All aboard for a festive holiday season!
When the Canadian Pacific Holiday train rolled into Steele County last week, it not only brought holiday spirit for hundreds of people, but also some extra cash for the Steele County Food Shelf.
During a stop in Owatonna Thursday afternoon, CP presented a $5,000 check to Nancy Ness, director of the local food shelf. “This is over half of the amount we need each month,” Ness said cheerfully. “What a great gift.”
In addition to the cash donation from CP, folks who came out to see the Holiday Train brought food items to donate to the food shelf, which had a volunteer dressed as a snowman accepting donations. Ness estimated they received around 200 pounds of donations.
“We rely on donations,” Ness said. As she looked over at the donations brought in from the Holiday Train, she said, “What a treat it is.”
The local food shelf serves an average of 760 households each year for the monthly program in Steele County, according to Ness. She said the need has been increasing every year. Just three years ago, the food shelf served 530 families.
In addition, the food shelf serves 1,600 folks with the daily program. “We have a lot of traffic from people all over the county,” Ness said.
Ness refers to the food shelf as a happy place to be. “We’re a steady place that they can always depend on us,” she said. “We’re there to help,” she added.
As for the Holiday Train itself, Ness finds it helps bring recognition that there is a need for a food shelf as many families are dealing with food insecurities. “It reminds people that there are people that don’t have their needs met,” she points out.
Plus, there is an added bonus for the Holiday Train, which offers free entertainment from singers that perform from a train car. “It just puts people in the holiday spirit,” Ness said. “It helps people go back to what the holidays are really about—a time to give back.”
The train is 1,000 feet long with 14 brightly decorated rail cars. Each car is decorated with hundreds of thousands of LED lights and holiday designs celebrating the spirit of the giving season. The musical performance lasted for about 30 minutes before the train rolled on and made another stop in Waseca.
CP’s Holiday Train first appeared in southeast Minnesota in 2008 and alternates its stops through various communities each year. It has been operating throughout Canada and the U.S. since 1999. During that time, the train has raised almost $16 million and collected 4.5 million pounds of food.