Last Fall saw a new fun(d)raising endeavor for the UUFP, namely a Pumpkin Patch! Pumpkins USA has been partnering with churches and non-profits for almost fifty years and works with the Navajo Nation to grow and harvest pumpkins for distribution across the country. They contacted us as a possible site, given our visible corner location on a main road, providing pumpkins at no up-front cost to us and keeping a portion of the proceeds for ourselves depending on total sales. So, we decided to take a leap of faith, naming the second half of October our Pumpkinpalooza!
A semi-truck half-full of pumpkins for us arrived on Young's Mill Lane on October 15th, and UUFP members and supporters turned out in droves with barrows and wagons to help unload more than a thousand pumpkins. Huge thanks to everyone who joined Team Pumpkin! We set up our pumpkin patch between the office building and Warwick Boulevard for maximum visibility and traffic, stringing up lights to allow for shopping after dark, and even had some customers while we were still unloading.
Over the next two weeks, Team Pumpkin staffed a total of 270 shift-hours, including very successful Saturdays in connection with our Vendor Fair, Trunk or Treat and the UUFP Auction. Thanks to Marcy Stutzman, we sold pumpkins at the Hilton Fall Festival, too. By the end of October, we had sold almost $7,000 in pumpkins, of which we kept 25% for the UUFP budget. Even at times when sales were slow, though, UUFP members and supporters enjoyed sitting in the sunshine, chatting and getting to know one another.
Of course, we also had a lot of pumpkins left over. (Pumpkins USA decided what to send us based on their own projections of what they thought we could sell. Since we were a new site for them, perhaps they intentionally over-estimated.) Some of the pumpkins continued to be bought right up through Thanksgiving, given that supermarkets and places like Dean and Don's had all sold out. Bobbie Schilling took some to the Virginia Living Museum on our behalf, while others went to the Grateful Meadows Animal Sanctuary in West Point and various farms in the area. Huge thanks go to Gayle and Randy Phillips for clearing up of all the pumpkins that were left in December, including taking a load to Bluebird Gap Farm in Hampton, and to Roy Schilling and grounds crew for raking up all of the straw and stems left behind.
Finally, though we don't know for sure if we'll still be on our corner of Young's Mill Lane and Warwick Boulevard come October, or if we'll be moved or in the process of moving to a new church property, we'll certainly look into doing a pumpkin patch again. It was as successful in building community as anything else, as much fun-raiser as fund-raiser, and it certainly helped make us visible to the wider community. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who joined Team Pumpkin and helped make this a success in so many ways!