Berkshire Bank volunteers build bikes for Children's Holiday Extravaganza

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Photo Gallery | Berkshire Bank volunteers build bikes for local children

PITTSFIELD — A new event meant to mimic the General Electric Co. holiday children's parties of old is expected to kick off at Colonial Theatre on Nov. 29 with well more than 500 people in attendance.

City Councilor at large Kathleen Amuso conceived of and began gathering support for the event in February. She found an early partner in Berkshire Theatre Group CEO and Artistic Director Kate Maguire, who agreed to host the event.

Dozens of local businesses, most notably Berkshire Bank, next began jumping onboard.

On Wednesday, efforts to this point culminated in 35 Berkshire Bank employees assembling 10 bikes donated by the bank as prizes to raffle off to children at the event. An employee of Plaine's Bike Ski & Snowboard was on hand to ensure the tellers, financial analysts, loan officers and various executives got things right.

Turning in a finished product — a shiny purple Specialized bike — bank employee Cheryl Martin admitted to a slight mishap on first attempt.

"This is take two," Martin said. "The first time there was a little problem — you know, just a backwards wheel."

Otherwise, the bank folks performed commendably, assembling all 10 prizes in about a half-hour. The bike assembly and giveaways also mirror a key aspect of the old GE holiday celebrations.

Amuso said all 548 tickets to the free event, dubbed the first annual Children's Holiday Extravaganza, vanished in no time after very little promotion.

"I had this vision: I wanted to put on a spectacular holiday event," Amuso said. "I introduced it to the business community and it became contagious. Now, here we are; it's getting close and we're very excited."

A dance crew and DJ; an illusionist, a jester and a clown; a Santa, face-painters and carolers will also feature prominently at the event. Food and refreshments will be served and more than 20 items donated by local businesses raffled.

"Anything we can do as a company that helps the community ultimately makes us a stronger business," Berkshire Bank Community Engagement Officer Gary R. Levante said of the bank's involvement. "Except we want to do more than just support things financially. [Wednesday's bike build] makes things personal and provides a great team-building opportunity to our staff."

Santa will give out donated children's books, and attending kids are also promised goodie bags.

Organizers tried to land tickets in the hands of less fortunate families to whom the event would mean much more.

Berkshire Bank participated as part of its "Season of Giving" campaign, which last year saw 70 percent employee participation and a total donation of more than 40,000 volunteer hours of service. Employees are paid for time donated to Season of Giving.

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.


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