Nels Melgaard has never seen his friends and neighbors come together in such a big way before—not locally, certainly not on behalf of a single person.
Yet Nels was the man at the center of a two-weekend effort that saw patrons, friends, fellow members of Sallal Grange, and their families, arrive at his Nursery at Mount Si, for work parties aimed at getting this cancer-battling North Bend man's business a huge boost before the busy season.
Nels and his Nursery have had a rough time of it in recent years. Hungry, invasive elk and several frigid springs in a row put dampers on his business over the last three years; Last fall was the first time Melgaard could open up a pumpkin patch since 2008.
Last summer, Nels got worse news, discovering he had colon cancer. He survived major surgery in January and is regaining his strength, but has more battles with chemotherapy ahead.
So, with the hard work of spring ahead, Nels was surprised and moved to see nearly 100 people gather last Saturday, Feb. 9, for a volunteer work party to help keep him and the business rolling. Friend Teresa Warren of North Bend organized a "Nursery at Mount Si work party" event on Facebook, and the planned party steamrolled from there. Nels watched and helped as dozens of locals arrived to clean up the nursery beds, landscape, tend to fruit trees, plant seedlings, put new doors on greenhouses, clean, price and set up merchandise, and generally boost the business in a way that his small staff could never achieve so quickly.
"It would have taken us a year!" Nels said.
"This was amazing," added nursery manager Christine Earl. "Talk about random acts of kindness. There were so many kind, wonderful people here."
Karen Granger, one of Nels' Grange friends, helped get the word out. She tried to explain the impact that Melgaard, North Bend's 2011 Citizen of the Year, has had on his community, and why so many were willing to step up and help.
"He is the heart and soul of the new Grange," said Granger. "He was the connector. Somehow, he is integral. He's the glue."
She was there Saturday and watched as families, including young children, pitched in.
"Everybody just went to work," Granger said.
A second gathering and work party is planned for this Saturday, Feb. 16, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can learn more about it on Facebook.
Kind words from the web
Friends exchanged their thoughts following the event, online, in messages that Nels shared.
"Nels and Anne, being a part of this beautiful day was incredible. It was so fun to watch the nursery transform under the hands of our great community of friends. My children got to be a part of something that they won't soon forget," commented friend Katie Bergerson.
"Some moments feel vacant and disconnected. This was NOT one of those days," said Anne Melgaard, Nels' wife. "I am so impressed by the busy workers, prayers and kind words that continue to come our way... The Melgaards are blessed and we know it! Thanks for coming out and thanks for having fun doing it! Smiles smiles smiles Hugs Hugs Hugs!!!!"
"Did you see all the smiles and hugs and yes a few tears today at your wonderful nursery?" wrote North Bend resident Bev Jorgensen. "Everyone who was there had to go away feeling blessed and full of love! This day was a day of community spirit and love! You opened a great door again! We're all in this together and we just have to continue to share love and stay open for opportunities."