As Toronto-area commuters dash through Union Station on their way to work or to finish off their Christmas shopping, employees of the agency that runs the trains have been greeting them with some holiday cheer while raising money for a good cause.
Every year, a group of employees from Metrolinx, the provincial transportation agency, congregate at the station to sing Christmas songs and raise funds for the local United Way.
The agency’s holiday glee club started in 2012, after a group of employees competed in a workplace singing competition called Canada Sings, says Lori-Ann Smith, customer care co-ordinator of station operations at Metrolinx.
“We got to know each other really well,” says Smith. “Come Christmastime, one of the participants of the group decided he wanted to do some carolling at Union Station and so he reached out to us. We had a rapport, we already knew what we all sounded like, so it seemed like the logical thing to do.”
Since then, the carolling program has grown and the singers eventually partnered with transit security employees who regularly raise funds for the United Way, says Josh Tzventarny, senior advisor for sustainability at Metrolinx.
According to Tzventarny, a donation drive for the charity has taken place at the station for years. “Transit security would just stand there and ask for donations. . . . People like to listen to singing,” he says, noting it made sense to add the musical element as well.
This year, the group sang during the rush hour — in the morning when commuters arrive at the station and in the afternoon when they’re waiting for their trains, says Tzventarny.
He adds that apart from engaging employees in philanthropy, the program also brings staff together. “We’re such a big organization . . . that you can just kind of get lost in your job,” he says. “But I like interacting with people, and the caroling provides an opportunity to learn what’s going on in other parts of the organization.”
Employees also appreciate the program for the personal benefits it brings, says Smith, who recalls a colleague noting how she found carolling to be a stress reliever.
“I do a lot of singing outside of work. So for me, this is a way to take the thing I love to do and get other people involved and engaged,” says Smith, adding she hopes to expand the program in the next few years by singing at other stations or enlisting more staff to join.
Tzventarny says it’s easy to convince employees, even those who are shy, to join the group. “A big concern we get from people is, ‘I haven’t sung since high school’ or, ‘I have a terrible voice,’” he says. “But in a choir, for the most part, you’re just trying to blend in together and be loud enough to drown out the rest of the crowd.”