Residents in neighborhoods in the Exeter, Mifflin and Wilson school districts were treated to a special parade Saturday afternoon.

Vehicles, including large work trucks, associated with New Castle Lawn & Landscape paraded through the neighborhoods for a good cause.

The employees and their families were collecting nonperishable foods to restock local food pantries and to restock pet food for the the Animal Rescue League of Berks County. 

According to Brad Stephenson, co-owner and manager of the Cumru Township company, the idea for a parade started a few years ago and then grew into a way to also give back to the community.

"This has been a dream of mine for three years just to have a parade," he said. "Then (this year) we turned it into something that actually meant something. The whole marketing team got together to have a parade to try to help other people which we're always trying to help at New Castle."

The team came up with a few ideas, which were not be possible due to the COVID pandemic or other logistical reasons.

Then came the idea to have a parade, but incorporate a food drive.

Tricia Voss, landscape designer, and Tricia Williams, marketing, reached out to VOiCEup Berks and the Animal Rescue League, and the food drive truck parade was a go.

Residents along the parade route were asked to leave nonperishable food items, for humans or animals, out on their curb after 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Then the New Castle team, including employees and their families, set out on the parade route and collected the items from the curb. Setting up the parade this way allowed for residents to see the trucks and decorated vehicles drive by without causing a large gathering of people along the route like a traditional parade.

"We saw this as a community event because what little kids don't love seeing big trucks drive by," Voss said. "It's also a good team building event for our staff. Everybody loves working here and this gets us all, safely, together. It's happy. It's fun. And it's a perfect day for it."

Stephenson estimated about 50 people were taking part in the parade.

Canned items picked up along the parade will be donated to VOiCEup Berks for the organization's annual Canstructure contest, a building competition to fight hunger.

After the contest needs are satisfied, all of the canned food will be donated to the Helping Harvest Food Bank. All noncanned items collected during the parade will be donated to the West Lawn United Methodist Food Pantry and all animal items will be donated to the ARL.

"I'm just happy that all us can get together," Stephenson said. "It's more of a team-building event and community-builder than anything. We're always looking to give back to the community. The community's given us a lot over the years. We wouldn't be where we are without the community and our employees."

Even before the first vehicle left the parking lot to start the parade, a number of donations had already been received. 

Stephenson hoped the trucks would collect many more items along the parade route, but the number of items collected was not going to be the only determining factor in considering the event a success.

"The success would be just the smiles," Stephenson said. "The smiles on everybody's faces now, if we see some smiles as we drive and people are hooting and hollering, that's a big success. Ultimately it's human food, animal food and some smiles. As long as people are having fun. It's been so hard this past year. It's nice to see people laugh."

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