“I get by with a little help from my friends,” is how the Beatles song goes, right?
It’s not, “you get by with a little help from perfect strangers.”
Elijah Campbell, who runs EGC Landscaping of Delaware, got the lyric wrong apparently – although it was a friend in need who was impetus to — well, pay it forward.
Campbell has a friend out in California whose husband is deployed in the military. She was telling him recently how hard it was to take care of the house while her husband was away.
“Obviously, I can’t help her,” Campbell said. Going out to California to help out with lawn care once a week is just not feasible.
So he did the next best thing. He put an ad on his Facebook page asking followers if they were or knew any service members or veterans who needed help maintaining their lawn.
“We had some extra time, so I just wanted something,” Campbell said. “I brought it up to my employees and they were willing to do it – to volunteer their time also.”
Immediately, he got a response from one of his clients, Beth Hawkins, who told Campbell about her father.
Hawkins called her father and told him that she had a friend who wanted to meet him.
Her father is William Combs, 90, a Delaware resident since 1970 and a World War II veteran. He opened up about his experiences at the Buchenwald concentration camp in a Gazette article on April 20 after he was profiled by Esquire magazine.
“He reminded me of my grandfather,” Campbell said. “They’re all in that age from World War II and most of them won’t talk about it still and there’s so many that their stories are being taken to the grave. So, I’ve spent three afternoons with Mr. Combs now, just sitting and listening to his stories.”
But the first time he met him, he saw that the yard wasn’t especially large or hard to handle. Combs lives in a duplex in a small community, Trillium Condominiums at Willow Run, off of Houk Road in Delaware.
One of the more striking things about his property is the presence of a small blue spruce tree in the side yard. The tree, located down a small incline, has a stone memorial that reads, “Susie’s tree,” in honor of his late wife.
The neighbors were so fond of her that they had donated the tree to Combs after her death in May 2013 due to liver cancer.
“I think there were 15 or 20 of the different people living in this neighborhood who collected money and bought that tree and then I put the stone in front of it,” Combs said.
Combs, who has suffered three minor strokes since then, has trouble going down the incline to water the tree.
Campbell had the perfect solution. He dug a trench to bury a hose that he set up with a timer and that dispenses water twice a day for 15 minutes – once in the morning and once at night — to care for the memorial.
“I told him about the tree, he had to go see that,” Combs said. “He went out there and the next thing I know he was digging a trench.”
Campbell planted some flowers in the garden along the house and mowed the lawn.
“When he was done, he shook my hand and said, ‘I appreciate your service,’ and he left,” Combs said. “Wow! That was so quick.”
Combs was taken aback by the act of kindness.
“I kept thinking – that’s such a nice thing for a guy to do,” he said. “People want to help each other in this town. It took his crew the better part of a day and a half to do both (Beth and my) houses and I was appreciative because it doesn’t often shine that bright.”
Campbell said he will continue to mow Combs’ lawn once a week for at least the remainder of the year, “maybe just continue to do it.”
“I had a free day and it’s nothing for us spend an hour and mow their property once a week or whatever when we’re out,” Campbell explained. “It’s ended up where I enjoy the time and I’ll probably stop over once a week and chat with him.”
Campbell said he would like to help out more service members or veterans in need.
“I’d like to spend four hours or a half-day per week – however many people I can help in that time. It’ll probably end up being two to three.”
For more information on how to contact Campbell, visit his Facebook page, “EGC Landscaping LLC,” or his website, www.egclandscapingllc.com.
Michael Rich can be found on Twitter @mrichdelgazette. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.