Berks 1st Summer 2023

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Reading Airport IMPACT Discover Fresh Local Foods Berks County, PA, Government News & Services
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The first issue of the Berks 1st magazine was published in April and was met with wide approval and positive feedback from Berks County residents. We are continuing that strong beginning with this issue and providing more examples of the great things happening in Berks County government!

This issue highlights the Reading Regional Airport and the Berks County Forensics Science Unit, two fixtures in our area that offer some surprising benefits to the county. The county also announces a Whole Home Repair state grant program for homeowners and small landlords and the launch of an online, interactive local food map that connects county farms with consumers.

County residents are invited to take a StoryWalk® in one of our parks and enjoy a good book while you while you enjoy a nice walk! Get a summary of the efforts of our Election Services department following the Primary Election, a County 101 lesson on the Department of Emergency Services, and much more.

Berks 1st magazine is a vehicle to convey the good works and positive messages about services and events in our county government and there is a LOT to cover.

Enjoy the summer issue of Berks 1st! There are great things happening in Berks County government!

Berks County Commissioners Christian Y. Leinbach, Lucine E. Sihelnik and Michael S. Rivera

Join us in Union Township! Township Building 1445 E. Main St., Douglassville In-Person and Online Sept. 28 — 7 PM


The County of Berks has exercised great care to ensure that the content of this magazine is accurate as of the date of publication.

Editorial content and advertising appearing in this publication should in no way be considered an endorsement from the County Commissioners or the County of Berks. The county assumes no liability for the accuracy of claims made by the advertisers. This publication was created with the intent to deliver useful county government news to the residents of Berks County.

The County of Berks disclaims any and all liability and responsibility to any person or party, be they a reader, advertiser or consumer of this publication, for any consequences, actions, results taken or outcomes of anything done or omitted on the basis of reading information or reliance whether partly or solely on the contents of this publication and related website and products. All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced electronically or in print without the expressed written consent of the publisher or editor.

CSI: Berks Buy Berks: Discover Fresh Local Food with New Interactive Map TABLE OF CONTENTS 12 4 Reading Airport IMPACT 8 State-of-the-art
local justice system.
forensic services available
here in Berks County bring benefits to the
Official Publication of the County of Berks, PA 633 Court Street, Reading, PA 19601 Commissioners Office: 610-478-6136 • New online tool connects farmers with consumers. 4 CSI: Berks 8 Reading Airport IMPACT 12 Buy Berks: Discover Fresh Local Food 15 Outdoor Fun with Berks County Parks 18 Berks County Library Storywalk 22 County of Berks launches reimagined website 24 Affinity Groups 25 Veterans Appreciation Dinner Dance 26 County 101 29 Whole-Home Repairs Program 30 A helping hand 32 Employment Opportunities 34 Rincón en Español 37 County Services Index Employment Opportunities 36 Looking for a rewarding and challenging career? Learn more about current job openings with the County of Berks and other local employers. On the Cover: Berks County Detective David Reidler 3 22nd Annual Berks County Veterans Appreciation Dinner Dance 25 Advertisers’ Index Addiction Education & Recovery Council on Chemical Abuse ........................................ 7 SOS Berks .................................................................... 28 TASC 27 Senior Services PA Department of Aging .......................................... 20 Air Conditioning & Appliances Martin Appliance & Water Conditioning ................ 27 Architects Olsen Design Group Architects 21 Berks County Tourism Services Greater Rdg. Convention & Visitors Bureau .......... 11 Community Revitalization Habitat for Humanity of Berks County Inside Front Cover Contractor Services Home Builders Association of Berks County ........ 29 Employment Opportunities Supportive Concepts for Families ............................ 32 The Children’s Home of Reading 32 Festivals Reading Film Office ................................................... 31 Financial Services Riverfront Federal Credit Union............................... 19 Healthcare Association Berks County Medical Society 31 Higher Education Albright College ............................. Inside Front Cover Home & Business Security SAH, Inc. ...................................................................... 19 Hospitals & Healthcare UPMC - Pinnacle Health Back Cover Insurance & Benefits EHD ............................................................................... 7 Mental Health Case Management Awaken .......................................................................... 21 Real Estate Century 21 Lisa Tiger 19 For Advertising Information, contact Outdoor Fun with Berks County Parks 15 There is ALWAYS something fun and interesting happening in Berks! Concerts, art classes, hiking, and MORE! Berks County Library Storywalk 18

It’s hard to talk about a forensics laboratory without drawing the inevitable comparisons to popular television crime dramas and reality shows. The ones where the forensic tests all take place immediately, take moments to process, and provide definitive proof that the butler did it after all.

“Yeah, the “CSI’ effect is real,” Sergeant Justin Morrow, Director of the Berks County Forensics Laboratory, admitted. “It’s become something that we are keenly aware of when we testify in court. The presentation of the data and test results doesn’t need to be flashy, but it does need to be presented clearly and as easily understood for a juror as possible.” Morrow explained what is portrayed on TV may lead to high and unreal expectations when it comes to forensic evidence.

Assistant District Attorney Kathryn Lehman said it’s not just convenient to have a forensics lab close by.

“Our county lab has been able to make solid connections in criminal investigations that labs from across the state might not have been able to make. This is thanks to Berks County’s Forensic Science Unit’s (FSU) solid working relationship with the surrounding municipal police departments and their familiarity with the region,” Lehman said.

FEATURE – Forensics Lab

gun from one crime scene in Exeter Township and bullet casings from another crime scene in the City of Reading and upon comparison of the evidence led to an arrest. Any other forensics lab likely would not have known to compare the evidence in these two crime scenes.”

Berks County is home to one of the only five accredited forensics laboratories in the commonwealth. One of the most basic benefits of having such a laboratory in our county is faster turnaround for forensic services. Sergeant Morrow explained that if the Berks County FSU didn’t exist, local law enforcement would have to send fingerprint evidence to the State Police lab.

“The State Police lab does excellent and effective work, but they serve the entire commonwealth,” Morrow explained. “So the backlog is understandably larger and the turnaround time for getting the evidence processed could be much, much longer than what the Berks County FSU can offer.” He said the FSU has the ability to prioritize cases based on our community’s need rather than be at the mercy of another agency. He said he has heard of backlogs for processing some types of forensic evidence at other labs can be a wait of 12 months or more.

“If the City of Reading calls us up and says ‘We have this cell phone. We have these fingerprints. Can you process these as soon as possible?’ we have the flexibility to drop most of our work and return results within hours or days depending on what the analysis requires,” Morrow said.

each and every day,” District Attorney John Adams said. “We have the resources to process most forensic evidence with the exception of DNA and blood testing. Our Lab has acquired additional equipment and resources each year that has made it one of the top forensic labs in the state. The fact that we have all these resources enables us to offer immediate assistance to law enforcement to help solve crimes and identify the perpetrators of crime in our community.”

Sergeant Morrow explained that simply being close by is a huge benefit to the county.

“We are able to respond to a crime scene very quickly compared to other outside jurisdictions. Smaller law enforcement agencies might only have the option to call the nearest State Police barracks to support them in processing a crime scene. They would do an excellent job but they might be a couple of hours away from the scene. Or they may already be processing scenes and their resources are thinly stretched. We are right here.

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being an accredited laboratory means we conform to high levels of rigor within our services and reevaluate our processes regularly to ensure we conform to current best practices. He said, with accreditation, comes access to grant funding that would otherwise be unavailable.

“Having the Berks County FSU experts nearby is also a huge cost savings to the county,” ADA Lehman said. “When we need expert witnesses to testify in trials, the county needs to pay for the travel time to and from the courthouse and the time taken to testify in court. That can be hours and hours of billable time. Our Berks County FSU experts are just a few minutes away.”

The presence of the forensics lab in our county also brings the responsibility to aid other municipalities and regional jurisdictions. The Berks County Forensics Lab is responsible 24-hours-a-day/seven-days-a-week for a variety of forensic services including crime scene and physical evidence processing, digital forensics, ballistics analysis, and latent fingerprint processing and analysis.

