It's pumpkin season in the Diocese of Texas

October 17, 2011

At the beginning of October, the Rev. Mike Besson witnessed 1,300 pumpkins being delivered to his new church, St. Catherine's in Missouri City, in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. The third annual pumpkin patch serves as a fundraiser for St. Catherine's as well as a community event.

"This is my first time doing this," Besson said. "It definitely involves the community. Elementary and preschool-age children are out here just about every day, and the Girl Scouts have come out to help us as well."

The pumpkins come from Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers, an organization that delivers pumpkins grown near Native American Reservations in New Mexico. The organization employs mostly Native Americans and only works with churches and non-profits.

Not far from St. Catherine's, Holy Cross Church, Sugarland, operates the largest pumpkin patch in Fort Bend County. Now in its fifth year of selling the autumn fruits, Holy Cross ordered 40 tons or approximately 5,000 pumpkins.

"Usually we do very well," said coordinator Cindy McCroskey. "We try to add new aspects every year. The men's group sells barbecue; the women's group makes baked goods; and the children's ministry does face-painting and snow cones."

This year, the pumpkin patch will also host musical and dance performances on a stage made by parishioners. After the Fort Bend County Fair stopped allowing children's performances, the church decided they could offer the pumpkin patch as a venue. On October 22, Holy Cross will also host pet blessings in the pumpkin patch.

Last year, Holy Cross sold $28,000 worth of pumpkins, out of which they got to keep 34 percent. Additionally, the church also makes money from concessions and vendors. Any leftover pumpkins and all of the hay is donated to a foster home and farmers.

"It's so much fun," McCroskey said. "It's so much work, but so much fun. Our main goal is to provide a venue for our families to visit that isn't far away. And we are open all month, so they can come multiple times."

In Pearland, St. Andrew's Church is in its 12th year of hosting a pumpkin patch. Last year, the church sold $60,000 worth of pumpkins. This year, they have already unloaded 137,000 pounds of pumpkins, with more to come. The church's pumpkin patch consistently ranks in the top 15 in the country, and the display recently earned them the "Business Beautification Award" from Keep Pearland Beautiful.

"We are lucky," said Debbie Allensworth, associate rector. "Many pumpkins from Texas or the Northeast have not had a good season and churches who relied on pumpkins from those areas haven't been able to open up."

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