By Jim Nowlan
Most readers are familiar with the Arends Apple Orchard on Route 78 between West Jersey and Laura; good stuff sold there, fruits and vegetables, lovingly nurtured by Art Arends.
This touching, wonderful story just came into The News, so I have not had time to follow up. Thanks to Linda (no last name given), for providing the following by written note (which I have revised a bit):
Proprietor Art Arends, a shy, really good guy, fell recently while picking apples. He suffered seven broken ribs and a punctured lung; he is laid up bad. All at the height of his selling season.
Curtains for Art’s business, you might imagine. Not on your life! Everyone is coming to the rescue, and you can help, too.
I stop at the orchard frequently. Art has a good operation: apples, pears, tomatoes, more. He and Debbie, his wife of six years, also produce many hundreds of gallons of apple cider each fall; very popular around here.
The orchard dates back to 1956, probably when Art was a boy. For decades, Art labored alone among his beloved trees and plants.
The middle-aged Art is a big, easy-going fellow. Until he met wife Debbie, a widow at the time, a few years ago, Art had never dated, maybe because of a shyness encouraged by a stutter.
Now, when I stop by the orchard, the warm, out-going Debbie is likely to greet me. Last time there, it must have been just before Art’s fall, I could see Art at work in the background, among the neat rows of trees.
“Art is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet,” says Linda, who reported to us on Art’s plight.
Unable to get out of bed, Art was ready to shut down his operation.
Then, the community stepped up big time, according to Linda.
Volunteers are helping wife Debbie and some of her children and grandkids at the orchard. Friends and neighbors are picking fruit, sorting apples and pears, mowing under the trees; they hooked up a buzzer to alert Art and Debbie when customers drive into the lane.
“It is so beautiful to watch,” says Linda, referring I’m sure to both the love story and now the volunteers to the rescue. “I never realized how much work was involved in this operation until I came and helped.”
Businessman Chad Freres, owner of the Princeville Athletic Club, is helping round up volunteers.
Debbie has taken a leave of absence from her work at Rainbow Resource Center to help with the fall picking, processing and selling and Art (who cannot be left alone).
“She is working like crazy to keep the orchard open,” Linda says.
If you want to see how you can be a part of this great story, call Debbie Arends at 309-397-1577. We can’t let Art down.
By Jim Nowlan