VALDOSTA — Smiles were plentiful Wednesday as residents at the Parkwood Developmental Center received Christmas gifts from city officials.

The Valdosta Fire Department and Mayor John Gayle donated presents to about 40 residents during the Mayor’s Motorcade.

The Mayor’s Motorcade is an annual program sponsored by the Georgia Municipal Association that began gifting residents of a Thomasville medical facility with Christmas presents many years ago, Gayle said.

When the facility closed, Gayle said he advocated keeping the program local and decided upon Parkwood as the recipient.

Gifts will also be given to the center’s child residents who were at school during the time of the event, said Pat Newbern, recreation and pre-vocation director.

“It really means a lot to our clients,” Newbern said. “They love them coming. They started this morning, ‘Fire trucks are coming. Fire trucks are coming.’”

Newbern said the residents get excited each year the motorcade is hosted and enjoy the interaction with the fire department and mayor.

“To know that the community is supporting us means a lot to us as staff and as their caretakers…it helps with our Christmas, makes it a little brighter,” she said.

After receiving their presents, Parkwood residents toured the ins and outs of a VFD fire truck.

Some took advantage of sitting in the fireman’s seat while others sat on the front or back of the truck.

“This is a great community program, and we enjoy being a part of it,” Fire Chief Freddie Broome said. “This year, we wanted to focus on showing our community how much we love them and bring them joy for the Christmas holidays.”

Broome said the motorcade is larger than himself and Gayle as it’s a community impact.

The motorcade is a special occasion, one of which Parkwood is appreciative, Gayle said.

He said he gets emotional because the residents have lots of fun.

“They don’t have people visit them every day; and so, they don’t get to see firemen and mayors on a regular basis,” Gayle said. “It’s enjoyable for me to come and try to provide some entertainment for them.”

Parkwood, 1501 N. Lee St., prepares clients to live in the community and provides training in various areas such as sensory motor, pre-vocational, communication skills, social skills and recreational, Newbern said.

Visit pruitthealth.com, or call (229) 242-6268 for more information on Parkwood.

Amanda Usher is a reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times. She can be contacted at 229-244-3400 ext.1274.