Amtrak is bringing a railcar loaded with relief supplies donated in Slidell, La., to New Jersey communities hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. What Slidell leaders call the “Train of Hope,” has filled a baggage car provided by Amtrak and is being carried on the northbound Crescent that left New Orleans.
“Amtrak is looking for more ways to help the recovery and when presented with this idea we said ‘yes’ and found a way to make it work,” said President and CEO Joe Boardman, who is also supporting efforts within Amtrak to help employees in the region who were affected by the storm. Many of these Amtrak employees have put aside personal matters to restore service.
The “Train of Hope” was conceived by Donna O’Daniels, President and CEO of the St. Tammany Parish Tourist and Convention Commission, and Kim Bergeron, director of cultural affairs for the City of Slidell, a community located east of New Orleans that was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina and other storms. They are traveling on the train today with more than 30 pallets of donated clothing, diapers, baby food, blankets, batteries, and many other critical items.
“In our recent past, volunteers and donations came from every corner of our country to help us when we needed it the most,” O’Daniels said. “That spirit of giving made things a lot better for a lot of people. Many of our citizens are regular donors to national charities, and we support those efforts. But sometimes it feels like it’s not enough – and sometimes it really isn’t. Sometimes the basic needs are best provided through direct donations.”
“Train of Hope isn’t ‘paying it back,’” said Bergeron. “It’s paying it forward. While election years often lead to feelings of division between us, the bottom line is that we’re all family in this country. When we needed it, they gave us help – and hope. We need to give them both, too. That’s what Train of Hope is meant to do.”
In addition, as a public service Amtrak is extending for another week free travel to first responders, including police and fire personnel, members of the National Guard and Federal Emergency Management Administration, Red Cross and other agency personnel directly involved in the recovery effort. First responders do not need to be in uniform, but must display valid credentials to qualify for free travel. The offer is valid from for travel on Northeast Corridor services between Washington and Boston excluding Acela Express, through Nov. 16.