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Posted: October 1, 2010 12:30 a.m.

The pride of the patch

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Beautiful orange pumpkins are a staple of fall decorating around Covington. It's a tradition for families to pick out an ideal pumpkin to place by a hay bale and a basket of mums in the yard or to carve into a jack-o'-lantern. This fall, Covington residents will have over 1,800 of them to choose from just off the Square, as Covington First United Methodist Church presents its fourth annual Great Pumpkin Patch.

There has been one little hiccup, however. The delivery, originally expected to arrive on Saturday, has been delayed. It is unclear at this time when the pumpkin patch will open, but Claudia Minge, administrative assistant and coordinator of the Great Pumpkin Patch, has high hopes the pumpkins will arrive Monday.

While there won't be any pumpkins on site, the festivities will still kick off on Saturday. The church will hold a Community Movie Night that evening with a showing of the classic Peanuts TV special "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" on the front lawn. Families can arrive before the movie to enjoy refreshments.

The Great Pumpkin Patch began four years ago as a fundraiser for church ministries. Adult, preschool, children and youth ministries helped set up and staff the patch and split the proceeds. The first year, the church also saw how the event became an outreach project and a unique service to the community.

"It is the vision and mission of Covington First United Methodist Church to reach out beyond the walls of the church and touch the lives of those within our community," said Dr. Doug Gilreath, senior pastor. "Our month long pumpkin-patch provides us the opportunity share the warmth, love and caring spirit of our church family. We invite the community to come and experience God with us."

"Besides the creation of this very festive atmosphere in the heart of downtown, it has become a place where families come and take pictures and children have a great time running through the pumpkin patch," said Minge. "We have met so many new people in the community, had great conversations, and, when appropriate, have shared our love for Jesus Christ."

The church also welcomes school and church groups for field trips to the Great Pumpkin Patch. Field trips include storytelling, face painting, a video about the growth process of a pumpkin and a visit to the pumpkin patch. Minge says the Great Pumpkin Patch is a particularly good field trip for pre-K through second grade students, and it is an excellent walking field trip for schools and churches that are close by. The field trip is free, and any child who wishes to purchase a small pumpkin may do so for $1. Teachers or school administrators can call the church office to schedule a field trip.

Setting up and maintaining a pumpkin patch for a month is hard work, so Covington First United Methodist relies heavily on volunteers to help keep the Great Pumpkin Patch events running smoothly. Volunteers from the church family decorate and set up the pumpkin patch, help visitors and greet field trip groups at the pumpkin patch, rotate the pumpkins every other day to prevent rotting, and remove pumpkins that have spoiled. Volunteers of all ages, and even entire families, take part in this event every year.
"It is a huge commitment for our church family to do this," said Minge. "It is truly a team effort."
The volunteers who take part in the Great Pumpkin Patch enjoy their efforts, and volunteers and church staff agree that all the hard work is worth it.

"When volunteers are working they get the opportunity to visit with other church members they might normally get to spend time with when they come to purchase their pumpkins, and they get to meet new people in the community," said Minge. "It becomes a huge sense of accomplishment. It makes everyone happy seeing the community enjoying the pumpkin patch."

Covington First United Methodist Church is located at 1113 Conyers St. For more information or to book a field trip to the Great Pumpkin Patch, call (770) 786-7305. Send e-mail to communications@fumccovington.org.

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