Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina

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THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF UPPER SOUTH CAROLINA welcomes you in the name of Christ and of the 61 Episcopal congregations who are members of the diocese. Our Vision:  Making, equipping and sending mature disciples of Christ.

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    General Convention 2018 - Austin, TX
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    General Convention 2018 - Austin, TX
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    General Convention 2018 - Austin, TX
  • General Convention 2018 - Austin, TX
    General Convention 2018 - Austin, TX
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    General Convention 2018 - Austin, TX

Diocesan Spotlight

Pumpkin Patch Leads to Much More than Pies

by Laurie Wozniak, a member of Holy Cross Church, recently relocated to South Carolina from the Buffalo, New York, area. Photos by Randy Cockrill.

If you drive down SE Main Street in Simpsonville, SC during October you can't miss the Holy Cross Pumpkin Patch. Piles and piles of pumpkins—thousands of them—in all shapes and sizes are for sale. But these pumpkins do far more than just decorate homes or get turned into jack-o-lanterns.

It all began thirteen years ago, when Holy Cross Episcopal Church (http://www.holycrossep.org) faced a budget crisis. The congregation was part of the Golden Strip Church Coalition, an alliance of local churches that had agreed to combine their time, talent and treasure annually to build one house for Habitat for Humanity. But with the church's budget stretched thin, it appeared Holy Cross would fall short of its financial commitment to the Coalition.


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A small committee met to discuss the problem. Folks were feeling pretty low. Where could they possibly get the dollars needed?

That's when Ennis Whiddon piped up. "I've got this idea. How about we sell pumpkins?" he said.

Whiddon went on to explain how selling $6000 worth of pumpkins would result in $1000 profit to go towards the Habitat build.

The room grew quiet. People shuffled in their seats. The idea of selling thousands of dollars worth of pumpkins sounded a little crazy.

Whiddon pressed on. He explained that Holy Cross could order pumpkins from Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers, which ran a farm in Farmington, New Mexico. The pumpkins would be trucked to Simpsonville in a semi.

"If we don't sell them, we owe nothing," Whiddon explained.

"Ennis had a get-it-done attitude," recalls the Rev. Michael Flanagan, rector of Holy Cross. "He was kind of like a dog with a bone. When he got an idea, he didn't let go of it easily."

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With no money down and no contract to sign, the idea seemed too good to be true. Ennis urged Holy Cross to take a leap of faith. The Vaughn family, members of the church and owners of Vaughn's Country Store, provided a prime location in the heart of Simpsonville, thus assuring the sale good visibility. The church ordered one quarter of a tractor trailer load of pumpkins and gourds to be delivered at the start of October.

When the pumpkins arrived and folks saw just how high those pumpkins piled, many a parishioner began praying that they would manage to sell them all sell by month's end. Their apprehensions were soon allayed. The first shipment sold out so quickly that another semi was dispatched to deliver more.

In one month, Holy Cross sold $17,000 worth of pumpkins, gourds and ornamental corn. In doing so, they raised $5,500 for Habitat for Humanity. The Holy Cross Pumpkin Patch became an annual event.

What it takes

The first 2018 organizing meeting took place in May. A second was held late in August, but by then some
behind the scenes work had already begun. Promotion within the church and volunteer sign up started right after Labor Day. Actual set up begins the weekend before opening day.

Early in the morning on October 6, the first semi full of pumpkins will be unloaded by volunteers from Holy Cross. The patch will open for business later that morning and the fun begins.

To staff the patch seven days per week for 26 days, volunteers must cover 248 two-hour shifts. These shifts are covered primarily by folks from Holy Cross, a congregation of 500 adult members. Volunteers from other churches and community organizations also pitch in. In addition, daily opening and closing work is required.

To receive this year's total order of 9000 pumpkins, an additional two tractor trailers will arrive at later dates. These will be unloaded by volunteers from some of the charities the Holy Cross Pumpkin Patch helps to support.

Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers (https://www.pumpkinsusa.com) grows the pumpkins in cooperation with the Navajo Nation. Their 1,200 acre farm employs over 700 Native Americans during September and October, as well as a full time off-season staff comprised entirely of Native Americans. In a region where unemployment exceeds 40%, jobs at this farm are highly prized.

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What the patch gives

"Our charter dictates that 100% of our proceeds must be donated to 501C3 non-profits that support people in our own area of Upstate South Carolina," says Randy Cockrill, who has served as the lead organizer for the past six years.

"The Pumpkin Patch enables our congregation to make a big positive impact. This year we'll be giving funds to Habitat for Humanity, as well as seven other ministry partners."

In twelve years' time, Holy Cross has donated $239,666 to charities that provide food, shelter, clothing, adult ESL classes, employment services and more to neighbors in need all thanks to the Pumpkin Patch.

The church invites each ministry partner to make a presentation at Holy Cross. Plus, each partner is visited by a member of the church during the course of the year as well.

"In 2017 we helped to support ten Ministry Partners," says Cockrill. "This year we selected just eight so that we can provide more significant amounts to each one."

Local animal shelters also benefit. Soft or damaged pumpkins are culled from the patch and donated to them to help feed the animals in their care.

Members of Holy Cross and others who volunteer at the patch develop connections that continue long after the last pumpkin is sold each year.

Ennis Whiddon, who died in 2015, had foreseen the pumpkin patch as a fundraiser and a community builder. What the patch has grown to be, however, exceeds his vision.

Through working together, the members of Holy Cross achieve something they would be unable to achieve individually.

You might say they turn piles of pumpkins into gold for their community.

The patch is open seven days a week throughout the month or until the pumpkins sell out. Saturdays and Sundays are the busiest days, and sales always pick up the closer it gets to Halloween.

For more: Facebook @PumpkinPatchSimpsonvilleSC or follow @HolyCrossPumpkinPatch on Instagram.

 

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