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Holiday Train hits $100k in 2017 donations

The Holiday Train Committee poses with an oversized check declaring the $1 million they have raised over 15 years. Photo courtesy of Mary Slusser 1 / 2
Holiday Train co-chair Mary Slusser celebrates surpassing $1 million in donations for the Friends in Need Food Shelf on Dec. 9, 2017. Fifteen years ago, Slusser persuaded officials at the transcontinental train to stop here. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 2

Holiday Train donating gathered steam last year, with over $100,000 raised in south Washington County.

The total donations, announced Dec. 27, showed nearly $10,000 above the committee's goal.

The committee aimed for $90,000 in donations for the 2017 event and needed about $75,000 to reach a million in the 15 years since the train has stopped in Cottage Grove.

The total for the year was just over $100,000 raised for the Friends in Need Food Shelf that serves around 29,000 people each year.

Mary Slusser, Holiday Train committee chair, said their total donations are generally close to their goal, but this year they went almost $10,000 over it.

She credits the above-average performance to the new attractions added for the anniversary year — including new food items, the laser show and the festival of trees — as well as increased advertising by the committee. "The entire Holiday Train experience exceeded my expectations in many ways, financially ... and the size of the crowd," Slusser said.

The event also helped raise 17,000 pounds of food and toiletries for the food shelf. Over the 15 years, 193,000 pounds have been collected.

The Holiday Train has raised about $12 million and 4.3 million pounds of food since it began in 1999. Slusser said that in its 15 years, she's proud that Cottage Grove has contributed over $1 million to that total.

"It was definitely a great last year," said Slusser, who is stepping down as chair. "I feel like I went out on high note."

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