I live in a low-wealth, urban center of Minneapolis. Kids here don’t often get the same kind of opportunities suburban and rural kids do. One such opportunity—which many Americans consider an autumn rite of passage—is going to the pumpkin patch.
It was the middle of October and the wind was carrying the leaves off the trees. The cold breeze brought with it the promise of snow. Kids were dreaming up Halloween costumes, and parents were out buying candy. It was time to bring everyone together to usher in fall and the celebration of Halloween.
So, a crew of our neighbors decided to turn the community garden into a pumpkin patch after all the vegetables were harvested. We went all out and planned a whole experience for the kids and families.
We found a farmer roughly fifty minutes outside the city who grows pumpkins to be donated to inner-city programs. I gathered three trucks of volunteers to head out and harvest pumpkins. We filled our vehicles with pumpkins until they were toppling out, and we drove them back to the garden. It took us more than an hour and a half to unload all those pumpkins and get them in the garden for kids to pick through later that night.
By around six in the evening, the lanterns and candles were lit. We had music playing, cauldrons of candy ready, and snacks all laid out. I sat there pouring beverages and watching families walk toward the garden from every direction. Our neighborhood doesn’t have stores or gathering places where folks can come together and have a night out. It felt incredibly special to be in our own neighborhood, walk to an event, connect with neighbors, and walk away with pumpkins and prizes.
After about forty-five minutes of kids running around playing, we started a Halloween movie. We lit the bonfire and started up the s’mores and hot chocolate. The evening was filled with laughter, stories, the sounds of a movie score, and the smell of a bonfire.
For hours, more and more neighbors continued to stop and see what was going on. They came out of their houses and wanted to join. Creating places to gather for reasons that are not centered around tragedy—but rather joy—feels revolutionary. It allows for deeper connection.
We decided this event was so special we will be hosting our Harvest Pumpkin Giveaway every year.
How can you use your gifts or ideas to bring joy and opportunity to your neighborhood?