by Toby Martin
Maine Grangers Provide Community Support
When difficult times face people who live nearby, local Granges across Maine step up generously to meet the needs of their communities. In March and April,when the Covid-19 pandemic reached Maine and shut down people’s lives, Granger people power went into action.
State-mandated social distancing didn’t faze these Grangers. They went right to work, and the reports of their efforts around the state began trickling in and were posted on the Maine State Grange webpage (www.123myhub.com). They included East Sangerville Grange In Sangerville, Victor Grange in Fairfield, Fairview Grange in Smithfield, and Winthrop Grange in Winthrop.
East Sangerville Grange
WABI-TV news reported East Sangerville Grange’s drive-by birthday celebration for a local boy. According to their broadcast, “Coronavirus couldn’t crush a three-year-old’s birthday party.” The East Sangerville Grange “…saved the day for three-year-old Owen Cookson’s birthday by giving him a ‘birthday parade’ when his party was canceled due to the need for social distancing. (He) “…was looking forward to his celebration for months. But understandably, parents of all of the invited kids canceled amid concerns about the virus.” WABI’s report added, “The smile on Owen’s face says it all. Owen’s dad believes it’s the best present his son could have received and a true testament to how caring our community is in times of crisis.” Owen’s dad, Benjamin Cookson, caught the mobile party parade on Facebook, and he added, “Maybe we should all join birthday parades and remember that we are all a community and even with social distancing, we can support each other.”
Rick Watson of Fairview Grange reported on its new community bookshelf program created for local residents in response to COVID-19’s needs. “We are placing a metal cabinet on the covered kitchen steps outside our Grange Hall, (with) directions on the door to reinforce hand sanitizer, which we will leave inside, and everything will be based on the honor system. We will promote it from our roadside changeable letter sign, email, and Facebook. Hopefully, it becomes something people are interested in using.” His pictures of the bookcase and roadside sign were proudly posted on the Maine Grange website.
Barbara Bailey reported that Fairfield’s Victor Grange has project work in common with Fairview and Winthrop Granges: medical supplies and books. “We have had a medical equipment closet for years, and (items are) given out as needed.” She adds, “We found…that some of our seniors, (who come to our meal every month) …missed the socializing of the monthly meal, but also they wanted some different puzzles because they had made all of theirs and couldn’t find a way to get more. So we set up our front porch with shelves and put out puzzles and books.”
Sadly, their monthly seniors’ meal gatherings at the Grange Hall had to be discontinued because of Maine’s distancing guidelines, but the Grange’s strong community spirit inspired quick support from two Fairfield business owners, Caroline Too-Lawrence of Caring Hands Home Care and Shelley Rudnicki of Shelley’s Used Cars. They stepped in and joined forces. Bailey says. They “got the list of the seniors who usually came to our monthly senior meal and decided that every Friday they would make a meal and deliver them puzzles, masks, books of crosswords, search-and-find, and TP if needed.”
Like Victor Grange, Winthrop Grange offers a variety of clean, gently used medical supplies, available for pickup through their call-in line (Dorothy St. Hilaire at 207-242-7251). Items include an electric hospital bed and mattress, an electric wheelchair (needs batteries), a portable aluminum ramp, wheeled seated walkers, toilet booster seats, commodes, shower seats, and crutches. Once again, a community response from a local Grange meets a local community’s need.
Este aeterna. Let it be forever. For Maine Grangers, the message applies every day, by making connections happen through service to others.
A member of Valley Grange in Guilford, Toby Martin works with nonprofit organizations whose missions inspire community involvement in Maine and New England. He lives in Islesboro, where he represents groups involved in energy, the environment, the library, arts and culture. He is a published poet, playwright, and essayist, the editor of two mainland publications, and contributes regularly to online and print media.