In crime scene and physical evidence processing, Berks County Forensic personnel might respond to the request from a municipality in or around the county to secure a crime scene area, examine and document the scene, and collect, document, and prepare physical evidence for processing. Forensic processing and analysis is a specialty that isn’t covered in depth in police academy training. As a result, law enforcement from municipalities in or around the county will frequently request assistance from the Berks County Forensic Lab to help process a crime scene.

Digital forensics arose in recent decades from the overwhelming use of data- and evidence-rich smart phones, internet use and browser history, digital photography and video evidence, and much more. Ballistic analysis deals with evidence gathered from guns and ammunition. Fingerprint analysis has been used in evidence in US courtrooms for over 100 years and has proved to be extremely reliable.

“However, someone’s ‘digital history,’ the data included in photos and videos, and where and when someone has accessed the internet, is becoming a larger and more important factor in court cases,” Morrow said. “Therefore, the access and analysis of these digital devices is becoming more important to [forensics labs].”

Additional community services that the county Forensics Laboratory coordinates include a Digital Forensics Cell Phone Kiosk at the Agriculture Center. Backlogs are inevitable even in a well-run forensics laboratory. This kiosk is an effort to ease the processing backlog of cell phone evidence. The kiosk allows officers, trained by FSU Digital Forensic Examiners, to extract data from cell phones, put the retrieved data into a report, and copy it to a media storage device for use in their investigation, without that evidence entering the overall laboratory workflow.

The lab coordinates the Prescription Medication Drop Box Program where secure boxes at various municipal locations throughout the county are made available to the public to safely dispose of their old or unused pharmaceuticals. It also coordinates the distribution of Naloxone kits for most law enforcement agencies in Berks County. Naloxone is used in emergency situations when someone may be experiencing an opioid overdose. These kits are provided to the FSU by the Berks County Council on Chemical Abuse (COCA).

6 Berks1st - Keeping You Connected Summer 2023

Forensics Lab Getting Ballistics Testing Trailer

Berks County’s Forensics Laboratory is getting a new tool in the fight against crime. The county secured a grant in January to install a self-contained Ballistic Testing Trailer at the Agriculture Center on County Welfare Road in Leesport. This new testing tool will be installed as part of an overall remodeling at the Agriculture Center. The anticipated installation should occur this fall.

Until now, whenever the Forensic Lab needed to fire guns being tested in conjunction with a crime under investigation, examiners would go to the practice range off campus. The range that they currently use works well to practice shooting and firearms training, but isn’t ideal for firearms testing.

“We do the best we can to test guns there, but it isn’t a laboratory setting and we would get better results if we could control the circumstances of the testing in a more refined way,” said Sergeant Justin Morrow, Director of the Berks County Forensic Laboratory.

The new trailer will be placed on site and will include a water tank to collect the fired rounds without damaging them so that they can be better analyzed. The trailer will have proper lighting, soundproofing, improved safety features, and an air filtration system – all important features needed for ballistics analysis.

“It’s a much safer and controlled option for the county,” Morrow said. 7 In Berks County, funds are managed and distributed by the Council on Chemical Abuse Berks County Opioid Settlement Funds Eliminate or reduce overdose deaths. Prevent and treat opioid use disorders. Learn more at (610) 376-8669 | Available Now in Berks County for Services that:
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Reading Airport IMPACT

Reminders of the Reading Regional Airport (RDG) pop up to Berks County residents in small ways every day. All over the county, we can look up and see for ourselves the variety of propeller and jet traffic moving in and out of the skies around our airport. Closer to the city, the sweeping pulse of the spotlight from the airport’s first hangar shines through the night. (Interestingly, the airport’s beacon was originally from Pomeroy’s department store and moved to the airport after closure.) Commuters driving by on Rt. 183 see an airport terminal and collection of hangers and buildings that have been serving our community for 85 years.

Those modest daily reminders are faint representations of just how vital the Reading Regional Airport is to our community. For many of us, recent experiences with the airport might extend to a tasty meal at Klinger’s at the Airport pub, or an occasional charter jet trip to Orlando, or attending one of the airport’s exciting public events. The actual economic impact of the Reading Regional Airport to our community is vast.

8 Berks1st - Keeping You Connected Summer 2023 FEATURE – Reading Airport
County of Berks

According to an economic impact study conducted for the airport last year, the Reading Regional Airport contributes over $77 million annually to the regional economy. This total includes the direct economic impacts of airport operations, construction, airport tenants, visitor spending, and more. Beyond the direct impacts, the presence and commercial support of an airport in our region helps to attract and facilitate corporate business.

Business Aviation

Businesses within our region with a national and global footprint often use RDG as a base of operations for their private and businessrelated air traffic. Time is money, as they say, and the proximity of a regional airport is a powerful draw to a business that must move people and cargo in and out on a regular basis. The presence and functioning of a regional airport is why companies that rely on air travel or commerce for some aspect of their business choose to put down roots in a community. More of these businesses means more local jobs and housing; more money moving through the local economy. Some of the biggest and best-known companies in our area like Penske Truck Leasing, Quest Diagnostics, Penn National Gaming, First Energy, Loomis Insurance, and many others use RDG on a regular basis.

“It’s all about speed,” Tempesco said. “If the Reading Airport didn’t provide the service that we do to the regional business community, then it can be argued that the operations of these companies in the county might not have grown to be as big and influential as they are.”

Tempesco explained that corporate and general aviation operations conduct an annual average of 40,000 flights in and out of the airport, 24-hours-a-day. These can include corporate business commuters, corporate cargo flights, general aviation flights, and more, all being served by the Reading Regional Airport.

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“An airport is exactly that, a ‘port’,” Zackary Tempesco, Reading Regional Airport Director, said. “The function of an airport is the same as any port on a waterway. It is a nexus of travel and commerce for the region. It is our gateway to the broader, global aviation economic system.”

Aeronautic Events & Outreach

One of the missions of the Reading Regional Airport is to promote aviation and education and one way this is accomplished is through organizing or collaborating on a variety of aviation-related events and expos throughout the year. All of these events serve to promote aviation and the importance that regional access to air travel and commerce has to the local economy. Dates for all these events are on the airport’s website at

World War II Weekend

The Reading Airport has a long history with presenting air shows in a variety of formats over the decades. From nationally famous air shows in the mid-’70s to the equally popular Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s World War II Weekend annual event, the Reading Regional Airport has been the location for all of these great events. World War II Weekend in early June is in its 32nd year and continues to be a major draw for history and aircraft buffs, as well as the general public.

Christmas in the Air

Christmas in the Air has been a holiday feature at the Reading Regional Airport for many years. This all-age event includes a craft show, vendors, music, games, activities, and visits from Santa. Airplane rides for children are offered through the Young Eagles program provided by the Experimental Aircraft Association. Those qualifying for free flights must be between the ages of 8-17 and the legal guardian must apply/sign the day of the event. Flights are offered on a first come, first served basis.

Fly In Car Show

Fly in or drive up to the second annual static car show on the Main Terminal Apron. Last year we had over 300 cars on the ramp and even some parked in the Terminal Building! Enjoy food and music while admiring the show cars.

Reading Aviation Festival and Career Fair

This year is the Second Annual RDG Aviation Career Fair in the RDG Terminal Building. The event includes military and civilian aircraft displays, an aviation career fair and seminars, military flyovers, refreshments, and live music.

Renting Airport Facilities

Airport Terminal space is available to the public to rent for special events at various times throughout the year. Please contact the airport office 610-372-4666 or for information.

10 Berks1st - Keeping You Connected Summer 2023
FEATURE – Reading Airport
Reading Royals mascot Slapshot, Santa Claus, and others greet visitors during Christmas in the Air.

