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Downers Grove woman starts COD scholarship with pumpkin patch

Published: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 12:17 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 12:28 p.m. CDT
(Photo provided)
Downers Grove resident Mary Mack poses with some of her pumpkin harvest in 2013.

DOWNERS GROVE – Mary Mack’s front yard blends into her neighbor’s premises now, but in a few months, walkers will notice the small yellow and orange boulders growing from what will become a large pumpkin patch.

The Downers Grove resident planted the seeds in her window garden last month. Once they sprout, she’ll transplant the 60 or so seedlings to her front yard with the help of her husband and her eldest son.

Along with an annual cookbook sale, revenue from selling pumpkins combine to fund her namesake scholarship that awards $1,200 to College of DuPage students every year. It has raised $8,500 since its inception in 2007.

“Pumpkins are a lot of fun because its enrolls the community,” she said. “I live on a corner lot, when they walk by or drive by they notice that there’s something peculiar about the yard, there’s these huge leaves.

“It created a lot of interest. They don’t usually see that a person’s entire front yard is a pumpkin patch. It’s pretty cool.”

The pumpkins are sold on the honor system. Once the large squashes appear in the front yard, Mack sticks a sign directing passerbys to take a pumpkin and place a donation in her door’s mail slot.

Contributions have ranged from a few dollars to several hundred. Checks can be made out to the College of DuPage, with “Mary Mack Textbook Scholarship G446” added to the memo line.

The cookbook, “Treats for Santa,” is a collaborative effort between Mack and her friends and family, all of whom provide recipes to keep each edition fresh each year. The books are also sold on a donation basis.

She said she was inspired to start the Mary Mack Scholarship Fund after meeting students in need during her time on the College of DuPage board. The cost of books especially stuck out to her as a hardship faced by many college students, she said.

“I wanted to make a difference, so I combined my interest in education with what I like to do – I like to cook and I like to garden,” she said. “I saw first-hand the need that students have, the financial need. I believe it’s in October you get to meet the students that the money helped.

“There’s never a dry eye in the place.”

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