Great Pumpkinfest helps feed area youth

by Matthew O. Stephens

In a couple of weeks area residents can find thousands of pumpkins available for purchase, and all of the proceeds will be given to various local non-profit organizations.

Adrian and Josh Loera are cousins that are now on a mission to feed children by selling pumpkins and partnering with multiple non-profits. This fall marks the third year the duo will be fronting this effort, although they attribute much of the success to Josh’s father Javier Loera and the team of volunteers around them.

“Without him (Javier) we wouldn’t have the Pumpkinfest,” Josh said. “He grows them and manages them on the farm in Moses Lake, and he’s been farming for a long time, and without him putting in the growing time and effort we couldn’t do what we do.”

They also attribute much of the process to simply wanting to lead with kindness and help the community however they can. In 2020 they got a creative idea to grow and sell pumpkins and use those funds to feed kids through a time of increased social need.

The Loera Family was inspired to help feed area youth early in the COVID pandemic as they saw more families struggling with food insecurities, and thus birthed the idea for the Great Pumpkinfest.

pumpkinfest
Left: Adrian Loera, Middle: Derek Gianukakis, Right: Joshua Loera

“When COVID came about there were more kids at home, and more food insecurities throughout as well,” Josh said. “So we came up with this initiative to help fund the Bite2Go program.”
“Josh called me up one day with a ton of energy,” Adrian said. “He (Josh) said, what if we grow pumpkins, sell them and support Bite2Go! Immediately I was on board. His dad has a huge heart as well, and to be honest much of the credit goes to my uncle Javier.”

In that initial year, the event was able to raise over $30,000 that went to the Bite2Go program, and the funds helped feed nearly 200 kids through this year and future years as explained by Josh.

“The first year we did it, we raised $33,000,” Josh said. “Those funds went to Bite2Go to feed around 180 kids through this school year and will last for close to five years.”

Adrian explained they like helping people in general, but really want to focus on helping area youth. That is the reasoning for assisting the groups that they have chosen to support including Young Life, Ronald McDonald House, Generation Alive, and more.

“We especially have a heart for kids and young people. To help them get what they need but also our vision is to be able to impact their trajectory in life,” said Adrian. “Give them their needs yes but also arm them with knowledge and education. As well as opportunities to advance their life.”

He continued by describing how the initial efforts led into developing another program such as Shoes2Play. He said this program helps underprivileged kids shoes or shoes for sports, and how the biggest reward is seeing it build confidence in the children. The benefits of the first Pumpkinfest went a step further as Adrian explained.

“We ended up donating extra pumpkins to local special needs groups for carving and decorations,” Adrian said. “The demand for pumpkins and the joy they brought was definitely more than I ever imagined it would be.”

Due to the tremendous success of the first year, the family set out with bigger expectations the following year, and even added two more nonprofits to support.

They added Generation Alive and Young life during the second year to help extend their reach of groups to help, and during the 2021 event they were able to raise $42,000.

The pumpkin packing pair has even bigger goals for this year and want to bring 10,000 pumpkins up from Moses Lake.

The Great Pumpkinfest will be at Brick West Brewing on several dates including September 30 through October 2 and October 7-9 with evening events for each day. Pumpkin sales will run at varying times, and further details can be found at the organization website www.seeyouatthepatch.org.

Other dates and locations may be added as well, and sales from each day will go to benefit a different non-profit organization according to Adrian and Josh.

This year’s event will also have an extensive raffle with multiple prizes including signed basketballs from both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, game tickets, and more. Raffle drawings will be held on October 9 at 6 p.m.

The cousins continue to see a lot of community support as a lot of volunteers sign up to serve their cause. With the success of the first two years being greater than anticipated, the duo hope to eventually be able to buy land in the Spokane area as Josh explained.

“Moving forward as this thing grows, we hope to buy 30 to 40 acres up in the Spokane area,” Josh said. “We will have a big shop on site so we can have a nice big space where we can hold the event where people can come in and buy pumpkins while we have other activities. It might be like a Green Bluff type setup, but all the proceeds will be going back into the community through funding different non-profits.”

The main goal moving forward for Josh and Adrian are to continue to help as many people as possible while utilizing the skills and resources available to them, and keeping open hearts and creative minds will help them get there.

“It has been quite a journey to this point for both Josh and I. We have been through multiple business ventures. Lots of ups and downs,” Adrian said. “Definitely a long road to get where we are, and I honestly believe we are just getting started. We have always had a heart for giving and fully believe that God has placed us here to make an impact.”

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