Pumpkin patches spark community involvement
On the first day of October, trucks rolled to a stop in front of churches and street corners. Bright orange pumpkins, color-patterned gourds and warty pumpkins were carried out of the trucks. Their new caretakers neatly arranged them under shaded trees and wide canopy tents. As the pumpkins waited outside, families gathered together to visit and take them home.
Organizations and churches in South Florida connected with their local communities this fall through pumpkin patches.
Todd Velez, an ambassador and member of Our Savior Lutheran Church, opened his church’s first pumpkin patch. Velez, along with help from his church members and some volunteer high schoolers, unloaded the pumpkins from the Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers trucks. Velez arranged the pumpkins on the front lawn of his church and watched them everyday until the end of the month. For Velez, selling pumpkins in front of his church was more than just a job.
“It really boils down to sort of a mission,” Velez said. “We’re using pumpkins as a conversation piece.”
Instead of focusing on sales, the pumpkin patch was a way to start conversations with neighbors and introduce them to the church. According to Velez, it worked; He saw more faces in church the following Sundays.
“If they didn’t stay, then that was either because of the personality of the church or the doctrine,” Velez said.
Other pumpkin patch owners also wanted to provide ways to be involved with their community. Sharing the same vision as Velez, Pastor Adam Masterson from Lake Osborne Presbyterian Church opened his first pumpkin patch this year.
“We wanted to reach our community and let people know our church is here,” Masterson said.
“We just wanted to meet our neighbors.”
The pumpkin patch allowed Masterson to greet people he had never seen. Masterson’s outreach increased a sense of connection with the church’s neighborhood. This year's success makes him excited to continue his pumpkin patch in the future.
“It brightens up the neighborhood and makes people happy. I think that’s a pretty good thing the church can do,” Masterson expressed.
The pumpkin patches also helped to bring neighborhoods together, connecting families to each other. Scott Sanchez, one of the owners of Mr. Jack O’ Lanterns pumpkin patch in West Palm Beach, shared that the location saw record turnout levels this year.
“This is probably the best year we’ve ever had,” Sanchez stated.
Recognizing that pumpkin patches helped bring people together, Sanchez described it as an opportunity for visitors to find time to be with their loved ones.
Although Sanchez received his pumpkins from different northern states, both Velez and Masterson acquired theirs from Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers, which is a Christian-based organization from Greensboro, N.C., designed to support communities in need. After the organization was hit by a hurricane in North Carolina, they moved their farming operation to the Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico.
At the reservation, the organization serves by providing work opportunities for the Native American community, showing that pumpkins are a sure way to welcome the holiday season’s spirit of giving both locally and elsewhere.
By Jasmine Lien