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Pumpkins, Polio Information Featured At Area Fundraiser
Arranging a display with a variety of colorful and uniquely shaped pumpkins is Jessica Garcia, who works with the Children’s Crisis Center of Stanislaus County, one of the beneficiaries of proceeds from sales at this year’s Vella Farms Pumpkin Patch. Marg Jackson/The Leader

There were plenty of pumpkins to choose from on Saturday at Vella Farms in nearby Modesto, with the ongoing pumpkin patch there also hosting a visit by the Salida Rotary for World Polio Day.

The double duty event raised awareness of the Rotary Club’s work in polio eradication efforts and also gave youngsters the chance to paint pumpkins for the Halloween holiday.

Proceeds of the day were earmarked for three charities: the Children’s Crisis Center of Stanislaus County, VIPS – Visually Impaired Persons Support – and the Salida Rotary.

Among the programs of the Crisis Center is the local Children’s Guardian Home in Oakdale, which was among the beneficiaries of the fundraising effort at Vella Farms. Owner Janice Vella said all the pumpkins for sale were grown on site and the fundraiser ran through the entire month of October, with prices ranging from $2 to $25 per pumpkin, depending on size.

Salida Rotary Club President Paul Sessa manned the club’s booth and also had the iron lung on site, which used to be a key part of treatment. With polio vaccines, he said, the disease has mostly been eradicated, though cases still remain in Afghanistan and Pakistan, war-torn counties that Rotary has not been able to reach.

Local clubs – including two in Oakdale and one in Escalon – are part of the Rotary District 5220 along with Salida, and have helped support the international polio eradication effort. The District covers the Central Valley and the Mother Lode, including Calaveras, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties.

“The Bill Gates Foundation gives us $4 for every $1 we raise,” Sessa said of the eradication program fundraising.

Jessica Garcia, who works with the Children’s Crisis Center, was keeping the pumpkins staged and readily available for viewing, with kids able to take pictures at a number of cutouts around the pumpkin patch. The different homes operated around the county through the crisis center also each decorated a scarecrow for the pumpkin patch. Five locations serve kids in need; Sawyer House in Modesto, Guardian House in Oakdale, Verda’s House in Turlock, Marsha’s House in Ceres and Audrey’s House in Modesto.

“Our goal is to raise $20,000 for the charities,” Vella added, with the patch closing for the season on Oct. 29. 

The Children’s Guardian Home in Oakdale is under the umbrella of the Children’s Crisis Center and contributed this scarecrow to the pumpkin patch at Vella Farms for a fundraiser during the month of October. Marg Jackson/The Leader