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      December 19, 2022

      All aboard! Conti employee rides the rails to spread holiday cheer

      I grew up in Bloomington, Indiana. As a father-son thing, my dad and I liked to watch trains and had model trains at home.

      The Indiana Rail Road (INRD) runs through my hometown, so I grew up always seeing the railroad and that’s why it’s my favorite. Kind of like your favorite sports team.

      I found out earlier this year they had a Santa Train that barnstorms through towns in southern Indiana and Illinois, stopping at stations so families can come out and see Santa and other Christmas characters.

      The railroad asks for volunteers to dress up and help greet people, so my wife, Jennifer, and I did it this year. We wore inflatable nutcracker suits. We walked around and entertained the kids. Some of the kids really got into it. They’ll come up and give you hugs and start dancing with you.

      One of the train cars was packed with winter clothing for members of these communities in need.

      I’m on our Diversity Committee at our plant and, when I found out I might possibly be on the Santa Train, I brought it up in a meeting. The committee helped me organize a donation box that I put out at the plant.

      We have a lot of really good people working here. Whenever we have a donation drive, we do really well, especially when it relates to children.

      The event was really good. We visited 13 different towns from Friday to Sunday. Volunteers worked alongside employees from the railroad. INRD put us up in a hotel at the end of each day. They said we saw roughly 5,000 people in those three days. It was quite the turnout.

      There was one kid who was from a family that was financially struggling, so he boarded the train to get a coat. When he got off the train, he was crying because he said he never had a new coat. To participate in holiday cheer was really rewarding, but the fact things like that were happening was amazing.

      Matt Downs

      Machine Operator