Decorate for fall and support community programs at the Surf City Rotary Pumpkin Patch in October.
Searching for the perfect pumpkin this fall? Or maybe one that’s a little different, with a few bumps or even stripes? The Surf City Rotary Pumpkin Patch has all of that and more, and their pumpkin patch sales make it possible for the organization to provide valuable donations to a number of community groups.
Liz Hawthorne, the 2022 Pumpkin Patch chair, says that proceeds from the annual pumpkin patch sale “all go into our fundraising account and that goes right back into the community.” Beneficiaries of these funds include local organizations such as Share the Table, Reel Housewives of Topsail Island, Paddles 4 Troops, Boys and Girls Home of Lake Waccamaw and others.
In addition, Hawthorne says, “we try to keep our eye on the community for needs.” For example, when there was a huge multi-house fire in Surf City in 2019, they were able to help.
One of the Rotary’s fall projects that benefits from the pumpkin patch sales is Dictionaries for Third Graders. Hawthorne explains: “We’ll get a dictionary, put a Rotary sticker in it and then give one to every third grader at the school.” Although several counties participate in the dictionaries program, the Surf City Rotary focuses on the third graders at Surf City Elementary. She adds that the kids really love it. “It teaches them about a great resource that they don’t need WiFi for and it’s their own,” Hawthorne says. Teachers also appreciate the donations as it helps them lesson plan.
The Surf City Rotary Pumpkin Patch debuted in 2019. At the time, Debbie Sasser was in charge of the patch.
Sasser has recently been elected as club president so Hawthorne and her husband, Hugh, have taken over the pumpkin patch duties. As patch manager, Hugh will be onsite every day, making sure pumpkins don’t go on the ground.
It is critical that the pumpkins stay on their pallets and off the ground, to prevent them from rotting. Hawthorne offers a piece of advice that most people may not know, but that is critical to keeping pumpkins looking good longer. “You’re not supposed to hold the pumpkin by the stem,” she says. “It can cause them to cave in later. You should always pick them up by the bottom.”
The Surf City Rotary Pumpkin Patch runs from October 15 through Halloween, but planning starts in the spring each year. Hawthorne says they work with Pumpkins USA. The organization grows and delivers pumpkins and makes sure the club gets the kinds they want.
After signing up with Pumpkins USA, it is then time to get the members onboard. Many volunteers are needed to unload the pumpkins when they arrive and to work each day of the pumpkin patch sale. One of the main groups that helps with unloading is the Topsail High School Interact Club. Hawthorne explains that some of the pumpkins are pretty heavy. It takes about 30 people to get everything unloaded and set up on the pallets.
During the two weeks that the patch is up and running, the club needs volunteers to work in two-hour shifts. They welcome volunteers from the community, who will be partnered with a Rotarian on-site. These volunteers help customers, who can number in the hundreds, choose and purchase just the right pumpkin for themselves, for their family and sometimes for a bigger project. Teachers will sometimes purchase a group of smaller pumpkins for their classes, Hawthorne says.
The Rotary Club also does sponsor outreach well before the patch dates. Sponsors are able to put their own logo on colorful and eye-catching signs. Hawthorne says that they usually have about 40 to 50 sponsors that have signs right next to the pumpkins. Sponsorships are $125 each and will be accepted through October 1 this year.
“Sponsorships make a huge impact on how much we bring in and then how much we can give back to the community,” Hawthorne says.
Of her own experience with the Pumpkin Patch since its beginnings in 2019, Hawthorne says, “It’s so much fun engaging with the community. No one has had a negative experience.”
Even during the height of the pandemic, the Pumpkin Patch sales went well. “You can social distance while looking for your pumpkin in a nice open field,” Hawthorne says. 2020 was their best year to date, in terms of sales and the amount of donations they were able to give back to the community.
In 2022, as they have in years past, Coastal Pender Rotary in Hampstead will help out with the Pumpkin Patch. There will be a great variety of pumpkins available in the patch, from the standard orange pumpkins to unusual heirloom varieties. “Many people have never seen heirloom pumpkins before,” Hawthorne says.
“Some are bumpy, some are green, some are tiger striped, some look like they’re covered in warts.”
There is truly something for everyone in the Surf City Rotary Pumpkin Patch. The patch visit is made even more meaningful knowing that the funds raised are going back into the community served by the club.
Want to go?
Surf City Rotary Pumpkin Patch
October 15 to 31
Treasure Coast Landing, 13775 Ocean Highway, Surf City
Monday through Friday 12 to 6 pm; Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 6 pm
Sponsorship information: email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (704) 840-6217
Pumpkin Patch updates: Surf City Rotary Club Facebook page