SHENANGO TOWNSHIP — For families looking forward to trick-or-treating but concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, the Shenango Valley community working to provide a safe alternative — "mask and treat."

The event will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Park Inn by Radisson in Shenango Township, and will be set up in a drive-through format. Though staying in their cars, children are encouraged to dress up in costume as volunteers, also in costume, bring bags of candy out to the families' vehicles.

Park Inn Catering Director Samantha Schultz said the idea for a mask-and-treat came about because of challenges faced by residents during the "new normal."

The mask-and-treat will serve as a way for the community to support not just local children, but each other.

"Our community has flooded us with all kinds of donations and sponsorships to allow us to put on this event for the kids. It is wonderful to see how each and every business and persons' support has helped this event to be bigger and better than we anticipated," Schultz said.

Each child who participates will receive one bag of candy, while adults will receive something as well — each vehicle will receive a bag of personal protective equipment, or PPEs, along with coupons for local businesses, Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sherris Moreira said.

The Shenango Valley Chamber has previously held PPE distributions, and had planned to give out equipment, including masks and hand sanitizers, when the school year began.

But Moreira said other organizations appeared to be stepping into that gap, so the chamber of commerce pushed back its distribution further into the fall. When Moreira became aware of the Radisson's mask and treat event, Moreira said it seemed like a chance to support the community while distributing PPEs.

And with most of the Shenango Valley's municipalities holding their trick-or-treat events from 4 to 6 Oct. 31 — the time recommended by Mercer County Regional Council of Governments — there was a hole in the schedule a week earlier.

"It's a way to help our municipalities since some families aren't comfortable taking kids trick-or-treating, so having this option takes some of the burden off of them, but it's a week before the other event, so parents can still take their kids trick-or-treating if they choose," Moreira said.

Local businesses can donate flyers and coupons to help support the business community, and the chamber is working with local retailers to purchase candy at a discount for the event. Deadline for donations or sponsorships is Oct. 15, Moreira said.

Mask-and-treat is limited to 1,750 children, with families required to have either a Shenango Valley ZIP code or attend school in the area. This includes the municipalities of Sharpsville, Hermitage, Sharon, Wheatland, Farrell, West Middlesex, and Brookfield Township and Masury, Ohio, along with their coordinating townships, according to the event release.

Emergency vehicles from first responders, including the Shenango Township Police Department, will help direct traffic, with the plan calling for vehicles to enter from state Route 18 and snake around the parking lot, Schultz said.

Though this is the mask-and-treat's first year, Radisson Sales Director Elizabeth Grove said with the outpouring of support from the community, she expected that similar events could be held for years to come.

Organizers are looking for volunteers and people to pack the gift bags on Oct. 19. For sponsorship, donation or volunteer information, please call either 724-906-6152 or info@svchamber.com.

Platinum sponsors are Buhl Regional Health Foundation, Eastwood Mall, Primary Health Network Charitable Foundation, Sharon Regional Medical Center, Taylor Chevrolet Taylor Kia of Hermitage, Primary Health Network and UPMC Horizon.

Gold sponsors include the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio and Eastwood Mall. Silver sponsors include Advanced Nephrology Associations, according to the release.

Like David L. Dye on Facebook or email him at ddye@sharonherald.com.

WHAT: Shenango Valley Mask and Treat 2020

WHEN: 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24

WHERE: Park Inn by Radisson, 3377 New Castle Road, West Middlesex

REGISTRATION: Families are asked to register for free up to six children per vehicle at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/shenango-valley-mask-treat-2020-tickets-120914776351