Future of the Reading Airport

Berks County is researching plans for the future of the Reading Regional Airport. The Reading Regional Airport Authority (RRAA) is considering plans to consolidate airport operations under one Fixed Base Operator (FBO). An FBO is typically a private company that enters into an agreement with an airport to offer services such as fueling, flight instruction, aircraft storage, rental and maintenance, and other similar services. Most importantly, functioning as its own FBO would give back to the airport the right to lease or develop significant parcels of its own land and facilities.

The RRAA is also considering ways to work with commercial air carriers and convince them to reestablish regular, scheduled commercial flights in and out of RDG. US Airways Express offered commercial flights at RDG until 2004 when the airline chose to discontinue service. The Reading region is a very different economy than it was nearly 20 years ago and RRAA believes that there is a market for a return of commercial air transportation at RDG in addition to the Southwest Charter flights to Orlando.

Our airport is already an important stimulus to the Berks County economy. There are exciting and impactful economic opportunities on the horizon. Berks County hopes to guide those opportunities to a safe and beneficial landing at our long-serving Reading Regional Airport. 11

Buy Berks: Discover Fresh Local Food with New Interactive Map

Summertime in Berks County is peak produce season. It is a great time to take advantage of the abundant local food that, while available all year, is particularly plentiful during the warmer months. One taste of a ripe, in-season tomato or an ear of corn just picked that morning sets a high standard that can only be met by high-quality, local produce. In addition to taste and quality, sourcing local food also supports our entire local economy, as funds spent are recycled back within the community, rather than sent outside of it. Less packaging and transportation also provide increased environmental benefits.

However, since the businesses that produce and sell local food are scattered throughout the county, it can be difficult for consumers to know where to shop. This makes it challenging to buy local, even for those who really want to. In order to connect consumers to local farms and food outlets, the Berks County Department of Agriculture partnered with the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance (GRCA) to create a solution: the online Berks County Local Food Map. New for 2023, the local food map is found on GRCA’s Grow Together website ( directory).

The local food map is an interactive tool showcasing Berks County farms and other agricultural producers, allowing users to find locally grown produce and other goods.

12 Berks1st - Keeping You Connected Summer 2023 FEATURE – Grow Together
for local food map.

Locations can be filtered by business type, products offered, and accepted forms of payment. That way someone looking for pasture-raised eggs, pick-your-own apples, or locally canned pickles can find exactly what they are looking for and where it is available. In addition to location, the directory also lists business hours and phone numbers, and links directly with producers’ social media accounts or websites. This helps users looking for more information about the places they would like to visit. There is a mobile version, too, making it easy to access during a road trip. The local food map provides a simple tool to source food produced in the county.

Grow Together also hosts the Berks Ag Event Calendar, connecting users with local agricultural, agritainment, and agritourism-related public events. These calendar events encompass everything from fairs and farmers markets to workshops and classes.

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Scan for Berks Ag Event Calendar. Nevin Mast, Bendy Brook Farm

There are events for everyone – from those interested in buying and preserving local food to the farmers who produce it. Community members and organizations may submit events directly on the Berks Ag Event Calendar page as well, allowing this calendar to grow and meet the needs of those using it.

Since Berks County agriculture is big business and contributes $555 million in sales of diverse agricultural products annually to our economy, finding ways to support the industry is important. “Berks County is fortunate to have agriculture be a driving force of our economy and residents will now have the ability to continue to support the businesses by purchasing locally sourced items identified through the directory map,” said Deb Millman, Vice President of Development, GRCA.

Both the local food map and the ag calendar serve to connect Berks County residents with agricultural products and events right in their own back yard. “We are pleased to partner with GRCA in offering these valuable tools to Berks County that will not only strengthen our local agribusiness economy but also enhance the social fabric of our communities as residents meet the people behind the food and products they depend on,” said Emily Wangolo, Executive Director, Berks County Department of Agriculture.

Visit to find locally produced food and goods and agricultural events happening in Berks County. More opportunities to support local agriculture, including the B.A.R.N.OPOLY game, can be found on the Berks Agriculture Resource Network webpage at

14 Berks1st - Keeping You Connected Summer 2023 Find fresh, local and delicious products in your own backyard while supporting your neighboring farmers. Check out the NEW Berks local food map! is now LIVE! Brought to you by: Scan me to browse local farmers, growers and other agriculture-related businesses.
FEATURE – Grow Together
West Reading Farmers Market

OUTDOOR FUN with Berks County Parks

August 2023

Tuesday, August 1

Full Moon Hike | 8pm @Antietam

Lake Park, Angora Trailhead

Step out onto the trails at Antietam Lake Park to experience the parks after dark. We’ll take a stroll on the trail and look skyward to enjoy the celestial sights while learning more about the history, natural world, and more. FREE. Pre-registration required. Contact Lisa Gauker at 610-374-2944, ext 2611 or

Wednesday, August 2

Art Explorations: Drop In Art Class

9am - 12pm @Berks Leisure Area

Hey kids! Makin’ art and getting messy go hand in hand – and with these one-day classes, both are sure to happen! Each

class comes with a theme, an intended art project, and all materials needed to discover a brand-new way to explore the natural world. Start the class with some silly games and movement, and then settle into some solid art-making fun. This is designed as a drop-off program. Geared towards children 6-12. $5 per child, pre-registration required. Contact Lisa Gauker at 610-374-2944, ext 2611 or

Saturday, August 5

(Rain Date August 6)

Concert: Vinyl Groove 5:30-8pm @ Gring’s Mill

Vinyl Groove is a multi-talented vocal group that sings the best R&B dance music from the ‘70s, Motown-Philly and Classic Disco Dance Music. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to hear

them and travel back in time reliving those exciting nights and great songs that you loved back in the day. Food trucks on site, bring your own chairs and blanket and dance the night away!

Food Vendor: Lio Colon’s Food Bus. FREE and open to the public! 15 FEATURE – Parks & Recreation

Friday, August 11

Woodworking With George Kunder

10am @ Heritage Center

Do you whittle, turn, or carve wood? Perhaps, you would like to learn how?

George Kunder does all these activities, passionately, and has been awarded and recognized for his work. He will offer a 45-minute discussion on his woodworking passion: finding the right wood, aging it correctly, and converting it, by hand or machine, into functional art or sometimes just plain art. Along with a woodworking discussion there will be a hands-on carving activity. FREE and open to the public.

Wednesday, August 16

Wednesday Night Workshop: Nature Still Life | 6pm @ Heritage Center

Find the best angle and join us in a fun instructional drawing session led by parks’ staff as we focus on a unique still life using parks historical and natural history items. You don’t have to be an artist to join us. Learn about the parks and brush up on your sketching skills (or learn some new ones) – refreshments provided. Bring your own materials or borrow ours – supplies limited. FREE, pre-registration required. Contact Lisa Gauker at 610-374-2944, ext 2611 or

Thursday, August 17

The Return of the Bats

7-8:30pm @Berks County

Heritage Center

Join Dr. Karen Campbell of Albright College for her popular talk as she explores and explains the lives of bats, from around the world, to Pennsylvania, to our own Wertz’s Covered Red Bridge. We will talk about the characteristics that these flying mammals share, and those that make them distinctive, and how they support a range of different roles in nature, including the interactions between bats and humans. Following the presentation join the Pennsylvania Bat Rescue as they release rescued bats back into the environment. FREE and open to the public.

Saturday, August 18

(Rain Date August 19)

Concert: Swing Fever

5:30-8pm @ Gring’s Mill

Swinging since 1983, this 19-piece big band, complete with vocalists and an emcee, has been recreating the big band sound of the 1930s and 1940s and performing music selections that span over five decades. Swing Fever Dance Band offers quality music with an authentic big band sound.

Food trucks on site, bring your own chairs and blanket and dance the night away! Food vendors: Sweet Ride Ice Cream, Wich Way Sandwiches, Lio Colon’s Food Bus. FREE and open to the public!

