By Bonny Osterhage
Anyone who has seen that Halloween classic, "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown," remembers Linus' quest for the most sincere pumpkin patch. If Linus had lived in San Antonio, he wouldn't have had to look much further than our own pumpkin patch here at AHUMC. Not only is it one of the most beautiful with pumpkins stretching as far as the eye can see, but it is also an important fundraising tool that allows us to continue with our outreach ministries within the community.
The pumpkin patch has been in existence for more than 15 years and has grown into one of the community's favorite places to visit. It has become the local hot spot for school groups and families who want to picnic, hold a story time or photograph their tots in their Halloween costumes. And it is a way for families to feel good about themselves, knowing that the money from their purchase will go to a worthy cause.
A portion of all the proceeds from pumpkin sales goes to the Habitat for Humanity. The remaining profits are divided equally between the four groups that work the patch who then distribute it as they see fit. "Some spend it all at once and others distribute it as needs present themselves throughout the year," explained Margaret Barnes, president of Seniors on the Go, one of the groups who volunteer their time to work the patch.
Our community is not the only one who benefits from the pumpkin patch. The pumpkins are grown on a 100,000 acre farm in New Mexico that is owned and operated by the Navajo Nation. They allow Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers, owned by the husband and wife team of Richard and Janice Hamby, to lease 2000 acres of the land for pumpkin growing.
The Hambys got their start in North Carolina where they raised pumpkins in the summer and sold them to a local church youth group for a fundraiser. What started as simply a way to supplement their income grew as other church groups began hearing about them and wanting their services.
When hurricane Hugo hit, the Hambys lost an entire crop and had to look for pumpkins to buy in order to meet their commitments. That is when they discovered the Navajo Nation in New Mexico who had acres of hearty pumpkins. "These pumpkins were tougher, weighed less and held up better in extreme temperatures," explained Janice.
Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers formed the mutually beneficial relationship with the Navajo Nation and they now harvest approximately 3,800,000 pumpkins annually that they distribute to roughly 1200 churches in 43 states. They only charge the churches for the pumpkins that are actually sold and they require that the church dispose of the leftovers. Since AHUMC often donates ours to the Food Bank or other organizations that need them, it is a win-win situation.
The AHUMC pumpkin patch begins October 13 and runs through the 31st. It is open 7 days a week from 9 a.m.-7 p.m.This really is the fundraiser that just keeps giving. From our community outreach programs that benefit throughout the year, from sales to the families in the community that have a fun place to take their children, everyone gets to enjoy the harvest!