An annual event that raises awareness of hunger in the local community and generates substantial donations for the Whitehall Community Food Pantry will not be held this year.
When the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train embarks on its three-week journey through the United States on Nov. 17, it will chug right on through Whitehall without stopping.
Officials with Canadian Pacific didn’t offer a specific reason as to why they were bypassing Whitehall, saying that the schedule changes every year.
“The Holiday Train has become increasingly popular and every year more and more communities would like the opportunity for the show to come to their town,” Andy Cummings, a public affairs officer for Canadian Pacific said. “It has always been Canadian Pacific’s goal to reach as many communities as possible.”
The train, which seeks to raise awareness of hunger in the communities it visits, makes cash donations to local food shelves. Last year, Canadian Pacific donated $1,500 to the Whitehall Food Pantry. Typically, every dollar that is donated can distribute up to $9 worth of food.
The absence of that donation is further exacerbated by the fact that attendees were encouraged to bring non-perishable food items for the pantry during the train’s annual stop.
Donna Gorton, director of the Whitehall Community Food Pantry, said she hadn’t been notified by anyone that the train would not be stopping in Whitehall this year.
“Wow,” Gorton, said struggling to find the words. “In this town with everything that’s going on….Whitehall is pretty poor. It’s a shame.”
The food pantry serves around 180 local families every year and is dependent on donations from local individuals and organizations.
Although demand isn’t overwhelming, Gorton said the pantry remains “busy enough.”
She said donations are up, but that’s typical of this time of year.
“Honestly, it’s the holiday so we’re getting more people bringing in food. But after the holidays, the donations slow down,” she said.
Interestingly, Whitehall appears to be one of the few local communities that is not included on this year’s schedule.
The train will stop in Saratoga Springs on Nov. 27 and Fort Edward, Ticonderoga, Port Henry, Plattsburgh and Rouses Point on Nov. 28.
Last year’s train stopped at all of those communities, in addition to Whitehall.
The exclusion also comes near the end of an extensive construction project that has forced passengers to board the train several hundred feet south of the Amtrak station. Cummings did not say whether the construction played a part in Canadian Pacific’s decision.
He said tough choices are made every year as to which communities are selected and Whitehall was left out this year. He said the company hopes that the awareness and spirit generated by previous years will translate into continued support for the pantry this year.
He said Whitehall remains on the list of communities that will be considered for next year, but a final determination has not been made.
Gorton met with the local pastors who oversee the pantry Monday night, but at the time, none of them were aware the train wouldn’t stop in Whitehall and therefore haven’t figured out how to make up for the windfall the pantry receives from the train’s stop.
“Hopefully, we can figure out something,” she said.