Jack-O-Lanterns for a Cause

A child examines jack-o-lanterns displayed at the 2010 event.

Jack-O-Lanterns for a Cause
Nate Gartrell, EDN

Jack-O-Lanterns on Broadway, a Halloween-based charity event designed to raise money for homeless services, will be held on Oct. 29th, at Kesey Square in Eugene.

A child examines jack-o-lanterns displayed at the 2010 event. Photo by Sarah Fountain-Burns

And ShelterCare, the local human services agency which organized the event, is asking the public for donations – not of cash, but of carved pumpkins. For each donated jack-o-lantern, ShelterCare’s sponsorship, comprised of local businesses, will donate $5 towards the agency’s general fund.

“The money raised is helping solve the problem of homelessness in Lane County,” ShelterCare Development Associate Brad Bassi said. “…not just through housing, but also the casework and the counseling necessary to prevent these folks from returning to homelessness.”

It’s not clear exactly how prevalent homelessness is in the Eugene area, but based on studies done by the county, it appears that homeless or near-homeless people have made up one to two-and-a-half percent of Eugene’s population over the last three years.

The One Night Homeless Count, an annual survey taken in January by Lane County Human Services Commission, found 2,673 homeless living in Eugene in 2009, and 3,971 in 2010.

In 2011, however, that number dropped significantly to 2,140. But Bassi said that a different criteria for “homelessness” was used for this year’s homeless count, meaning the amount of homeless could be similar to figures from past years.

A pumpkin, carved by world-famous Scott Cully, on display in 2010. Photo by Sarah Fountain-Burns

“Their intention wasn’t to steer how it looked. Their intention was to make it a more accurate system,” Bassi said of this year’s homeless count surveyors. “But, in terms of our wait list at ShelterCare and the need for services we offer, we haven’t seen a decrease at all.”

Additionally, Bassi said that demand tends to rise during the winter months, when Eugene becomes much colder and wetter.

“If we had an unlimited budget, we’d be able to serve more people as the need increased, which it does every winter,” Bassi said.

ShelterCare has organized two previous jack-o-lantern events, which were held in recent years at the Fifth Street Market. This year’s event will be held on Kesey Square to accommodate its growing popularity, but will follow the same format as previous years, Bassi said.

Tom Lindskog carves a pumpkin during the 2010 event. On display are other jack-o-lanterns by Lindskog.

Jack-O-Lanterns on Broadway will have a raffle, a children’s parade, trick-or-treating, face painting and live music throughout the day. Pumpkin carving will be available for those unable to bring a jack-o-lantern to the event. Additionally, carving demonstrations will be featured by expert carver Tom Lindskog, who performed at last year’s event as well.

Bassi said that local restaurants and other businesses will be opening their doors and serving Halloween-style food. Local doughnut and coffee house Voodoo Doughnuts, for instance, will provide pumpkin pie doughnuts.

“Part of the intention is to bring a family-oriented event to downtown Eugene,” Bassi said. “Instead of bringing in our own vendors, we’re trying to engage the downtown businesses.”

At 6:30 PM, the jack-o-lanterns will be lit. If things go as ShelterCare organizers expect them to, the event will break a record for the largest jack-o-lantern display in the Pacific Northwest, which was set last year at Jack-O-Lanterns on 5th.

That event raised $21,805 through the donation of 4,361 jack-o-lanterns. This year, ShelterCare has set a goal of 5,000 to 7,500 carved pumpkins.

“As some of our government funding gets scaled back, fundraisers like this become increasingly important,” Bassi said.

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