Volunteers pack gifts for Santa Train

With the 77th annual CSX Santa Train just days away, someone has to get the gifts ready to be loaded onto the train. Each year in Kingsport, Tennessee, several dozen someones come together to do just that.

The annual Santa Train packing party was held Wednesday. Each year, volunteers from the Tri-Cities Tennessee area gather at Food City in Kingsport to pack up food and gifts which will eventually be given from the Santa Train.

Moon Pies, chips, candy … it all goes into bags, and those bags go into totes, and those toes eventually get loaded onto the Santa Train. And on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, those bags, more than 3,000 of them, will be given out to the large crowds that gather to see the train.

Longtime Santa Train volunteer Don Royston remembers a time before the packing party. He comes out each year to visit with the other volunteers and is continually amazed by the turnout for the packing party.

Jamie Horton, an assistant manager at Food City in Kingsport, is a fixture along with Royston on the Santa Train. She says every aspect of the Santa Train is chaotic, but is worth all the hard work.

Ted Marquis, with the education support nonprofit City Year, helps coordinate volunteers for CSX for the Santa Train. He’s now a long-serving veteran of the Santa Train, but still finds it difficult to calculate all of the volunteer hours that go into making the Santa Train a reality each year.

All those volunteer hours will finally come together the Saturday before Thanksgiving when the 77th annual CSX Santa Train hits the high iron once again. For a full schedule of Santa Train stops, visit Facebook.com/santatrain.