Thursday, August 24

Creative Flower Photography with Valerie Hoffman

6-8pm, @ Gring’s Mill

Join professional local photographer and workshop leader Valerie Hoffman, as she shares and demonstrates the many choices to make to come away with amazing flower photographs. We will discuss how to choose a subject, lighting, lens and aperture choices, using external light sources and modifiers, key composition techniques, lighting and more! Suggested equipment would be any macro lens, close-up accessory and tripod but you can work with any lens you bring! FREE, pre-registration required.

Contact Lisa Gauker at 610-374-2944, ext 2611 or

Saturday, August 26

School House Games

Every Fourth Saturday 10am-4pm @ Berks County Heritage Center

Join the Friends of the Epler’s One Room Schoolhouse every fourth Saturday May through October to discover and try hands-on games enjoyed by students of the past. Step inside the newly restored school and experience what student life was like in a one-room schoolhouse. Games and activities will be available every fourth Saturday starting May 27 and will continue August 26, September 23, and October 28 from 10am to 4pm. Activities are FREE and open to the public.

16 Berks1st - Keeping You Connected Summer 2023 Parks & Recreation

Saturday, August 26

Plein Air Painting Workshop with the Goggleworks

11am-1pm @ Berks County Heritage Center

Meet directly at Berks County Heritage Center to learn tips and tricks to sketch from life, and capture the world around you. Our instructor Zoungy will be on hand to offer instruction, and help you create interesting, unique sketches that reflect the sites to be seen at the Berks County Heritage Center. A brief tour of Gruber Wagon Works is included. Please bring a sketchbook and your preferred sketching materials, like pencils or pens; you’re welcome to bring your own stool/camp chair. Registration via


Monday, September 4

Labor Day Concert: Ringgold Band

10am-12pm @ Heritage Center

Food trucks on site, bring your own chairs and blanket and dance the day away! FREE and open to the public.

Saturday, September 16

Ranger Rambles: Star Photography | 7pm @ Angora Fruit Farm

Shoot (for) the moon and join Ranger Bonmer in a photography program that’s out of this world. We’ll stay in the parks after dark and discover what it takes to take stellar photos of the night sky. Bring your own photo equipment or cell phone and be prepared to walk in the dark. FREE, pre-registration is required. Contact Lisa Gauker at 610-374-2944, ext 2611 or

Saturday, September 16

Museum Day & Gruber Belt Run Day

10am-4pm @ Heritage Center

Visit the Berks County Heritage during the 19th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day. Enjoy Free admission to the Gruber Wagon Works and C. Howard Hiester Canal Museum. Tours of the Gruber Wagon Works will be offered at 10:00, 12:00, 1:00 and 3:00.

During the day, witness a rare, first ever public demonstration of the Gruber Wagon Works’ line shaft-belt system and the demonstration of the Wagon Works’ hit-and-miss 15 horsepower

Otto Engine that served as the main power source for the factory. The engine and belt line-shaft system remained functional throughout the factory’s operation, running numerous machines and equipment. Experience the Wagon Works ‘come to life’ during this unique demonstration.

Belt-Running Demonstrations will be at 11:00 am & 2:00 pm

Otto Engine Demonstrations will be at 12:30 pm and 3:00 pm

FREE and open to the public. Contact Daniel Roe at droe@countyofberks. com or at 610-374-8839 x201 for more information.

Tuesday, September 19

Read with a Ranger: Fall Fun! 10am @ Bingaman House

The Berks County Park Rangers will be presenting Read with a Ranger one TUESDAY a month. Join our Berks County Park Rangers on an adventure! Kids ages 3-5 are invited to enjoy a themed story, go for a walk on the trail and complete a craft to become an honorary Junior Ranger. Each month will feature a different theme and location, which will be noted on the event. Parents/Guardians must attend with their child (this is NOT a dropoff program). Program is FREE but registration is suggested.

Contact Lisa Gauker at 610-374-2944, ext 2611 or

Saturday, September 23

Fall Glow Hike | 7pm @ Antietam

Lake Park, Angora Rd. Trailhead Kick off the start of the Fall season with some fun. Berks Parks’ staff will guide a twilight hike on Antietam Lake Parks’ forested trails on the first day of fall – by the light of glowsticks! Enjoy the beauty of the forest as we learn about the park, local flora and fauna, and experience the park in a new way. Meet at the Angora Trailhead parking lot, wear sturdy hiking shoes, and bring a flashlight (just in case). Glowsticks provided, but feel free to bring your own. Appropriate for children ages 7+ due to uneven terrain on the trail. Contact Lisa Gauker at 610-374-2944, ext 2611 or 17
FEATURE – Library Services
STORYWALK Berks County Library

If you’ve walked along the arboretum trail of the Reading Public Museum within the last two years, you may have noticed a recent addition to the lazy, winding path. Signposts spaced at regular intervals along the trail display the colorful pages of a children’s storybook. Just taking a leisurely stroll through the park, passersby can enjoy a full story.

This is a library StoryWalk®.

StoryWalks® are a recent addition to Berks County. StoryWalks® have been around for years, first appearing in Vermont in 2007. This unique storytelling experience displays pages of a book along a walking trail, encouraging those nearby to read along with the laminated story pages attached to metal posts. Some StoryWalks® integrate activities within the display to prompt participants to engage in their surroundings, all for the purpose of blending the joys of reading with the love of the outdoors.

“The location at the Arboretum of the Reading Public Museum is a perfect complement for a family like ours to spend time together,” said Berks County Commissioner Lucine Sihelnik. She said her family often explores the outdoors, stopping occasionally to visit the StoryWalk® at the Reading Public Museum.

Earlier this spring, Sihelnik visited the StoryWalk® with her husband and son to walk the exhibit trail and read Shoot for the Moon, Snoopy!

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Your life at your fingertips! 50 S Museum Rd, Reading, PA 19607 610.372.8872

Map of Berks County

— Permanent StoryWalk®

— * NEW * Permanent StoryWalk® EXETER

— Seasonal StoryWalk®

— Story Stroll

Master Plan for Older Adults Listening Sessions

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging has embarked on the development of a 10-year strategic plan designed to help transform the infrastructure and coordination of services for Pennsylvania’s older adults, and they want your input!

You are invited to contribute what you think should be the plan’s priority goals, objectives, and initiatives to support the highest quality of life for older adults.

“We appreciate the access to literacy while simultaneously enjoying outdoor recreation and family outings,” Sihelnik said, noting the StoryWalk® trail is one of their favorite things to do as a family.

Reading a story along a walking trail is a fun activity for families to do together. StoryWalks® promote several key areas of health in an outdoor setting: physical activity, early literacy, and family engagement. For the StoryWalk’s® youngest participants, establishing positive lifestyle choices at an early age helps to build the foundation of healthy living through adulthood.

• Berks

• Berks

Members of Berks County Public Libraries, the county’s library system, created StoryWalks® and Story Strolls of their own that are freely accessible to anyone walking the pathway. Books on display are updated regularly with some titles pairing to a local or seasonal theme. Stories chosen for

20 Berks1st - Keeping You Connected Summer 2023
Visit to learn about the plan and to submit your input by electronic form. Join us for a Listening Session * August dates and more locations coming soon! Berks County Listening Sessions will be held starting in August at:
Hispanic Center
Area Multi-Service
• Boyertown
Encore Mifflin Center
• Berks
Encore Strausstown Center Call our office for more information 610-478-6500

the arboretum StoryWalk® at the Reading Public Museum include a Spanish language translation when the story is not available in a bilingual format. Story Strolls are scheduled events where a Stroll Leader will guide groups on an outdoor trail walk, pausing at locations to read from a storybook.

Currently, there are five permanent and seasonal library StoryWalks® in addition to a Story Stroll location available in Berks County:

• Bally Park (seasonal)

• Boyertown Park (seasonal)

• Brandywine Community Library (Story Stroll)

• Exeter Community Library

• Kutztown Park

• Reading Public Museum Arboretum

Three new permanent exhibits are expected to open in late summer, 2023. The StoryWalk® at Boyertown Park will transition from a seasonal offering to a permanent display, while the Muhlenberg Township Rail Trail and The Nature Place at Berks Nature will introduce a StoryWalk® to each respective location.

