With the flip of a switch earlier this week Dorothy outdid herself by giving a grand early Christmas present to the hospital and the surrounding community -- a glorious Christmas tree. The 18-foot beauty is adorned with red and green ornaments and topped with a perfect replica of the hospital system's "heart" logo.

Rainey, who stands barely 5-feet tall and is a spry 90 years old, was dressed smartly in her Christmas finery for the tree lighting. Her husband Frederick just celebrated his 92nd birthday last week, so hospital staff and guests took the opportunity Tuesday to sing "Happy Birthday" to him before turning to the holiday festivities.

The story behind the Christmas tree is as heartwarming as the early appearance of the tree. Just ask Lea Bay, president of Gwinnett Medical Center in Duluth. Bay has served the hospital system, first at the small Joan Glancy facility just up the road from the modern new facility. During Tuesday's ceremony, before a group of about 50, she told stories about Rainey.

"A few months ago, Dorothy came to me with an idea and around here, when Dorothy has an idea, people listen," Bay said. "I loved the idea of a Christmas tree, so we got to work right away finding the right one."

Rainey knew exactly where she wanted the tree placed. It stands tall just over the lobby entrance of the hospital. In that location, patients, staff and people in the surrounding area will enjoy the spectacular sight any time day or night.

"I wanted the tree lit in early November, because I love Christmas. Also, my money is hard to come by, so I wanted to be sure to get my money's worth," quipped Rainey, who is particularly proud of the GMC heart replica that tops the tree.

"It's a heart, and when you have heart, you have caring," Rainey said of the lighted pink logo. But don't call it a logo when Dorothy is around to hear it; to her, the heart is a "family crest."

In true Southern style, reluctant to divulge exactly how much the tree cost, Rainey deferred to Bay to answer that question. "Let's just say that 18-foot. commercial trees are not inexpensive," Bay said.

Jason Handler, president of the Gwinnett Hospital Foundation, described Dorothy's gift, as "a beacon of light to the entire community."

The tree will remain atop the lobby entrance through Christmas.