PALO ALTO (KCBS) – Christmas came early this year for a group of unsung heroes in Palo Alto.

Members of the community raised donations for several train track guards who keep watch at dangerous crossings in Palo Alto. That includes Lonnie Bernard, who stands guard at the Meadow Drive Caltrain crossing, rain or shine.

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“It’s been really rough because the last couple of weeks have been raining, one of the worst storms we’ve had in a long time,” he said.

Bernard is one of the guards who keeps an eye on the tracks on shifts, looking for anyone who might be thinking about stepping in front of a train. The 24/7 effort caught the attention of community members who this week gave all 11 track guards $350 gift cards, as a way to say thank you.

“It was excellent and unexpected. It’s always good at this time of year because things are so tight with the holidays. It meant a lot because we do put in a lot of long hours,” Bernard said. “It’s not really hard work, it’s just tedious, day in and day out.”

It was a Facebook post by Julie Lythcott-Haims on December 15 that started the campaign to raise money. After talking to a guard, she realized the difficult hours they work and decided to try to raise money to give each of the 11 guards a “meaningful gift card” for the holidays, along with a letter of thanks. As an update to her original post, Lythcott-Haims said the topic “seems to really be touching a nerve” and almost $4,000 in donations came in.

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The Track Watch program was created after several young people died on the tracks in 2009 and 2010. Sherice Lane, who regularly walks near the Meadow Drive crossing, said Bernard is as cheery as they come.

“People are really depressed this time of year and so anybody that can smile or say a nice word can really brighten someone’s day, so I think it’s really important,” she said. “This guy is always cheery, he’s always saying good morning.”

The gift cards were presented to the guards on Monday. Lythcott-Haims said for those who couldn’t donate, a simple hello or thank you can brighten a guard’s day as well.


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