SHIRLEY REESE of the Mid-Coast Presbyterian Church in Topsham stands with one of her favorite pumpkin varieties at the church’s pumpkin patch on Thursday.

SHIRLEY REESE of the Mid-Coast Presbyterian Church in Topsham stands with one of her favorite pumpkin varieties at the church’s pumpkin patch on Thursday.

TOPSHAM

For the last several years, every fall is marked on

Main Street in Topsham by the arrival of hundreds of pumpkins at the Mid-Coast Presbytarian Church.

People unfamiliar with the name of the church may often ask if it is the pumpkin church, said Shirley Reese, who runs the pumpkin patch.

SCARLETT, left, and Josephine Bonn, 2-year-old twins from Brunswick, take their pumpkin perusing seriously on Thursday in Topsham.

SCARLETT, left, and Josephine Bonn, 2-year-old twins from Brunswick, take their pumpkin perusing seriously on Thursday in Topsham.

The pumpkins are grown in Farmington, New Mexico, on the Navajo Reservation.

A total of 2,000 pumpkins arrived by truck on Sunday and a pumpkin brigade of congregation members, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and children with the Midcoast Youth Theater all helped unload pumpkins.

Reese said 75 percent of the pumpkin proceeds goes to support Navajo families by providing livable wages and the other 25 percent the church keeps for its local mission.

For more than 25 years, Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers, Inc., has helped churches and nonprofits throughout the country raise money, including more than $15 million over the past 10 years.

According to the Pumpkin Patch, more than 5.5 million pumpkins were shipped last fall, enough to reach the International Space Station and back if piled one on top of the other.

Reese said people have questioned why the church isn’t supporting local farmers by selling their pumpkins.

“As a congregation, we do support local farmers and local people in lots of other ways, but this is an outreach. We do both,” she said.

The church also provides a meal every month to the Tedford Shelter and every October she makes pumpkin soup.

Another advantage is that because these pumpkins are grown in a more arid climate, they last longer, Reese said.

Last year’s pumpkin fundraiser raised $1,944 for the Mid-Coast Presbytarian Church, according to the treasurer.

Harry Descheene, the human resources director for the Pumpkin Patch Foundation, is a Navajo who has lived on the reservation all his life. He sent a letter last year to the church thanking it for participating.

According to Descheene, the staff is 100 percent Navajo and during the harvest “we also hire Pueblo, both Zuni and Hopi tribes (300 workers). Unemployment on the Navajo Reservation is 42 percent.”

Pumpkin Patch pays to transport employees from various reservations as far as four hours away, provides residential facilities, an upscale kitchen, dining hall and a chef and kitchen staff, as well as an extensive safety orientation before workers start any field work.

Descheene said that, “for many of our workers, it’s the only opportunity to provide for their families and themselves. The approximately $1.3 million in harvest labor makes a significant difference in the quality of the lives of my people. Opportunities like this are very scarce on our reservations.”

It’s really a win-win for the church and Pumpkin Patch, Reese said.

The Mid-Coast Presbyterian Church is located at 84 Main St. in Topsham. Its pumpkin patch is open until Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., except for Sunday, when it will be open 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pumpkins are priced according to size and range from $2 to $20 each.

There are picture-taking opportunities and baked goods and crafts for sale as well.

For more information, call (207) 729-3193 or visit mcpconline.org.

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