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Food pantry hosts pumpkin patch

The West End Food Pantry hosted its annual pumpkin patch and trunk-or-treating event on Saturday behind the Eldred Township Community Center.

Mason Martin, 6, asked for two birthday gifts in July: an alien-holding-a-kid costume and a tie. He received both. He wore the costume Saturday.

“I had never seen one like it before. I got it on Amazon,” said his mom, Amanda Hoffman.

At first, it appears that Mason is holding the alien on his back. But when someone looks closer, they see his shoes at the bottom of the alien legs and his body inside the alien’s. It’s a total optical illusion.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team of volunteers had to rethink how to host this event and provide the utmost safety for its guests.

“We usually do the event on the same day as food distribution, but it would have been dangerous this year because we’re still doing drive-thru food distribution,” said Karena Thek, executive director of the food pantry.

The dozen vehicles that participated in the trunk-or-treat parked at least 8 feet from each other, providing ample social-distancing space between their stations. Everyone was encouraged to wear a mask unless they were eating or drinking. Most of the stations had a bottle of hand sanitizer.

They had prepared for 300 attendees, though actual turnout was about 100 people.

Each of the 12 trunks had a unique decorating theme.

Pantry volunteer Gabby Bentley handed out candy and crafts at the St. Matthew’s UCC trunk. She is part of the church council and Christian Education committee.

“You can make a bracelet or color a magnet,” she told kids as they looked through the craft options at the two tables set up near the trunk.

The Christian Education committee had filled more than 100 baggies with a juice box, pack of pretzels, piece of candy and a Sunday school bookmark.

Native American clothing and artifacts were on display in pantry volunteer Shirley Krum’s trunk.

“I’m partial to Native American culture. It goes back to my ancestry. I have a lot of Native American items. I used to go arrowhead hunting years ago - when you could still go in the fields,” she said.

Nancy Parks was dressed as a scarecrow and handing out candy at the Rader Farm themed trunk. It had hay bales, corn stalks, mums, pumpkins and wooden crates.

At some of the trunks, kids had to play a fun game to receive their treat.

“You’ll have to walk the plank first,” pantry volunteer Danielle Henshue instructed a kid at her pirate themed trunk.

She had three long boards on the blue tarp water in front of her cardboard boat.

After the trunks, kids headed over to the grassy area where all the pumpkins had been placed the night before.

Thek, pantry volunteers and the St. Matthew’s UCC confirmation class picked nearly 300 pumpkins from the Borger Farms on Silver Springs Boulevard Friday afternoon. They had four pickup beds full of pumpkins in about an hour.

“It was a lot of fun and went fast. I think everyone had a good time,” said Pastor Suzanne Brooks-Cope.

The caravan of cars then headed over to the Eldred Township Community Center, where the pantry is located, to unload the pumpkins in the backyard near the playground of the former elementary school.

They used orange cones and yellow caution tape to designate the area.

“It was a very busy two days,” Thek said as she thanked all the volunteers Saturday afternoon.

Thek would also like to thank the businesses that donated items: Borger Farms, pumpkins; Bimbo Bakeries, hot dog rolls; and Dale’s Concessions, apple cider and hot dogs.

Thek said she is working with pantry volunteer Magen Snyder on an event where pantry families will be able to have their Christmas photos taken by a professional photographer.

It will be held in early December.

Mason Martin, 6, dressed as an alien holding a kid for West End Food Pantry's pumpkin patch and trunk-or-treating event on Saturday. His mom, Amanda Hoffman, and grandma, Brenda VanWhy, also looked around at the pumpkins. Borger Farms donated the 300 pumpkins. STACI L. GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
(From  left) Bob Hineline, PA State Rep. Jack Rader and Nancy Parks hand out candy during Saturday's pumpkin patch event hosted by the West End Food Pantry. Borger Farms donated the 300 pumpkins; Dale's Concessions donated hot dogs and cider; and Bimbo Bakeries donated hot dog rolls.