Each StoryWalk® has a starting point that is usually near the beginning of the trail near the venue’s parking area. Addresses for the trails and additional information about Berks County Library StoryWalks® are available online at

The StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson from Montpelier, VT, and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. StoryWalk® is a registered service mark owned by Anne Ferguson. 21
Santander Plaza, Reading DoubleTree Hotel, Reading

County of Berks launches reimagined website and open data hub to improve user experience

Whether it’s through Siri, Alexa or Google, the answers to most of life’s questions are now just a simple search away. But when the expectation is instant gratification, any hiccup or wrong turn along the way can be frustrating and confusing for users.

So, when the County of Berks embarked on a new website project, the driving focus was to design a site that was clear, clean, and easy to navigate.

“A website is typically someone’s first interaction with that organization, so that experience can leave a lasting impression,” said Justin Loose, Chief Information Officer for the County of Berks. “With that in mind, we really tried to approach this project from the perspective of the user instead of just organizing it like the County’s organizational chart. We want to make it easy for people to find the information that they need. We want a website that continues to evolve with the changing needs of our constituents.”

With 44 departments offering countless services and programs, there was a lot of content and information to sift through and reorganize. The County enlisted the help of the Technology Services team from the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and a website design firm to create the groundwork.

22 Berks1st - Keeping You Connected Summer 2023

From there, the county’s Information Systems Department held trainings for department representatives to learn the new platform and met with each individually to work through their department’s pages to figure out the best way to present their information.

While there is still further refining to do, the new website has already been a welcome refresh to the prior dated version. And with the tools available in the new platform, the county will be able to continue to adjust and improve the website in the months and years to come to better meet the needs of residents searching for answers.

The new website, which launched in March, offers a reorganized menu system based on categories of service instead of just a long alphabetical listing of departments. The site’s homepage also boasts a plethora of quick click options, resource cards, expanded search capability and other tools to help visitors quickly reach the department or program they are looking for. The new website also features an updated color scheme for increased readability and utilizes more photos and graphics to anchor the flow of content and create a better visual experience overall. And to ensure consistency of style and current content moving forward, the county developed a new website governance policy that includes a multi-step approval process for edits and additions.

“The County of Berks is proud to present our new and improved website to our constituents,” Loose said. “We know there is still plenty of work ahead to make this a world-class site, but we believe we now have the structure, tools, and support necessary to offer a useful and information-packed resource to our residents.”

Data Hub and Story Maps

In addition to the new website, the County of Berks also recently rolled out the Berks County Data Hub to help residents easily find and access county data files and archives.

The Berks County Data Hub is an open data portal that presents various types of county-related data in a fresh, current, and easy to navigate platform. Users can quickly download the information they are looking for through the data hub instead of submitting a request to receive the records. There is no cost to download the data and visitors can access the most current and updated files in real time. The platform also allows for the data to be filtered by specialty and type and can be downloaded in various file formats.

“The County Commissioners are committed to the concept of open data and making that information available at no cost to anyone who wants to live and do work in Berks County,” said Brad Shirey, Geographic Information System (GIS)

Manager for the County of Berks. “These new tools help us to streamline and improve our interactions with the public by making more data readily available and it decreases the time and interactions it may take for a constituent to get to the information they are seeking.”

The data hub is the new centralized home for departmental meeting minutes with easy search functionality to quickly sort through the records. Previously, each department or authority stored their meeting minutes on their department pages of the website.

The data hub also hosts the county’s land record data and the tools used to search for assessment information and parcel data. These land records are some of the most popular data sets within the county, with an average of roughly 5,000 visitors accessing the land parcel information each week. The data hub offers the ability to search for information by topic, such as agriculture, elections, environment, or transportation, or by type, such as data set, documents or apps and maps.

The data hub also seamlessly connects visitors to the websites for other partners and neighboring counties for data that is beyond what the County of Berks offers and maintains.

In addition to these tools, the data hub includes a step-by-step land records guide to help residents understand the common processes involved and addresses frequently asked questions.

Land records are one of the areas within county government that involve several county departments and elected officials.

This guide helps clarify what role each department plays within the process. The guide was created using Story Maps, a story authoring web-based application that allows the county to share information and maps with text and multimedia content.

This is an application the county intends to continue to utilize to develop more educational items moving forward. The Berks County Data Hub was created and is maintained by GIS staff within the County of Berks Information Systems Department. 23

Affinity Groups program offer veteran employees a chance to connect and serve

The Berks County Department of Veterans Affairs is excited to announce the launch of a new employerbased program that helps connect veterans with one another in their respective workplaces and with the community through civic and service opportunities.

The Veteran Employee Affinity Groups program is designed as a partnership with Berks County businesses, companies, and corporations who are interested in creating an affinity group within their organization. Affinity groups are for employees who have prior military service, including employees active in the National Guard and Reserve, and may include military family members.

These groups provide support, camaraderie, and networking opportunities for veteran employees, including mentoring, career development, community outreach and veteran cultural awareness activities. They serve as a comfort zone for new

hires who are transitioning from active duty into civilian culture, creating an immediate way to connect with their fellow veteran coworkers.

Affinity groups also allow veterans to work side-by-side with their coworkers to assist Berks County Veterans Affairs with volunteer activities. These Affinity Group Volunteer Ambassadors will help advocate and spread the word about all the services available through Berks County Veterans Affairs.

“This program will help our office expand our outreach throughout Berks County and allow us to serve more veterans and their families,” Berks County Director of Veteran Affairs Ken Lebron said. “Volunteers are needed for several volunteer initiatives and programs that serve veterans, their dependents, surviving spouse and caregivers. Who else is better to serve them than fellow veterans!”

Affinity Group volunteers will help with the following initiatives and projects:

• Cemetery Censuses and Flag Placement

• Veterans Treatment Court and Jail Initiative

• Homeless Veterans Outreach

• Food Insecurity Veteran Support

• Music Therapy Groups

• Ruck and Outdoor Activities

• BCVTA Fundraisers

• Minor Home Repair Support

• Veterans Appreciation Dinner Dance

• Friendly Check-ins with other veterans, either by phone or in-person

The most difficult part of organizing this type of program is simply getting it off the ground. The Berks County Veterans Affairs staff is committed to assisting interested employers in setting up the groundwork for their organization’s affinity group. The department’s Education and Outreach Coordinator will be leading the initiative and will be available to help employers with the logistics of getting started, connecting them with service opportunities and proving important and new updates about available programs and resources. For more information, please contact Berks County Veterans Affairs at 610-378-5601 or by emailing

24 Berks1st - Keeping You Connected Summer 2023 Veterans Affairs

22nd Annual Berks County Veterans Appreciation Dinner Dance

Throughout the history of our country, citizens have owed a debt of gratitude to the men and women who have served in our military. For the 22nd time, the Berks County Veteran Appreciation Dinner Dance Committee is sponsoring an annual patriotic dance to honor past and present members of our armed forces. The committee is a 503(c)(19) non-profit organization.

The Berks County Veteran Appreciation Dinner Dance has gained immense popularity since its inception. It began as a dance organized by several Wilson High School teachers who wanted to show their patriotism following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Every spring from 2002 through 2008, the adult patriotic prom was held.

The dance was organized as a fundraiser for the Make a Wish Foundation and a child was sponsored at the prom. Reading High School Cadets Drill Team performed at the first annual dances until the Wilson JROTC was organized in 2008 and asked to host the event. The prom committee teachers retired in 2008 and the adult prom was discontinued. Wilson JROTC started in fall of 2008 and asked to continue the prom.

While all this was occurring, Sharyn Kuhn, a widow of a veteran, felt moved to host a Veterans Appreciation Luncheon at the Riveredge in Greenfields in November 2008. Word of the success of the luncheon spread and a committee formed along with Kuhn to create what is now the Berks County Veterans Appreciation Dance. The committee based the new event on the original Make a Wish event and incorporated the dinner/dance format. The dance to honor veterans returned to the WHS gymnasium in the fall of 2010. Hot dogs and light refreshments were served, but the committee decided to serve an upgraded hot dinner in 2012.

