Delivering Christmas, One Stop at a Time
By: Buddy Teaster, CEO, Soles4Souls
It may seem odd to think about Christmas in the dead of summer, but here at Soles4Souls, we are busy preparing for a special holiday event that has been spreading hope and joy for more than 75 years. That beloved tradition, that Soles4Souls is lucky to be a part of, is CSX’s Santa Train.
The train brings a bit of the North Pole to rural Appalachia every year, departing from Pikeville, KY and making the 110-mile journey spreading Christmas cheer all the way to Kingsport, TN. Over the course of the one-day trip, Santa and a celebrity guest, along with volunteers distribute 15 tons of warm clothing and toys to people in need at 12 train stops.
Communities along the route are ranked by the Appalachian Regional Commission as being in the top 10 – 25% most economically distressed counties or are at risk of becoming economically distressed. Approximately 1 in 5 individuals live in poverty. Only a few hours drive east of booming Nashville, where Soles4Souls is based, this stretch of the country seems much, much further away.
Our organization has the privilege of working all over the world, including some countries where the obstacles to getting through the day never seem to end. But that is not just something that happens “over there.” The hardship is just as real in many communities here in the U.S. As we witnessed last year, however, CSX’s Santa Train is an incredible beacon of holiday hope for so many.
Parents brought their children to kick off the Christmas season as they were brought themselves 30 years ago. Others came for the toys that may be the only gifts for their kids, while some traveled from both near and far to receive warm clothing or simply witness the cherished annual event. The joy and excitement at each of the stops when the train rolled in was contagious.
We felt grateful that we were able to provide timely and valuable items like winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves. Serving those in short-term need is a critical part of Soles4Souls’ mission, and it is only because of generous companies in the apparel industry that we could be a part of this effort.
We are actively pulling together what is needed for Santa Train 2018. Right now, we could use your help with:
- Baby, youth and teen sized hats, gloves and scarves
- Baby bibs
- Baby, youth and teen backpacks
I hope you’ll join us in making it possible for some good folks in Appalachia to feel seen, important and loved this winter. If you are interested in donating product for the 2018 Santa Train, please contact CeCe McCormick, Soles4Souls Director of Corporate Engagement, firstname.lastname@example.org.