Caden Gallini, 7, left, helps Grubby Hain, 79, with yard work on Aug. 2, 2021 (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)
The first Monday of each month is Grubby Hain’s favorite day: That’s when neighborhood children show up at his South Salem home near McKinley Elementary School to do yard work for him.
Precisely at 3:45 p.m. on those days, the kids, ages 4 to 7, arrive with their moms and their gardening tools to perform any chores that need doing.
They work for a half hour and then head into the backyard to play and eat ice cream. On Monday it was vanilla and milk chocolate ice cream bars.
Heather Hawkins, one of the moms who was part of the team on Aug. 2, said, “The kids just love to talk to Grubby and he interacts so well with them.”
Hain, 79, who is dealing with bile cancer and doesn’t have the energy to help in his yard, commented as he watched the kids, “I just love this, and I’m having more fun. It rejuvenates me.”
From left: Matilda Wells, Clara Berdakin, Maeve Young and Mirah Young help Grubby Hains with yard work on Aug. 2, 2021 (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)
On the job, the kids pick up branches and pine cones shed by the 67-year-old Sequoia in the front yard. They also gather leaves, plant flowers and pull weeds.
“Grubby loves to tell the kids how the tree once called to him to climb it,” said Laurie Hain, Grubby’s wife. “He’s a retired U.S. forester and he climbed to the top in 2002 with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and took photographs of the Golden Pioneer on the state Capitol building.”
The families first met Laurie and Grubby on their nightly walks around the neighborhood. For fun, Grubby put snakes and other small plastic critters in the front yard for the kids to find and move around. Some take selfies with them.
The impetus to help out the Hains came on May 1 when Laurie’s daughter, Molly, arranged for a drive-by “party” to celebrate Grubby’s birthday. He wasn’t up to doing much of anything else that day.
Hawkins saw all of the vehicles going by the Hain’s house and wondered what was up. She and the other moms found out that Hain couldn’t do any gardening right now.
“This is our first community service project,” she said.
Clara Berdakin, 7, one of the children at the Hain’s said she enjoyed working at the house because “I like to help people who need help.”
Maeve Young, 5, echoed Clara’s comments: “I like to help our neighbors.”
It was then that Grubby emerged from the house with a handful of plastic creatures asking, “who wants to put this frog somewhere?”
Harrison Wells, 7, looked at the critters in Grubby’s hand and said, “I get super tired walking around and picking up stuff. I love that Grubby climbed to the top of the Sequoia.”
For Matilda Wells, 5, her favorite part of the afternoon was picking up sticks and later going into the Hain’s backyard to look for raspberries.’’
Clara Berdakin, 7, works in Grubby Hain's south Salem yard on Aug. 2, 2021 (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)
As Laurie Hain paused from gathering yard debris she was putting in a bucket, she said, “This is just so much fun for us. We’ve both been camp directors and we always were outdoors doing something. This is good because the kids aren’t in front of the TV, and they are learning to help.”
She continued, “We are so fortunate to live in this wonderful neighborhood with kind, supportive, helpful young families reaching out to help us through this unexpected health challenge.”
Although school starts soon, the children will continue to help out the Hains because classes will be over by the 3:45 p.m. start-work time.
Others helping on Monday were mom Raina Wickstrom and children Caden Gallini, 7, Braxton Gallini, 7, Dashiell Wickstrom, 6, and Stellan Wickstrom, 4.
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