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Company uses antique truck to help non-profits

Date: 6/23/2009

By Lori Szepelak


HOLYOKE -- A 1948 Chevy pickup retrofitted with a Corvette engine and a Coke cooler -- is a new way for companies and organizations to market their name while donating refreshments at charitable walks and races throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The Charter Oak Truck, the brainchild of Peter Novak, general agent for Charter Oak Insurance and Financial Services Co., believes the overall truck concept had a great throw-back feel to it, which he thought fit in well with the purpose of charitable events -- the time-honored tradition of people helping their communities. Charter Oak is one of the general agencies of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.

"The truck helps us to connect more closely with the causes, businesses and people in our communities, and supports our belief in grassroots outreach," Novak said during an interview with Reminder Publications. "Beyond all of this, it makes people smile."

Novak explained that the agency sponsors several fund-raising walks and tournaments each year, but felt that their participation was getting stale.

"I've been involved in grassroots basketball for years and knew firsthand how valuable it is to be out in the community and touching people on a personal level," Novak said.

Novak added that after perusing several old family photo albums, he came across several pictures of his father who owned a business and drove a 1948 pickup to advertise it.

"He and his partner were standing in front of the truck smiling," he said. "I thought it would be cool to get that same truck and bring smiles to people's faces by taking it to the various events we sponsor."

Charter Oak dispenses donated refreshments from the truck's bed to walkers, runners and other fund-raiser participants. Companies who donate their goods will be recognized on truck signage as well as in any public relations issued by Charter Oak. The agency hopes to team up with area food and beverage companies in this effort.

"Local organizations should consider donating their products to be handed out from the truck because it's a unique way to gain visibility for their name and products," Novak added. "We can either use their products at an event we've committed to, or we can bring the truck along to an event they may already be donating their products to, such as waters for a charity walk."

Novak added that the truck is ideal for organizations to be associated with something that makes people nostalgic for the simpler happy times in their lives or their families' lives.

"Businesses are really getting back to basics and this is a great grassroots way for them to reconnect with their communities," he said. "Plus, doing good, helping others and making people smile is worth any business's time."

After a few stops in Connecticut in the coming weeks, the truck will be headed to Western Massachusetts for several events, including MaryAnne's Kids Golf Tournament on Aug. 24, the Pioneer Valley Montessori Golf Tournament on Aug. 31, and the Easter Seals Walk with Me event on Oct. 4.

Novak credits his marketing team for the success of the truck, who help to sell the truck to fund-raising event planners and sponsors, as well as the agents and employees who staff the truck at various events.

Companies or walk coordinators interested in using the Charter Oak Truck to distribute their products or appear at an event can contact Cami Foley at 539-2000 for more information.