The BNSF Railway Foundation is the primary vehicle through which BNSF contributes to our communities. Through scholarships, funding for community groups and other endeavors, the BNSF Railway Foundation donated more than $9 million to deserving causes in 2018.
One of the key areas of philanthropy BNSF supports is veteran-related giving. One of the many veteran-supporting nonprofit organizations we are proud to help is Wreaths Across America. With trucking partners, we help transport wreaths that are placed on military veterans’ graves at more than 1,600 locations.
One way BNSF shows our regard for police officers, firefighters and other first responders and their families is by giving them a memorable train ride on the BNSF First Responder Express. In 2018, First Responder Express stops included Galveston, Texas; Houston; Oklahoma City; Spokane, Washington and Topeka, Kansas. Since its founding in 2015, the First Responder Express has traveled to 17 cities and through 12 states. At each stop, the BNSF Railway Foundation awards grants to local organizations that support first responders and their families.
BNSF honors our own with fun-filled trips for BNSF employees and their families on the BNSF Employee Appreciation Special. The train features immaculately restored vintage passenger railcars from the 1950s and 1960s. In 2018, the Special ran a total of 37 round trips for more than 9,000 BNSF employees and their families in communities in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana. We also gave rides to organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club and local first responders as part of these events.
Continuing one of our most enjoyable annual traditions, the BNSF Holiday Express provided military families with a merry little train trip including food, entertainment and, of course, Santa. Over the past 11 years, more than 26,500 military personnel and their families have enjoyed the hospitality of the Holiday Express. At each stop, the BNSF Railway Foundation adds to the cheer by making donations to charitable organizations that support military families. To date, those donations total approximately $750,000.
As a company whose tracks run deep into America’s history, BNSF has established long-lasting, mutually rewarding ties with many communities. Every year, we celebrate a selection of them with our BNSF Railway Heritage Community Award. In 2018, the communities recognized were Arkansas City, Kansas; Enid, Oklahoma; Bonner County, Idaho and Galveston, Texas. Festivities typically include a reception, a prized model locomotive given to local officials and donations from the BNSF Railway Foundation to local nonprofits.
The Tribal Relations Team, the first of its kind among U.S. Class I railroads, works to strengthen our ties with the many diverse tribal nations along our network. In 2018, BNSF was proud to show our appreciation for the many valiant contributions of Native American veterans through the BNSF Railway Foundation’s $500,000 donation to help create the National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
In 2018, we launched Rail Talk on bnsf.com. The online news outlet spotlights stories on safety, service, communities and BNSF heritage. From fascinating stories about dealing with the challenges of operating trains through Avalanche Alley to heartwarming features on how BNSF is invested in our communities, Rail Talk gives people a closer look at our railroad and our people.
In 2018, BNSF employees organized a community project to help rebuild homes in Beaumont, Texas, that were damaged by Hurricane Harvey. The initiative, dubbed Hope After Harvey, was started by concerned members of BNSF’s Industrial Products team and grew to include local BNSF employees, as well as BNSF customers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Port of Beaumont and the Southeast Texas Economic Development Foundation. BNSF volunteers worked on nine homes of elderly and disabled Beaumont citizens, hanging sheetrock, installing insulation and generally helping to make the homes habitable again. To supplement the sweat and hard work of BNSF volunteers, we also supported the cause through the BNSF Railway Foundation and matching contributions of our employees.