Kirkwood, Mo.—On Saturday, June 29, 2013, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill joined with dozens of Kirkwood depot volunteers during a party to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the station volunteer program. The senator also read a commendation from Vice President Joseph Biden thanking the volunteers for their dedication and hard work in ensuring that the , served by four daily passenger trains, remains a welcoming place for travelers and visitors to the city.
The Kirkwood volunteer program began in 2003 after ticket agents were removed from the station in a cost-cutting move by the state of Missouri, which financially supports the Missouri River Runner trains between St. Louis and Kansas City. Not wanting to see the depot unattended during the day, the city subsequently negotiated with the Union Pacific Railroad to purchase the structure. The volunteer program was established with the intention of staffing the station for the arrival of the trains.
Almost 200 people showed up for the first information session and many signed up to participate in the program. Although their initial charge was to greet passengers and answer questions about train arrivals and departures, the program soon grew into much more.
Volunteers now staff the station from about 8am-5pm and provide travelers and visitors with information about local restaurants, shops and attractions such as the nearby Farmers’ Market. Throughout the year, volunteers meet to decorate the station for holidays, install seasonal plantings, maintain a lending library and gather for special meals. To make sure the station volunteers are easily recognizable, each one wears a shirt with the city logo—featuring the depot—and an ID badge. Under city management, the depot is also used for meetings, events and party rentals, which provide additional funding for building maintenance.
Since 2004, volunteers have donated approximately 64,000 hours and greeted more than 803,000 visitors. In recognition of their work, the Kirkwood Station Volunteers were awarded a 2004 Champion of the Rails Award by Amtrak, which is given to individuals and groups that partner with Amtrak to improve the passenger experience and promote intercity passenger rail service.
Today, approximately 65 active volunteers open the depot every day and act as ambassadors for Amtrak and the city. Train Station Volunteer Coordinator Bill Burckhalter says, “Ten years ago Kirkwood residents decided it was important to preserve our train station. It shows the true spirit of Kirkwood that we found a way to keep our station and share our love of the trains that have been so important to our town’s history.” Burckhalter has been invited to speak about the creation and management of the volunteer program at numerous , one-day conferences that bring together civic leaders, state partners and Amtrak staff to discuss station reinvestment strategies.