Last year’s dance was a phenomenal success with hundreds of guests in attendance. This year once again, the Wilson High School gymnasium will undergo an amazing transformation and become a magnificent, flag-draped ballroom enhanced with professional lighting effects and a dazzling display of red-white-and-blue decorations. Honoring this patriotic occasion will be the Wilson High School JROTC Cadets, Muhlenberg High School JROTC, Sea Cadets, and Civil Air Patrol.

Live big band music will be provided by the Let’s Dance Orchestra, along with lighting and sound from Arethusa Designs LLC. Accompanying the live music will be a fantastic dinner buffet catered by Russo’s Catering and Mission BBQ. Veterans are encouraged to bring their families and wear their uniforms, medals, and ribbons. The gymnasium is accessible to anyone with disabilities.

Sat., November 4th • 3 to 10 p.m. Wilson High School Gymnasium

2601 Grandview Blvd., West Lawn, PA

Doors Open 3:30 PM

Dinner 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Formal Event 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Music & Dancing 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Tickets are $15 and go on sale beginning in September at:

• Wilson High School

• Berks County Veterans Affairs Office

• Any Berks County Boscov’s Department Store.

• Calling the Wilson Army JROTC Office at 610-670-0180 Ext. 4787 or email 25

Department of Emergency Services

County 101 is a recurring feature that takes a deeper look at one of the County of Berks’ many departments to further explain the services and programs available to residents.



Emergency Services, Berks


The Berks County Department of Emergency Services proudly executes our mission of contributing to the safety of individuals living and working in, and traveling through, Berks County, Pennsylvania. In conjunction with our local, state, and federal partners, we maintain a state of high readiness for disasters, both technological and natural. We do this through a relentless pursuit of our five core values – prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery.

Our staff stands ready with training and expertise in skills related to emergency communications, planning, technical incident support, logistics, and command. This expertise makes us a leader among the Pennsylvania emergency services.


9-1-1 Center (Public Safety Answering Point)

DES is responsible for the staffing and operation of the county’s 9-1-1 Center 24 hours-aday/7 days-a-week/365 days-a-year. The center is more properly called the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). The PSAP fields calls from the public who are in need of police, fire, and emergency medical services throughout the county.

Emergency Radio Communications

The Department of Emergency Services (DES) is responsible for the coordination of municipal emergency services and the provision of county-level emergency services for Berks County and a small portion of Schuylkill County.

While the 9-1-1 Telecommunicator is managing a call with an individual in need of assistance, they are collecting vital information about the situation. They remain on the line with the individual and relay the information to a dispatcher who sends appropriate responders based upon the nature of the emergency and provides additional information as it is collected and while they are still responding. All of this is performed using an extensive 700 MHz land mobile radio system in conjunction with conventional sub-systems that ensures the ability of the emergency responders to communicate and coordinate their response activities.

Emergency Management Agency

The Emergency Management Agency (EMA) is a group within DES that works to prepare and train municipalities and responders for emergencies. The DES can also step in on behalf of the county for support if a large emergency exceeds the capabilities of an individual municipality. The EMA will also review, approve, or suggest improvements to emergency response plans submitted by hundreds of public and private businesses like day cares, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, public school districts, dam owners, and many others. The EMA also conducts outreach to the community to advise on appropriate preparedness and mitigation steps at a personal or family level to reduce the impact of disasters on homes, businesses, or communities.

Fire Training Center

The Fire Training Center is a 13-acre facility on Fritz’s Island off Morgantown Road. It is available to fire and other emergency services from inside and outside the county to conduct training in both the classroom as well as on the drill grounds. The centerpiece of the facility is its “burn building” which is a structure in which firefighters can train in basic and advanced structural firefighting skills in an environment that is without risk of collapse or similar failures.

26 Berks1st - Keeping You Connected Summer 2023 County 101

Hazardous Materials Response Team

Berks County’s Hazardous Materials Response Team or its Special Operations Group is comprised of full time and part time employees who train and prepare to respond to severe chemical emergencies at fixed facilities or in transportation.


DES encourages the public to go to its website (www.berksdes. com) and view information and participate in some online services that can improve the overall emergency response to individual households.


9-1-1 Info – explains when to call 9-1-1; reviews the sort of questions that a 9-1-1 call-taker will ask and why; what to do if you accidentally call 9-1-1; and more. The information available at this link will ensure that someone needing to call 9-1-1 is prepared to offer the best information in the most efficient way possible to ensure DES can get help to you quickly.

Smart 9-1-1 – Enter information specific to you and your family that would be important for emergency services responding during an emergency. As an example, you can let responders know that you have specific medical allergies or conditions. You can tell responders that you have a dog that can get aggressive to strangers. Having this information entered in advance can cut down the time it takes to respond to you in an emergency. That pre-provided information becomes available to emergency responders only when you call the 9-1-1 system.

Berks Alert – Berks Alert is a public alerting and notification program. Berks Alert is a service where subscribers can receive national, state, and local information about emergencies that might affect or are affecting where you live, work, and play. Subscribers can enter locations of interest (home, work, kids’ daycare, elderly parents’ home, etc.) and can receive alerts that range from something as broad as a blizzard warning impacting the whole county to something as specific as a shelter-in-place order that impacts just a couple blocks surrounding one of the locations of interest.

Berks County Special Needs Survey – This service collects voluntary information about individuals who may need special assistance in an emergency. For example, a weather emergency causes a long-term blackout. Emergency services can check this survey system and determine if there are individuals with medical equipment that rely on electricity. Emergency services can then reach out to establish if those people are in need of support. This survey is not a replacement for personal preparedness, but it is a great backup for unusual or extended emergencies.

continued on next page 27
CALL 610-375-4426 19 N 6th Street, Suite 300, Reading, PA 19601 DRUG & ALCOHOL EVALUATIONS FOR ADULTS AND TEENAGERS Confidential • Independent • Free (for Berks County residents with no private health insurance)


It is important to know NOT TO HANG UP on a 9-1-1 call if you receive a recording indicating all call-takers are busy. The 9-1-1 center is set up to respond to calls as quickly as possible but cannot answer immediately all the time. Certain emergencies create a “surge” of calls coming into the Center simultaneously, and events like thunderstorms cause the usage of the 9-1-1 system to spike well beyond normal. Calls are answered in the order they are received, and if you hang up and call back, you drop to the bottom of the queue.

People calling 9-1-1 can also become frustrated at the questions the 9-1-1 call-taker is asking. You may “just want an ambulance sent fast” but all of the questions the call-taker is asking are vitally important to the emergency response. Callers to 9-1-1 will greatly help the situation by attempting to remain calm and answer all of the responder’s questions as thoroughly and accurately as possible. As soon as the call-taker has confirmed the address and established the nature of the emergency you are having, that emergency is being dispatched to police/fire/ EMS as needed. The additional details from the questions that the 9-1-1 call taker are asking are then being conveyed to the emergency responders while they are enroute to help you.

The 9-1-1 system does experience failures/outages. While they are rare and are addressed by the telephone company with the upmost urgency, they do happen. People should be aware that PSAPs have a 10-digit emergency line and they should know that number as easily as they know 9-1-1. In Berks County, that number is 610-655-4911. It should NEVER be used if 9-1-1 is available or if you are connected and get the “please hold” recording referenced above, but if there is a busy signal or if your call to 9-1-1 will not connect, it is an alternative means of contact.


402,639 Incoming Calls to the Public Safety Answering Point

455 Text-to-9-1-1 calls

These calls resulted in 335,557 police/fire/EMS assignments (dispatches)

93.9% of incoming 9-1-1 calls were answered in under 20 seconds.

