Get on the Gratitude Train

This is the Gratitude Train artwork as conceived by Fresh Artists. The gratitude train itself was painted by Anna Everhart, a member of St. John’s.

By Susan Shinn Turner

Feeling thankful? Then get on the Gratitude Train!

In 1949, the people of France sent 49 railroad cars to the United States in appreciation for our country’s help during World War II. The cars were filled with French goods and handmade items.

This February is the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the train car in Raleigh. That car is now housed at the N.C. Transportation Museum, which will be the hub for “49 Days of Gratitude,” which is set for Feb. 9-March 30, 2019.

“We got the idea to go to the transportation museum and pitch the idea of gratitude events planned around the anniversary, and they loved it,” says organizer Sherry Mason Brown, a member of St. John’s who has teamed up with Kim Lentz in providing leadership.

The Gratitude Train committee has been meeting since January. As part of the celebration, businesses will collect items for non-profits in Rowan County with their very own gratitude boxes. Each box costs $100, and the money raised will support the program.

“We’re trying to replicate the idea of the Gratitude Train — giving something physical to our local non-profits,” Brown says.

Each business gets to choose which non-profit it will support, and participating non-profits will supply wish lists of items they need. Brown says she hopes many different non-profits will be included in the effort.

The 49-day celebration begins with a parade an opening ceremony Feb. 9 at the transportation museum. As of press time, other events include:

Feb. 15 — an art crawl featuring WWII veteran portrait by high school students, and an art show at Waterworks Visual Arts Center by homeschool students

Feb. 16 — Night at the Museum with G.I. Joe — a partnership between Rowan Museum and the N.C. Museum of Dolls, Toys & Miniatures

Feb. 20 — a lecture on African American involvement in World War II at Hood Theological Seminary

Feb. 23 — World War II-based events at all three branches of Rowan Public Library

Feb. 25 — Gratitude journaling at Rowan Public Library

March 9 — Salute to Women in Service Meet Me In Paris gala for Center for Faith & the Arts at Lee Street Theatre

March 16 — American Girl: Molly on the Home Front — N.C. Museum of Dolls, Toys & Miniatures

March 22 — Merci Weekend — all things French

March 24 — Cinema CFA — “Sarah’s Key”

March 30 — Closing ceremony — Piedmont Prime Time Community Band, and Voices of Veterans performed by drama students

The marquee event will be Feb. 27-March 3, an exhibit on the Tuskegee Airmen at the transportation museum called “Rise Above.” This event is sponsored by F&M Bank.

Also, on March 15, St. John’s will host the Phoenix Readers in their presentation of “The Great War.”

Other events are also in the works, Brown says. “The Gratitude Train is a wonderful story of the French people, and we want the entire community to participate in these events. Whoever you are, you’re thankful for something, and we want to show this in a positive way.”

If you are interested in sponsoring a box or hosting an event, please call 704-636-2889, ext. 228. You may also visit 49DaysOfGratitude.com for more information.