A community’s support | SierraSun.com

A community’s support

David Bunker
Photo by Josh Miller/Sierra Sun Nell Jackson looks on while Michael Towlar and Dan Holzer, both pastors at First Baptist Church of Tahoe City baptize Russell Grijalva, who is fighting kidney cancer.
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Sierra SunOn Monday, Russell Grijalva will get a quarter-sized tumor cut out of his kidney. With the lump’s removal he hopes the debilitating abdominal pain that has kept him from work will leave also. The last month has been tough for Grijalva, his wife and four young kids. His illness means that the family’s primary source of income has suddenly dried up and left them struggling to pay for the most fundamental necessities – rent, daycare and food.

But a strong showing of financial and practical backing from the North Tahoe community has constantly met the Grijalva’s most pressing needs.Grijalva, 43, had a surprise when he went to pick up his paycheck last week at Truckee Tahoe Lumber Co. The check, which he expected to be worthless, was written out for the full amount.”It was a surprise when I got my check,” said Grijalva. “I was supposed to get nothing and my check said $1,200.”

His coworkers had donated their vacation time so Grijalva and his family will keep their income at the most critical time. The backing has allowed them to sustain the high cost-of-living pressures in North Tahoe despite Grijalva’s serious illness.”They gave me a raise. They gave me extended time off,” said Grijalva of the support of his employers. “Everybody started giving eight hours of their vacation time, 16 hours of their vacation time – what more can you ask for?”The willingness of employees to offer up their vacation time even surprised Sheryl Da Silva, human resource manager of Truckee Tahoe Lumber, who, along with, owner Breeze Cross, came up with the idea.”It kind of was [surprising] and it kind of wasn’t. We have such a good group. It’s kind of like a family,” she said.

The paycheck from the Truckee-based company’s Tahoe City branch was only one of the many ways that locals have supported the family, which moved to Tahoma nine months ago. The Grijalva’s church has declined payment for almost $500 of daycare services after realizing Russell’s condition, and the family’s landlord has afforded them flexibility with their rent payments. Everyone from casual acquaintances to neighbors and friends have offered to help one way or another, said Grijalva. The backing gives Grijalva a measure of peace headed into an uncertain surgery, relieving the pressing financial apprehension of his position.”It was more of a mental stress for him knowing he was not going to be able to provide for his family,” said Shelly Grijalva, Russell’s mother, who lives in Truckee.

For Russell, the outpouring of concern has been overwhelming.”I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “I’ve never seen a community surround around one individual” like this.On Wednesday, Russell went under Lake Tahoe during a baptism put on by his Baptist church in Tahoe City. On Monday, he will go under the knife, and could be recovering for over two months from the surgery. Still his voice remains upbeat, and he repeats over and over his appreciation for his doctors, employer, church and friends. And although the ordeal may be only starting, Grijalva with his optimism, talks about it like its already over. “Without the assistance of everything they did for us … it would have been rough,” said Grijalva.