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Fundraiser smashed to a pulp

| Friday, May 4, 2012, 4:30 a.m.

An annual fundraiser described as turning "pumpkins into homes" for low-income families suffered a messy setback Wednesday when vandals went on an overnight pumpkin-smashing spree.

Central Westmoreland Habitat for Humanity sells pumpkins each fall to raise money to help build homes, said the agency's executive director, Leyla Pilon. The pumpkin-patch fundraiser was in its fourth day at L&L Fleatique Too, near Adamsburg, Hempfield Township, when Pilon arrived Wednesday morning to find dozens of smashed pumpkins scattered across the parking lot.

"I was devastated," Pilon said. "It's very disheartening when you are trying to raise funds to help disadvantaged people, and somebody comes along and destroys a very positive, proactive thing."

Pilon said the fundraiser generates thousands of dollars for the agency, allowing it to turn "pumpkins into homes." Last year, the event raised $5,000, she said.

Habitat for Humanity helps families who have been turned down for conventional mortgages to obtain their own homes. The houses are not provided free of charge -- recipients must make down payments and pay on monthly, interest-free mortgages. They also must invest 350 hours into helping to build their home, or the homes of others.

Since 1995, the Central Westmoreland branch has helped families build 10 homes. It builds one house annually, Pilon said, and is finishing up its 11th project.

Pilon said the outdoor pumpkin patch, located off Route 30 on Edna Road, has sold more than 1,000 pumpkins in previous years.

Pumpkins are sold by circumference and range in cost from 75 cents for a small gourd to approximately $50 for a large one. Most pumpkins sell for between $6 and $15.

Approximately 30 to 40 pumpkins were destroyed sometime between 6 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. yesterday, for a loss of between $150 and $200.

The patch is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Sales will continue through Oct. 31.

"Last year, there were no problems with vandalism," Pilon said. "I'm a little concerned to see what the rest of the month holds for us."

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