Over last 31 years, CTA employees have donated time and money to help ensure more than 10,000 families enjoy a home-cooked holiday meal
This week, employees of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) continued a decades-long tradition known as the “Holiday Food Train Program” – an employee-led initiative that has provided thousands of seasonal food boxes to Chicago families since 1992 , and eventually led to the launch of Chicago’s most unique holiday display – the CTA Holiday Train!
“The CTA is an organization that truly embodies the spirit of public service, which is why I often refer to our agency collectively as ‘the CTA family’,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “’The Holiday Food Train’ is a tradition that truly reflects the heart and soul of so many CTA employees and is just one of many initiatives where our employees give back to the communities we serve.”
The “Holiday Food Train,” began when CTA employees assigned to the O’Hare Branch Terminal on the Blue Line recognized the need for food donations in their service area during the holiday season. At the time, employees generously donated their own money and time for the assembly of several dozen food baskets, which contained all the trimmings for a complete holiday meal. The employees decorated an out of service train with a “Season’s Greetings from the CTA” sign and then used to deliver the food baskets to local charities and organizations.
As the “Holiday Food Train” and spreading cheer from the rails became part of the culture at CTA, the program expanded and so did the decorations! A flatcar was added to the train for Santa and his reindeer, along with more lights and an updated sign. Over the years, more decorations and lights were added and the “Food Train” quickly became known as the “Holiday Train” and was added as part of scheduled service traveling along all eight rail lines.
More than 30 years later, personnel from across the CTA continue to donate their time and money to support the Holiday Food Train Program, which to-date has delivered more than 10,000 food baskets to Chicago families. Since the onset of the pandemic, however, the food boxes are temporarily being delivered directly to the organizations and not via the out-of-service Holiday Train.
“Here at CTA, we know that the money we raise and hours we volunteer make all the difference!” said Jeannine Messina, Senior Manager, Infrastructure and also Project Lead for the CTA Holiday/Food Train. “The past couple of years have been tough for everyone, especially food banks, so we are hoping that the hundreds of baskets we prepare will guarantee that all will have a warm meal and can enjoy the holidays with their families and loved ones.”
This year, CTA employees, are proud to be able to ensure that more than 600 families will be able to enjoy home-cooked, holiday meals.