KINGSPORT, Tenn. -

One of the highlights of the holiday season in our area is the Santa Train.

It takes hundreds of volunteers to pack the goodies for the journey across Appalachia. We were there for a behind-the-scenes look at just how many helping hands it takes to make this time-honored tradition come together once again.

For 71 years, the Santa Train has been delivering treats, toys and much-needed supplies to children in our area.

Ruth Collins has been volunteering to pack the Santa Train for 19 years. She remembers the Santa Train rolling through Southwest Virginia when she was a kid -- she tells us she would walk to the railroad tracks every Christmas when the Santa train came down.

Nearly 300 volunteers showed up to the Food City in Kingsport to kick off the holiday of giving. Volunteers say they did it with warm hearts - but cold hands in the winter-like weather.

Suzanne Demming is also volunteering, and she brought 30 kids with her from Sullivan North High School to help out as well.

Many of the donations come from Food City through the help of their vendors. Tommy Stanley, a Food City store manager, tells us, "We're the hub here for all the people across the United States that send gifts."

Other gifts, like hats and scarves, are handmade just for this event.

If 2012's event is any indicator, about 18 tons of goodies will be handed out from the Santa Train this Saturday.

News 5 WCYB will have a crew on-board The Santa Train. It starts in Kentucky Saturday morning then makes its way through Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee, making 14 stops along the way. Around 3:00 p.m., Santa arrives at the Kingsport parade to hand out more goodies.