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Not just your average pumpkins
A St. Norbert resident is using a popular fundraising idea to provide help to a women’s shelter in north Winnipeg.
Paul Bilodeau has been selling his pumpkins to raise money for charity for most of the past decade.
The list of previous recipients includes Siloam Mission and a group dedicated to building schools in Laos. This year’s recipient will be the North Point Douglas Women’s Centre, which is dedicated to providing a safe and healthy community for families in the neighbourhood.
Bilodeau’s pumpkins aren’t your typical gourds. Each has a hand-drawn message or picture carved into the side of it.
"When my kids were young I discovered when a pumpkin grows, the outside skin is tender enough to scratch it with your nail and you can write things in it small, and as it grows the letters or drawings scar into it just as if it grew like that," he said.
Bilodeau started growing the modified pumpkins in his garden with his kids’ names sketched into them as a Halloween surprise for his three children.
After Bilodeau got involved with Knights of Columbus 10 years ago, he came up with the idea of selling the unique pumpkins to raise money for different charities.
"The first year we managed to make $1,300, which went towards shipping used books to Nouakchott, Africa. After (the success) of the first year, I decided to continue it and have been selling them ever since, and always giving the money to charity," said Bilodeau, a teacher at Springfield Heights Collegiate in Transcona.
"Each year I try to find a different cause."
Bilodeau said helping the North Point Douglas Women’s Centre seemed like a good idea.
"I read about the organization in an article in the newspaper, and decided to donate the money there," he said.
"There are so many organizations that do great things, but just lack funding. (Donating to them) is just something I do that feels good."
Christie Paul, the neighbourhood resource coordinator at the North Point Douglas Women’s Centre said the organization was pleased to hear they would be receiving Bilodeu’s pumpkin funds this year.
"We’re always pleasantly surprised when someone phones us up out of the blue and says they’ve heard of us and want to donate," she said.
"It was completely surprising for us to get a call from Paul. I find it very genourous, and it’s a very creative idea. I’ve never heard about writing names in pumpkins before. We’re certainly very excited that the money will be coming our way."
Bilodeau said he usually starts taking orders for his pumpkins in August, and the options for his "pumpkin art" are endless.
"I can draw anything on the pumpkins, but mostly people want wording. We can put love messages, company names, really anything on them. Every year someone surprises me with another request," he said.
The demand for Bilodeau’s fundraising gourds has grown so much that he’s had to move his crop to family-owned land in Ste. Agathe.
"(The pumpkins) make people happy in every way — not only the people who receive the money, but the people that get the pumpkins too. I get emails saying how surprised kids are with my pumpkins," Bilodeau said.
To place an order for one of Bilodeau’s pumpkins, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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