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UPDATE: Community steps up to replace kids' stolen pumpkins

By: LANCE BENZEL
October 9, 2008
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photo - Chris Riggin, a parent from Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School unloads pumpkins from Peter Gambucci's truck with the school's office manager Mikki Riggin at the school in Colorado Springs, Friday, Oct. 10, 2008. Photo by (Justin Edmonds, The Gazette)
Chris Riggin, a parent from Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School unloads pumpkins from Peter Gambucci's truck with the school's office manager Mikki Riggin at the school in Colorado Springs, Friday, Oct. 10, 2008. Photo by (Justin Edmonds, The Gazette) 

For every pumpkin thief, there's a good egg.

That was the lesson this morning at the Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School in Colorado Springs, where Good Samaritans who learned about a recent pumpkin theft from the school's community garden stopped by with gifts of pumpkins -- in one case a truckload of them.

Now the community garden runneth over. New pumpkins sit atop the plundered vines, and others are stacked in the foyer and line the hallways, each a reminder of someone's kindness.

"When I came in, I just had tears in my eyes because of the outpouring of support for these children," said Christy Ward, a parent who, with her husband, Bruce, coordinates the school's community garden project. "It just kind of gives me a renewed faith."

Under the program, children were raising pumpkins from seeds that they planted in the spring. They were supposed to harvest them soon, but thieves stole between 20 and 30, leaving just a handful for the children's arts and crafts activities, a pumpkin hunt and baked goodies, among other educational projects.

Now the school has enough pumpkins for all that and a pumpkin festival to boot - thanks to people like Frank Howe of Fountain, one of more than a dozen people who stopped by the school this morning or called to pledge support.

"It kinda got to me emotionally," said Howe, a 73-year-old retired truck driver who read about the heist over breakfast and loaded up a 17-foot-long trailer with pumpkins and small gourds for the kids.

"These poor little guys worked their butts off and someone steals from them. I see something like this and it just about tears me up."

Whoever's responsible - Howe suspects "juvenile delinquents" - ought to be sentenced to work on a farm and learn the value of raising something up from the ground, he said.

Grocery stores, commercial food businesses and local produce growers were among those who pledged to keep the kids in pumpkins.

"Everybody kind of rallied around these kids," said Sarah Carlile, the preschool director. "We've just been smiling and giggling all day.

A pumpkin festival is being planned from 10 a.m. to noon on Oct. 18 to thank the community for its kindness, Carlile said. There will be face painting, a pumpkin carving contest and piles of leaves for kids to play in.

Pumpkins may be incorporated somehow into the school's annual fundraiser on Nov. 15. Leftover pumpkins will be donated to a good cause, the school said.

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