“In Pell City, for me, the Christmas season starts with this tree lighting ceremony,” said Mayor Bill Hereford. “And I can’t wait until next year, so we can do it in front of the new hospital.”
Tuesday night marked the last time the St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital Auxiliary will hold the “Tree of Lights Ceremony & Blessing” in front of the current hospital.
“Next year, you need to be at 7063 Veterans Parkway,” Terrell Vick, the facility transition officer, told the crowd who gathered in front of the hospital for the annual tree lighting ceremony. “That’s the address for the new hospital.”
Vick said the construction of the new St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital is on schedule and people can view the progress by going to: thenewhospital.com.
“We’re right on target to move into that facility by next fall,” he said.
Sean Tinney, president of rural hospital operations, said this was his first tree lighting ceremony at St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital.
“We’re pleased to celebrate this with our community,” Tinney said. “I thank the community for your support and the hospital auxiliary.”
He said the construction of a new hospital would be impossible without the support of the community, and he too looks forward to the day the new hospital opens for the community.
The St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital Christmas celebration started at 5 p.m., when Old St. Nick himself found a comfortable chair in one of the rooms at the hospital.
The big man in red asked one of his most familiar questions to 40-50 children who visited him before the official Tree of Lights Ceremony & Blessing – “And what do you want for Christmas,” Santa Claus would ask.
His list of toys grew considerable Tuesday night as he met with children of all ages.
“I’ve got an elf at my house,” 5-year-old Kristin Kurzejeski told Santa.
The jolly old fellow gave a few Ho, Ho, Hos.
“I’ve been missing a few elves,” he told the young girl.
She informed Santa t she has three elves in all, Frizzle, Fred and Junior.
“You’re going to have more elves than me,” Santa said. “Merry Christmas.”
After a blessing of the Nativity scene in the main lobby of the hospital, a large crowd gathered outside in front of the hospital for the ceremony sponsored by the St. Vincent’s St. Clair Auxiliary.
“We are pleased to see you here tonight,” Barbara Alvis, auxiliary president told guests and participants who attended the event. “This is the beginning of the Christmas holiday. We hope it puts you in the holiday spirit.”
Brother Randy Howell opened the program with a pray, and Cropwell Baptist Youth Choir filled the air with Christmas Carols to kick off the program.
Cory O’Neal, principal of Duran South Junior High School, sang “Oh Holy Night,” while the Pell City High School Show Choir harmonized a few Christmas tunes.
“The high school choir gets better every year, and the little kids are indeed special,” Hereford said.
Hereford said he and his family attend the special Tree of Lights Ceremony every year.
“In the past 28 years, I can’t remember a time not being here,” Hereford said.
The tree lighting ceremony is also a fund raising effort by the hospital auxiliary. People can buy a light on the hospital’s large Christmas tree for $2 in memory or in honor of a person. The person’s name is also placed in a framed display in the hospital lobby.
“It’s a wonderful way to honor your love one,” Alvis said.
Monsignor Michael Sexton, with Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, gave the go-ahead to light the tree of lights and provided a program pray to help conclude the event.
The crowd joined together in one final Christmas song, “Joy to the World,” before guests headed to a heated tent where refreshments were served.
“I thought the program was excellent,” Hereford said.
Contact David Atchison at email@example.com.