Amherstview Foodland’s Pumpkinfest raises thousands to feed the needy

Amherstview Foodland has raised nearly $5000 for the Lions Club of Amherstview during their month-long Pumpkinfest initiative.

During the month of October, one dollar from the sale of every pumpkin at Foodland was donated to the Lions, in support of their annual Christmas Hamper program.

“We ended up selling over 2,600 pumpkins,” said Jason Bellamy, the owner of Amherstview Foodland. “We had some extra initiatives built in there too. For funky, non-traditional pumpkins we were kicking in two dollars. For every new ‘like’ on our Facebook page, we were adding a dollar … All told, we are donating from the store over $3,700.”

Volunteers from the Lions Club also collected donations outside the store during the final days of the fundraiser, he said, contributing over $850. Bellamy announced a grand total of $4,635 via Facebook on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020.

The Christmas Hamper campaign is the Lion Club’s largest and most expensive initiative of the year. Hampers full of food are donated to local families in need during the holiday season.

“It’s certainly a really good initiative,” Bellamy said. “I would expect that the number of families in need is going to exceed their typical numbers. It’s hard for a lot of folks this year.”

Overcoming fundraising challenges during a pandemic

Bellamy said the Club, which he has supported with previous fundraisers, reached out to him in early September to discuss options for a campaign. He said their goal was to find something “COVID-friendly.”

“Certainly it is a challenge to do much in the way of fundraising this year,” he said.

Bellamy said he believes that by leveraging an existing demand, they made it easy and fun for people to participate in the fundraiser.

“We’ve done really well with pumpkins here the past four of five years. I’m not sure what it is about this town but we love our pumpkins,” he said. “What we liked about this program is the customer was coming and buying something, and just by buying they were helping. They weren’t being solicited to add an extra $2 to their bill.”

The pumpkins were locally sourced from a farm in Wellington, he said.

“I was outside lugging and slugging pumpkins as much as I possibly could because it’s just fun,” he said. “I would ask people ‘Where are you from? How did you know we had pumpkins?’ We certainly had a lot of people from Kingston, from Napanee. Could I say they came for this initiative? No, but we had a lot of folks that you could tell were new to the store.”

Surplus pumpkins fed to injured wildlife

In 2016, Bellamy said Foodland began offering a ‘Pumpkin guarantee’ during the month of October, committing to customers to always have pumpkins available in the lead up to Halloween.

“That first year…boy did we have a lot of pumpkins left over,” he said. “We really needed to find our saturation point. We had bins and bins of pumpkins leftover. It was like ‘what are we going to do with them?’”

Through conversations with customers Bellamy learned that Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre in Napanee would accept donations of leftover pumpkins, to feed to the recovering animals in their care. Every year on November 1st, he reaches out to Sandy Pines to confirm, and then calls on community volunteers to deliver the leftover pumpkins to the centre.

This year was no different, he said. “Sunday morning I phoned Sandy Pines and they said ‘yes, we’ll take whatever you’ve got.’ So I put a message out on Facebook. I would say there were over 200 pumpkins leftover and by 5 p.m. on Sunday, they were gone. People came and they loaded up and delivered to Sandy Pines themselves.”

Bellamy said it was great to see what could be accomplished through the combined efforts of Foodland Shoppers and the Lions Club of Amherstivew.

Story by Samantha Butler Hassan of The Kingstonist for The Local Journalism Initiatiive

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