The local church received more than 800 pumpkins Sunday evening and spread them across the lawn for its inaugural Pumpkin Patch Youth Fundraiser. The pumpkins vary in size and shape and will benefit the Youth Group at SUMC for its future mission trips.
Jerry Squire, a member of SUMC, said the pumpkin patch would be out front of the church for the entire month. The church will also be selling homemade jams and gourds that have been provided by church members. Squire is one of two men camping outside the church to protect the patch and offer around-the-clock assistance.
“This is all to benefit the church and I love working with the kids who come through and tour the patch,” Squire said. “This is our first year at this and we think it will be a big fundraiser for us and we plan to do it every year.”
On Thursday, the SUMC saw a pair of groups for a morning tour through the pumpkin patch, storytelling and a corn field hunt. Providing a little entertainment and excitement for the kids is an added bonus for the SUMC.
“The storytelling time is just to outreach the smaller kids in the community. We talk about how things grow, the root structure and give them a little education with the tour. I am not here to preach to them, just here to show them some love,” Michael Ridgeway, director of Christian Education for the SUMC said. “I like to see the smiles on the kids faces, especially when you show them something and the light bulb comes on. It’s the wow factor.”
Linda Hollis and Carolyn Gregovich brought their kindergarten students from the Magic Treehouse School to the pumpkin patch tour Thursday and found their children very excited.
“This was a nice little walking field trip for us and (Ridgeway) did a great job and the kids really loved it,” Hollis said. “The kids are always excited about Halloween. As soon as they see the first pumpkin go up on the calendar they start talking about what costume they are going to wear. It is definitely one of their favorite holidays.”
The SUMC received its pumpkins from Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers, a company who exclusively delivers to churches and non-profit organizations in the United States. The company hauled the pumpkins from their patch in New Mexico, allowing the SUMC to take advantage of fundraising opportunities.
“The Pumpkin Patch Fundraiser started with one church in North Carolina and they gave the pumpkins to the church to sell as a fundraiser and it has ballooned from there,” said Ridgeway. “They are in 48 states, 1,800 churches and nonprofits. They have pumpkins lined up for miles in New Mexico.”
Ridgeway added the Youth Group will be doing various community service projects throughout the community with the funds they raise. He said he hopes to instill a life lesson in the hearts of youth in Sparks.
“The funds will support the activities we do and we try to put money back into the community,” Ridgeway said. “I am just trying to show the youth that by giving to others you can get back 10 fold.”
The group will also be saving up to attend the United Methodist Church annual gathering, which is in Orlando, Fla. this year. After last year’s trip to Sacramento, Ridgeway said if enough funds are raised the youth may get a little surprise.
“We have been looking at plane tickets and hotels and if we get that far with the youth I am going to take them to Disney World,” he said. “There are too different Disneys and they need to see the one on the other coast to have the full experience.”
Ridgeway said the SUMC Youth Group plans to continue the event each October and will bring in more pumpkins next year given the response it has seen thus far. If the event were to blossom into something bigger, Ridgeway said the church would take on the challenge.
“We are here to support the community and show them a little love,” he said. “If we can turn this into something bigger and maybe grow a little bit next year, I would like to see us expand into a more carnival-type atmosphere and have a concert or two. We have plenty of space to offer a few more things so we will see where it takes us.”
The SUMC is located at 1231 Pyramid Way in Sparks. The Pumpkin Patch Fundraiser will continue through October and offers pumpkins of all sizes and shapes, all for less than $25.