A throng of student volunteers turned out to fill sandbags in the wake of last week’s flooding. Some spent all Friday on the back end of a shovel in an effort to help unsuspecting neighbors. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The Brothers Grimm once wrote of an old fairy tale in which an elderly shoemaker get unexpected help from a group of elves that finish his work while he sleeps. On Friday, Jan. 20, a group of McNary High School students brought the tale to life.

Local residents stopping at Keizer’s Carlson Skate Park expecting to fill sandbags to combat rising waters got an unexpected surprise – prefilled sacks.

Keizerites Gabby Harryman and Lisa Nguyen put out the call on Facebook Thursday, Jan. 19, after Harryman spent the evening filling sandbags at Swegle Elementary School. Throughout the day friends and classmates joined them at the park to fill and load sandbags.

“I knew I couldn’t just sit at home knowing what was going to be going on,” Harryman said.

“We just started texting friends and it grew out of that,” said Nguyen. “We had a very different group this morning.”

Harryman and Nguyen started bagging sand at 8:30 a.m. and thought they had filled close to 2,000 bags by 3:30 p.m. Their third load of sand was beginning to dwindle.

“We had a mom come with her two kids and one was about three years old in a car seat, they were just going to fill bags with the kid in the car, but we got them taken care of,” said Jenna Hakes, a captain of the McNary High School cheerleading team.

“They were in and out in about 10 minutes,” Harryman added.

In addition to filling the bags, the sandbaggers were also making deliveries to elderly residents who dropped by the site in need of help, and supplied a site a North Salem High School with some prefilled sacks. While at the high school, they helped an area resident sandbag their garden, shed and home.

The students hoped people who needed the bags, but didn’t have the ability or time to fill them, would come by the site and discover their handiwork.

A bit of dampness and sore muscles were a small price to pay to help out, Harryman said.

“I think a lot of us realize how lucky we are to not be in one of those areas that is getting flooded,” she said. “I could stay out in the rain all day knowing I don’t have to deal with a flooded home.”

True to her words, she didn’t plan on leaving for at least a few more hours.