Juno award winner Tenille Townes had the crowd singing and dancing from the moment she took the CP Holiday Train stage.  Tinkess Photo

CORNWALL – For 24 years the CP Holiday Train has been raising awareness about food insecurity issues. To date, they have helped raise more than $21 million dollars and collected five million pounds of food for foodbanks. This year, the 24th, they are reaching 168 communities across their network in Canada and the US. On Nov. 28, approximately 650 people gathered in Finch for their date with the train.

Finch wasn’t originally planned as a stop, but local efforts convinced CP to modify the schedule slightly and since 2015 Finch has been a regular stop.

“It started in 2015 after the plowing match,” said Jane Schoones, a team leader with Community Food Share. “It was a stop that was added, and a lot of people are upset that it’s not in the evening, but it was added to the regular lineup, so we’re really blessed to have it in the afternoon.”

A non-perishable food item was suggested as admission to the event, but cash donations were welcome as well. “To be very honest, it’s great to get the monetary donations because we can then buy exactly what we need,” said Schoones, “so if we can fill one trailer, we’ll be very excited, and the donations are coming in, it’s amazing.”

The weather was what you should expect if you live in Canada: a typical November day with partially cloudy skies and low temperatures, but no precipitation. “In 2019 it was raining sideways,” says Schoones, “and this year the rain has held off so at least people won’t be wet. It’s a great opportunity for people to come out and spend time together and the entertainment on the train is wonderful and they are wonderfully supportive of the Community Food Share.”

You could feel the excitement pulse through the crowd as the train slowed and came to a stop. It grew when Christmas music began to play and increased even more when it was announced it was three minutes, two minutes, one minute till showtime. The Grinch, and even Santa seemed to take a bit of a back seat. The train, and the musical entertainment were what they were there for, and they weren’t disappointed. When the side of one car lowered down into a stage, and the live music started, so too did the party. Recording artist Aysanabee got things started and it moved into high gear with Juno award winning Tenille Townes.

There was only one stoppage and it occurred when North Stormont Mayor Frank Landry, and Jane Schoones were presented a $4,000 cheque by CP employee Jeff Hehr for Community Food Share. “On behalf of the Township of North Stormont I’d like to welcome everybody here today,” said Mayor Landry. “I think we’ve got a bigger crowd than I was expecting. I’d like to thank CP for this wonderful donation. If you look back, I think, seven years ago, and I believe he’s in the crowd, deputy mayor at the time Bill McGimpsey was the one that was dedicated to make sure this train stopped in Finch on its way down to Merrickville and Perth. Thanks to you Bill because of this great donation, this gathering we have here today.

“One thing I would ask of you is if you brought food, thank you very much, and if you haven’t, if you have a few dollars to spare, make sure you support the food bank because this year more than any other I think its really needed. Thanks for coming!”

Community Food Share will be collecting donations of non-perishable food products and monetary donations at many events during the holiday season, including the Parade of Lights in Winchester on Sat., Dec. 3.