The CP Holiday Train rolled into town on Monday night, as is the annual Christmas tradition.
And the crowd of about a thousand people grooved along to the sounds of country stars Doc Walker and Miss Emily, along with Randall Prescott on the harmonica.
But the real reason for the CP Holiday Train is to boost up local food banks, and this year they brought along a cheque for the Agassiz Harrison Community Services food bank, in the amount of $3,000.
Agassiz Mayor John Van Laerhoven was on hand for the presentation, as was MP Mark Strahl. Both spoke briefly on the train’s stage.
“We know that Christmas time is a special time of the year and we like to give back to those who may need a hand,” Strahl said.
“I am so proud to be a member of this community,” Van Laerhoven said. “I am. And I am also so proud that CP Rail comes through our community. They are real partners with us and they obviously show that they care.”
The number of families accessing the food bank this holiday season is up slightly from last year, said Heidi Trautmann, executive director of Agassiz Harrison Community Services.
But the number of donations have also increased from last year.
“Last year, the donations were down quite a bit, and people didn’t donate like they did before,” she said.
But that seems to be changing, and has been evident by the larger numbers of cash and food donations already given to the organization.
There are about 120 families who have signed up to receive a food and toy hamper this Christmas season throughout Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs. And Trautmann said that number will rise by the end of the month. The people accessing the hampers all have different needs, she said. Some people may be struggling to make ends meet on disability, others may have larger families while many are low income earners.
The need is great, Trautmann said, and every dollar helps them buy even more food to be given out in families’ time of need. When people bring in cash donations, that money goes a lot further than some may think. Community Services can buy larger quantities at a reduced rate, and portion out basic staples such as sugar, tea or flour.
And pretty soon, those wishing to make a donation can do so with just a point and click. Agassiz Harrison Community Services has enlisted the help of PayPal for an online donation tool.
The service has a lower fee than other similar services, they found. While it’s not online yet, it will be in the near future, Trautmann said.
On Monday night, Trautmann received a cheque for $330 from the Harrison Hot Springs Mayor Leo Facio. The money was raised from donations at the Breakfast with Santa on Dec. 1 at Harrison Memorial Hall.