To order lock boxes or disposal bags, or to find a medication drop box location near you, scan the QR code or visit

28 Berks1st - Keeping You Connected Summer 2023 County 101
Do your part to curb the opioid crisis. Properly store and dispose of
Free Lock Boxes 30+ Drop Box Locations Free Disposal Bags In Berks County these free resources make medication safety easy:

Whole-Home Repairs Program

The Pennsylvania legislature passed a massive housing investment program last year using funds from the Covid-era American Rescue Plan. Now, Berks County has adopted the Whole-Home Repairs program to address vital housing insecurity and the climate crisis.

The program offers grant funding for low-to-moderate income homeowners or a zero-interest loan equivalent to small landlords to pay for fundamental repair or replacement of a major system or items of their house or weatherization of homes and rental units.

Some of the services that the Whole-Home Repairs program might cover include habitability and safety issues, measures to improve energy efficiency or water safety, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and more.

Commissioner Michael Rivera said that he hopes that small landlords who rent affordable housing units might use the funds to make important improvements without those improvements increasing overall rent costs. “If landlords and homeowners can make improvements to their dwellings that they otherwise could not afford, then we will see an overall improvement in living conditions and property values,” he said.

The Redevelopment Authority of the County of Berks will administer the Whole-Home Program for residents in the county outside the Reading city limits. Habitat for Humanity will administer the program for residents within Reading city borders. At the end of May, the Redevelopment Authority was in the process of developing a website and online form for the start of the program. According to Commissioner Rivera, the anticipated launch of the program is the beginning of July.

Online links regarding eligibility requirements and how to apply for the program will be available at the Whole Home Repairs Program website (www.bcwhrp. com) starting in July.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, PA homeowners whose household income does not exceed a set percent of the area’s median income may be eligible for grants. Pennsylvania small landlords who own no more than five properties and no more than 15 rental units of affordable housing may be eligible for loans.

The program requires that participating homeowners continue to live in the improved dwelling for at least ten more years. At the end of ten years of occupation, the loan will be considered forgiven. If a homeowner sells a home improved by the WholeHomes Repairs program before ten years have passed, a pro-rated amount based on the number of years spent in the house will become due. For landlords, the financing for the program is a zero interest, deferred payment loan. No payment is required as long as the original applicant remains the owner of the property. The full amount of the loan would become due when the dwelling is sold, vacated, leased or transferred through inheritance or any other means to any person or entity other than the original parties to the loan. 29 FEATURE: Redevelopment Authority

A helping hand

New ballot sorting system brings major upgrade to elections’ processing

The changing landscape of elections in Pennsylvania throughout the past several years has ushered in new laws, processes, and deadlines. Each of those changes added to the already heavy workload to prepare for Election Day, stretching the Berks County Office of Election Services to its limits.

The County of Berks made several adjustments to meet the new needs of the department, from increasing the number of full-time staff members, calling on employees from other departments to help on Election Day, and even leasing additional workspace in the building at 19 N. Sixth Street for the processing of mail-in and absentee ballots.

But perhaps the biggest development toward modernizing the department’s operations occurred earlier this year when the county purchased an Agilis Ballot Sorting System to help alleviate the load of processing mail-in and absentee ballots.

The Agilis Ballot Sorting System is similar to the equipment utilized by post offices to organize incoming mail for delivery. The large, black machine full of belts and sensors performs several menial tasks that previously had to be done by hand by the elections staff, saving hours upon hours of manual work.

When mail-in or absentee ballots are returned to the office, they must be processed to show that they are legitimate ballots that have been timely received and then sorted and stored until they can be opened on Election Day.

The ballot sorting system completes the following steps in that process:

• Stamps the ballot envelope with the date and time it was received

• Scans the unique bar code on the envelope to match it up with the data for that voter’s record from the state system

• Takes a photo of the voter’s declaration on the envelope to allow for manual review for signature and date

• Counts and sorts the ballot envelopes into each of Berks’ 202 precincts

For the 2023 Municipal Primary, the county received more than 13,200 mail-in and absentee ballots. With the ballot sorting system, those ballot envelopes were able to be processed and prepped ahead of Election Day, as permitted by PA Election Code, by a few staff members during their workday. While it is impossible to quantify the exact number of hours saved, the step of just sorting the ballot envelopes into their 202 precincts previously took several days when it was done by hand.

“The Agilis system has been a game-changer for our department,” Director of Election Services Anne Norton said. “The machine allows us to process mail-in and absentee ballots more efficiently than what we were capable of doing by hand. And with that saved time, our staff was free to handle the many other important tasks needed to make Election Day run smoothly.”

30 Berks1st - Keeping You Connected Summer 2023 Election Services

Important Dates for the 2023 Municipal Election:

Last day to register to vote: October 23 Register to vote at

Last day to apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot: October 31

Apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot at

Election Day: November 7

Polls open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Find your polling place at

What you can do now to prepare for Election Day: Consider updating your signature in your voter record. The signature on file for most voters dates back to when they first registered, which is often when they turned 18. With time, signatures can change, often getting shorter and more difficult to read. To help ensure a smooth election experience, voters can update their signature by completing a voter registration form. The form can be mailed by request from the Office of Election Services or completed at


What brought you to Berks County?

The simple answer is that I came from New York, attended Albright College and came back to do my residency at Reading Hospital. By the time I finished, I was married to my wife (40+ years now!) who had her roots in Pennsylvania. We tried to start a practice in upstate New York, however, Reading Hospital made such a better offer that we decided to stay.

What do you love about the art of medicine?

I fell in love with medicine at just six years old. My grandfather had suddenly passed away, and I watched as my father, grandmother, and uncle tried unsuccessfully to console my mother. A man walked into my parents’ home, held my mother’s hands and whispered something to her. The room got quiet, and my mother stopped crying. I asked my father, “Who is that man?” My dad said, “He’s a doctor.” And I told myself, “I want to be him.”

What do you want the community to know about your practice?

All patients deserve to be treated with respect which is why I generally do not refer to my patients by their first name. I want the community to know that my patients are no different than patients in any other doctor’s office. When a patient has an active addiction, they can exhibit severe manipulative behavior. When that patient has their disease (addiction) treated and is beginning recovery/sobriety, the true individual is seen as the mask of addiction is removed. Often, that patient in recovery is more appreciative and kinder than almost any other patient I treated when I was a Family Physician. 31
FIND A DOCTOR! Serving Berks County for 200 Years EB R KS COUNTY MEDICALSOC I E YT FOUNDED 1824
MEET THE PHYSICIANS of Berks County Medical Society
ReadingFILMFEST Oct 26-29, 2023 9th Annual
Embrace the captivating world of storytelling by sponsoring Berks County’s 9th annual film festival.
32 Berks1st - Keeping You Connected Summer 2023 Teachers Food Service Youth Care Workers Clinicians Great Benefits & Pay! All Shifts - PT & FT DailyPay - Get paid before payday! BeAHero! JoinOur Team #purpose #careersincaring #makeadi erence Learn More at: $15 - $19 Starting Salary Great Benefits Paid Training All Shifts PT & FT Positions Berks County & Beyond S FI C UPP RTIVE ONCEPTS FOR AMILIES, NC. Start $15-$19 hr. #CareersInCaring #MakeADifference #FindYourPurpose DailyPay - Get paid before payday! NOW HIRING Click on Employment Opportunities Agriculture Center Auditorium 1238 County Welfare Road, Leesport Tuesday, September 19 10 AM - 3 PM Career Fair County of Berks Looking to start your new career with the County of Berks? Stop by to learn more about these departments and positions: Berks County Jail System • Correctional Officers Children & Youth Services • Caseworkers • Telecommunicators Department of Emergency Services Learn more about our employement opportunities: Human Resources • All Other County Job Openings Berks Heim • RN • LPN • CNA • NA • Cooks • Dietary Aides • Nursing Supervisors We invite you to find employment opportunities with the County of Berks and the paid employer ads in this section. EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES 33 It is the policy of the County of Berks to provide employment, training, compensation, promotion and other conditions of employment without regard to race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, marital or veteran status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or disability. JOIN OUR TEAM Check out all employment opportunities and apply online: When you join the County of Berks, you become part of a community committed to doing the very best for the residents we serve. We offer a wide variety of careers, from public safety and human services to medical, clerical, and more, with excellent benefits: • Health, Vision & Dental • Paid Holidays and Vacation
Employee Wellness Programs
Loan Forgiveness Program
Tuition Reimbursment

Compre Berks: Descubra la Comida Local Fresca con un Nuevo Mapa Interactivo

En el condado de Berks el verano es la temporada alta de frutas y verduras. Es un buen tiempo para aprovechar la abundante comida local que, aunque está disponible durante todo el año, es particularmente abundante durante los meses más cálidos. El sabor de un tomate maduro de temporada o de una mazorca de maíz recién cosechada en la mañana establece un alto estándar que solo puede cumplirse con productos locales de alta calidad. Además del sabor y la calidad, comprar alimentos locales también apoya toda nuestra economía local, ya que los fondos gastados se reciclan dentro de la comunidad, en lugar de enviarse fuera de ella. Menos empacamiento y transporte también proporcionan mayores beneficios ambientales.

