Rotary rewards Pumpkin Patch volunteer groups with over $40,000
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: December 26, 2012
Not only is the annual Santa Paula Rotary Club Faulkner Farm Pumpkin Patch & Harvest Festival fun for the whole family; it’s also lucrative for the family of volunteers that make the annual event possible.
Groups that helped out at the Patch were rewarded more than $40,000 for their hard work during this year’s four-weekend event.
Past President Ginger Gherardi and Rotarians Michele Johns, the latter in charge of coordinating the hundreds of volunteers that staff the annual Patch, distributed the checks at a recent Rotary meeting along with event Chairman Chris Wilson. Youth, teachers and school and other program administrators were on hand to receive the donations to the specific groups or programs that had donated precious weekend hours and more to the Pumpkin Patch, the most popular harvest festival in Ventura County.
Gherardi noted volunteers contributed about 25 percent more time to the event than in years past. “We literally could not have done it without them.” A wide majority of Patch volunteers are student and/or youth groups, or organizations that in turn benefit area youth.
Once again the Isbell Cancer Crushers proved to be incredibly energetic and helpful, and they received a whopping $11,000 for their nonstop work at the Pumpkin Patch. “They did everything from pricing pumpkins to picking up trash, taking tickets, helping people with their purchases... they are amazing,” said Gherardi of the group that works year round to raise money for the annual American Cancer Society Santa Paula Relay for Life.
In all Isbell Middle School received $13,000, with donations going not only to the Cancer Crushers but also to the Donna Nelson-conducted Condor Chorus, and the band directed by Scott Kneff.
Santa Paula High School was given $6,750 for the contributions of the band, girls/boys basketball and soccer, Future Farmers of America and Interact. “Another group we could not manage without is FFA,” which Gherardi noted stages the Petting Zoo and helped with Friday school tours that brought thousands of students to the Patch.
Donations also included $2,000 to Briggs School for the use of their parking lot and $1,000 for the school band that, with the other musical groups, was rewarded for providing Patch entertainment. Xtreme Soccer collected a hefty $3,000 for efforts, and First Five received $750 for work they gave primarily during school day visits.
“We absolutely could not do without the Optimist Club” that Gherardi said works tirelessly throughout the event directing parking and all related issues, as well as selling tickets and offering agriculture pep talks to hay riders. “The Optimists put in a lot of hours” that Gherardi noted earned the service club $6,000, accepted by President Cathy Hicks.
Summit School volunteers worked in various Patch venues, including the famous Pumpkin Chucker AKA Trebuchet that visitors love; and Marianne Ratcliff, Kim Rivers and Principal Theresa Dutter were on hand to celebrate their $1,500 Rotary donation.
St. Bonaventure Interact received $850, and the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clara Valley received a whopping $3,000. Gherardi said the club not only had a booth selling cotton candy, but that members and supporters - including CEO Jan Marholin and Board President Tammy Hobson - took over the popular educational seed program and provided vans to take visitors to offsite parking at Do Right’s Plant Nursery.
California State University Channel Islands Rotaract and English 106 received a total of $950, and Briggs 4-H was given $500 for their help in agricultural education.