Pathfinders Pumpkin Run made its way to Taree this week, distributing hot, tasty pumpkin soup and free pumpkins from the Catholic Care Community Kitchen on Tuesday, June 5.
Since 2014, the not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping at-risk youth and the disadvantaged has been donating pumpkins and preparing meals for those in need across New South Wales.
Most of the pumpkins are grown and harvested by young people in Pathfinders' out-of-home care programs at Tilbuster Station property. The farm, located on the outskirts of Armidale NSW, was gifted to the Pathfinders organisation by a private benefactor whose wish was that the property be used for child and youth development and the support of families.
With such charitable beginnings, it's no wonder the spirit of giving has been extended.
Despite being affected by severely affected by poor weather, more than nine tonnes of pumpkins, both grown on the Tilbuster farm or donated by the Armidale community, will be cooked and shared at five locations between Taree and Ballina.
Senior manager, Aboriginal culture and connections, Hilton Naden, said the Pumpkin Run was back after a three year break due to drought and COVID, and would help thousands of families in need.
"The pumpkins are grown on our farm by young disadvantaged people in our care, loaded into vehicles and then transported to identified locations where we feel we can make a difference," Mr Naden said.
"This is the first time we will have taken the Pumpkin Run up the east coast and it will be a valuable experience for our young people to be able to support those communities who are still suffering from the impacts of flood, drought, fire and the pandemic.
"Along the way our young people will understand the importance of helping others without expecting anything in return, develop interpersonal and team-building skills, strengthen community connections and learn how to make a mean pumpkin soup," he said.
The stop-off in Taree was a first, though, with the run usually proceeding down towards Newcastle before finishing at Government House in Sydney.
"The pumpkin run normally starts in Armidale and sort of weaves down through Newcastle to Sydney and finishes at Government House. Due to COVID the floods, the bushfires and everything that's happened recently we decided to reroute it and head up the coast towards Ballina and Lismore to include them as well, and obviously Taree, Kempsey and Coffs (Harbour)," Pathfinders communications officer, Toni Ribeiro said.
In addition to the Pumpkin Run, Pathfinders are also using the events to conduct their National Aboriginal Birth Certificate (PNABC) Program, holding sign-up events for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people to apply for their birth certificate.
Mr Naden said Aboriginal people were underrepresented in birth registration and without a birth certificate they are unable to fully participate in society.
"Without a birth certificate you cannot enrol in school or sport, gain a driver's licence, vote, access government services, apply for a tax file number or open a bank account. In many ways, without a birth certificate you are invisible," he said.
"The PNABC has helped more than 12,000 Indigenous Australians apply for and receive their birth certificate. It is a life-changing program and we are privileged to be able to deliver it to our most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society."
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