Some are big. Some are small. Some look like octopuses.

They all arrived Monday morning at Unitarian Universalist Church of the South Hills in Mt. Lebanon, with plenty of folks present to help unload them from a cooled tractor-trailer and put them on display.

Now, the church is ready for its annual Pumpkin Patch fundraiser, which benefits a program providing both year-round and seasonal employment for the Navajo Indian Reservation in Farmington, N.M.

Along with pumpkins of familiar shape and color are more exotic members of the gourd family, including some that look as if they should be swimming in the sea. They’re for sale at the church, 1240 Washington Road, through Halloween or until all the pallets are empty.

“We hope that our loyal customers will come back to see us this year,” said Bethany Thornton, membership and outreach director for the church. “While the patch is a fundraiser for us, it is very labor-intensive, and we do it more for the connection it gives us to the community. It’s delightful to see children running through the Patch searching for that perfect pumpkin to carve for Halloween.”

Pumpkin Patch, which started in 1974, has grown to more than 1,000 organizations throughout the country, representing 25 denominations of churches and youth groups, Scouts, schools, fraternal organizations, habitat groups and other civic organizations.

In cooperation with the Navajo Nation, Pumpkin Patch sustainably grows 1,200 acres or approximately 2 square miles of pumpkins and employs more than 700 Native Americans during the harvest months of September and October. The organization also has a full-time offseason staff that is comprised entirely of Native Americans.

The result is a positive and lasting impact on a region with 42% unemployment.

Unitarian Universalist Church of the South Hills, which was founded in 1965, is celebrating 50 years at its present location. Parts of the church, which was built as a mansion in 1921, are now 100 years old.

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Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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