Sin embargo, dado que las empresas que producen y venden alimentos locales están dispersas por todo el condado, puede ser difícil para los consumidores saber dónde comprar. Esto hace que sea difícil comprar local, incluso para aquellos que realmente quieran. Con el fin de conectar a los consumidores con las granjas locales y los puntos de venta de alimentos, el Departamento de Agricultura del Condado de Berks se asoció con la Greater Reading Chamber Alliance (GRCA) para crear una solución: el Mapa Local de Alimentos del Condado de

Berks en línea. Nuevo para 2023, el mapa local de alimentos se encuentra en el sitio web Grow Together de GRCA (www.

El mapa local de alimentos es una herramienta interactiva que muestra las granjas del condado de Berks y otros productores agrícolas, lo que permite a los usuarios encontrar productos cultivados localmente y otros bienes. Las ubicaciones se pueden buscar por tipo de negocio, productos ofrecidos y formas de pago aceptadas. De esa manera, alguien que busque huevos criados en pastos, manzanas o pepinillos enlatados localmente puede encontrar exactamente lo que está buscando y dónde está disponible. Además de la ubicación, el directorio también enumera el horario comercial y los números de teléfono, y se vincula directamente con las cuentas de redes sociales o sitios web de los productores. Esto ayuda a los usuarios a buscar más información sobre los lugares que les gustaría visitar. También hay una versión móvil, haciéndolo fácil de acceder durante un viaje en auto. El mapa local de alimentos proporciona una herramienta simple para obtener alimentos producidos en el condado.

34 Berks1st - Keeping You Connected Summer 2023 Rincón en Español
Busque un mapa de alimentos locales.

Grow Together también alberga el Calendario de Eventos de Berks Ag, que conecta a los usuarios con eventos públicos locales relacionados con la agricultura, el agroentretenimiento y el agroturismo. Estos eventos del calendario abarcan todo, desde ferias y mercados de agricultores hasta talleres y clases. Hay eventos para todos, desde aquellos interesados en comprar y preservar alimentos locales hasta los agricultores que los producen. Los miembros de la comunidad y las organizaciones también pueden enviar eventos directamente en la página del Calendario de Eventos de Berks Ag, lo que permite que este calendario crezca y satisfaga las necesidades de quienes lo usan.

Dado que la agricultura del condado de Berks es un gran negocio y contribuye con $555 millones1 en ventas de diversos productos agrícolas anualmente a nuestra economía, es importante encontrar formas de apoyar a la industria. “El condado de Berks tiene la suerte de que la agricultura sea una fuerza impulsora de nuestra economía y los residentes ahora tendrán la capacidad de continuar apoyando a las empresas mediante la compra de artículos de origen local identificados a través del mapa del directorio”, dijo Deb Millman, vicepresidenta de desarrollo de GRCA.

Tanto el mapa local de alimentos como el calendario agrícola sirven para conectar a los residentes del

condado de Berks con productos agrícolas y eventos en sus propios patios. “Nos complace asociarnos con GRCA para ofrecer estas valiosas herramientas al Condado de Berks que no solo fortalecerán nuestra economía local de agronegocios, sino que también mejorarán el tejido social de nuestras comunidades a medida que los residentes conozcan a las personas detrás de los alimentos y productos de los que dependen”, dijo Emily Wangolo, directora ejecutiva del Departamento de Agricultura del Condado de Berks.

Visite para encontrar alimentos y bienes producidos localmente y eventos agrícolas que ocurren en el condado de Berks. 35
Busque el Calendario de Eventos de Berks Ag.

Programa de Reparaciones para Todo el Hogar

La legislatura de Pensilvania aprobó un programa de inversión masiva para vivienda el año pasado utilizando fondos del Plan de Rescate Americano de la era de COVID. Ahora, el condado de Berks ha adoptado el programa de Reparaciones para Todo el Hogar para abordar la inseguridad vital de viviendas y la crisis climática.

El programa ofrece becas para propietarios de viviendas de ingresos bajos a moderados o un préstamo equivalente sin interés para arrendadores de pocas propiedades para pagar por reparación fundamental o el reemplazo de un sistema principal o artículos de su casa, o la climatización de viviendas y unidades de alquiler.

Algunos de los servicios que el programa de Reparaciones para Todo el Hogar podría cubrir incluyen problemas de habitabilidad y seguridad, medidas para mejorar la eficiencia energética o la seguridad del agua, accesibilidad para personas con discapacidades y más.

El Comisionado Michael Rivera dijo que espera que los arrendadores de pocas propiedades de vivienda asequible puedan usar los fondos para hacer mejoras importantes sin que esas mejoras aumenten los costos generales de renta. “Si los arrendadores y propietarios pueden hacer mejoras en sus viviendas que de otro modo no podrían pagar, entonces veremos una mejora general en las condiciones de vida y el valor de las propiedades”, dijo.

La Autoridad de Reurbanización del Condado de Berks administrará el programa de Reparaciones para Todo el Hogar para los residentes del condado fuera de los límites de la ciudad de Reading. La organización Habitat for Humanity administrará el programa para los residentes dentro de los límites de la ciudad de Reading. A finales de mayo, la Autoridad

de Reurbanización estaba en el proceso de desarrollar un sitio web y un formulario en línea para el inicio del programa. Según el Comisionado Rivera, el lanzamiento anticipado del programa es a principios de julio.

Los enlaces en línea con información sobre los requisitos de elegibilidad y cómo solicitar el programa estarán disponibles en el sitio web de Reparaciones para Todo el Hogar (www. comenzando en julio.

Según el Departamento de Desarrollo Comunitario y Económico de Pensilvania, los propietarios de viviendas de Pensilvania cuyos ingresos familiares no excedan un porcentaje establecido del ingreso medio del área pueden ser elegibles para becas. Los arrendadores de pocas propiedades de Pensilvania que poseen no más de cinco propiedades y no más de 15 unidades de alquiler de viviendas asequibles pueden ser elegibles para préstamos.

El programa requiere que los propietarios participantes continúen viviendo en la vivienda mejorada durante al menos diez años. Al final de diez años de ocupación, el préstamo se considerará perdonado. Si un propietario vende una casa mejorada por el programa de Reparaciones para Todo el Hogar antes de que hayan pasado diez años, deberá repagar una cantidad prorrateada basada en el número de años vividos en la casa. Para los arrendadores de pocas propiedades, el financiamiento para el programa es un préstamo de pago diferido sin intereses. No se requiere ningún pago mientras el solicitante original siga siendo el propietario de la propiedad. El monto total del préstamo vencería cuando la vivienda se venda, desocupe, arriende o transfiera por herencia o cualquier otro medio a cualquier persona o entidad que no sean las partes originales del préstamo..

36 Berks1st - Keeping You Connected Summer 2023 Rincón en Español
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