ROCK ISLAND — The serrated knife penetrated the thick pumpkin flesh, a lumberjack's handsaw blade in miniature.|
Robbie Beveroth, an Augustana student and member of fraternity Gamma Alpha Beta, worked the knife with heavy, controlled strokes, cutting a vertical rectangle that crossed the pumpkin's equator and ended in its north and south hemispheres.
It was Tuesday, and several of the fraternity brothers were at work on pumpkins.
When the rectangle's four lines were finished, Mr. Beveroth, 22, popped the separated piece out and set it aside.
"Nice," one of his fraternity brothers said.
Mr. Beveroth went back in, cleaning up the edges. "Might want to straighten that up a little bit," he said.
To one side of the hole, "Front Door" was written in thick, black letters, a guide for the next part of the pattern. It's the logo of the company that commissioned the pumpkin. The rectangle represented a door, another part of the company's logo.
The $25 that Front Door, a Davenport company that manages apartments, paid to Gamma Alpha Beta for its pumpkin billboard will go to helping children at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
The fraternity is trying to raise $1,000 for St. Jude with its carving skills, Mike Mertel, 21, the fraternity member who organized the event, said.
Gamma Alpha Beta has had a philanthropic relationship with St. Jude's Hospital for years, he said. Members are planning a trip there, and the carving fundraiser was organized so they could take a donation with them.
Mr. Mertel said he got the idea from the time of year, and the fundraiser has been named "Quad-Cities Carving For Kids."
East Moline's Happy Hollow U-Pick donated the pumpkins, and the fraternity began calling companies to see if they were willing to take part, Mr. Mertel said. It also set up a Facebook page, and after that, the requests came quickly.
As of Tuesday, 35 companies had donated in exchange for logo-carved pumpkins, he said. They include Hotel Blackhawk, Bent River Brewing Company, Lagomarcino's and Miller's Florist.
Most will be completed and delivered closer to Halloween, but some, such as Front Door, asked for theirs early, Mr. Mertel said.
The student carvers seemed to have their system down Tuesday as they worked on pumpkins for Front Door and other companies. Knives for heavy cutting, and smaller, specialized tools for the precision work, and sign samples for the logos. A small scoop helped them gut the pumpkins.
They took turns on certain parts, and when they weren't carving, they were giving advice or joking with each other.
After the big cuts, they worked on smaller sculptor cuts and chips on the lettering.
"You've got to do the inside part first," Mr. Mertel said as Mr. Beveroth worked on the Front Door logo.
"Of the 'O?'" Mr. Beveroth asked.
Mr. Mertel said it takes 90 minutes or more to carve each pumpkin, and the carvers try to match the fonts in the company logos.
If they get more than 40 requests, they likely will need to seek help from other Augustana students.
For more information, or to commission a pumpkin from the fraternity, call Mr. Mertel at 309-721-5269 or visit the Facebook page named after the event.
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