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Garden City community comes together for COVID-19 memorial service

Published: Sep. 26, 2021 at 11:14 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2021 at 11:48 PM EDT
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GARDEN CITY, Ga. (WTOC) - The Garden City Housing Team held a memorial service on Sunday to remember those who died from COVID-19 and to honor those who survived. Attendees wanted to make it clear that COVID-19 is still here and it’s just as serious now as it was more than a year ago.

For about an hour, the Garden City Housing Team had people come up and share stories of loss and survival. The white balloons symbolized those who lost their fight to COVID-19, and silver balloons represented those who survived.

“It’s heartbreaking thing to lose someone from COVID because I have lost friends and I’ve lost family,” said Todd Payne, Pastor of Sovereign Grace Outreach Church.

“We want to honor you and say, we praise God for your survival. This thing is serious,” said Monalisa Monroe, President of the Garden City Housing Team.

“It has no age, doesn’t matter how old or young you are. I just saw where the mayor from Riceboro, 30 years old, passed away from COVID,” said Garden City Mayor Don Bethune, who spoke from personal experience. “My wife and I, Sharon, we both had COVID. Though we had a mild case, it’s very bad to say the least.”

Some attendees took multiple balloons because they know several friends and family members who are no longer here.

“I have lost lots of family members from COVID, but I’m gonna talk about my survival,” said Donna Williams, a COVID-19 survivor. “I was one of those possibly long haulers or what not, but God.”

The Housing Team who organized the memorial service say one of their driving forces was losing one of their own this month to COVID-19.

“We cared about him just like we would a brother, an auntie or anybody else of that nature. We wanted to not only be in remembrance for him, but for everybody,” said Payne.

For those who passed away and those who are still here, they released doves, representing their families as they departed and balloons to remember them.

Tonya Payne works in the COVID unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital and says so many people haven’t been able to witness their loved one’s last moments in the hospital. Another nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital said there are 64 confirmed positive cases across St. Joseph’s/Candler, and 60 of those patients haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“This here truly means so much to so many other people who did not even get a chance to bury or see their loved ones,” she said.

“We are family and we wanted everyone to feel that, and hopefully, everyone walked away feeling like they were a part of someone’s memorial service,” said Monroe.

While this was a ceremony of celebration and remembrance, organizers emphasized the need for people to get vaccinated so they don’t have to attend another memorial service as we get through this pandemic.

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