Apr 292020

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.”

Fairview Grange
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.

Victor Grange
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.”

Winthrop Grange
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. 

Apr 292020

Here’s is a link to the recently released booklet Restarting Maine’s Economy describing what’s what is allowed when under the Governor’s Order (updated April 27, 2020). This is the official word and is far better than asking questions on Facebook or other social media. This link has also been added to the “sticky” post of COVID-19 Resources at the top of the site.

Apr 262020
Information based on the April 25 UMaine Extension Weekly Farm News

UMaine Cooperative Extension recently combined several newsletters into a “Weekly Main Farm News.” This newsletter contains “important information to share with farmers and farm service providers.

The April 25 edition contains links to many COVID-19 resources for farmers–too many to list here! We will, however, share the link to the website page where all are listed.

We seem to have had some issues with the original link… let’s try this one:

To provide some sense of the depth of these resources, categories include:

  • FAQ
  • COVID-19 Information
  • Food Safety Standard Operating Procedures for Farms
  • Financing
  • Employment and legal issues
  • Farmer Networking
  • Agricultural Lab Services (includes information about soil testing)
  • Marketing
  • Stress, Mental Health, and Well-being
  • Tools

Check it out and, if asked, tell ’em Maine State Grange sent you!

Apr 252020

By Marilyn Stinson  (beedlehillattwcdotcom)  
207 824-2291
and Terry LaCombe Stevens  (terryllcacombeatgmaildotcom)  ,
207 327-1692

As the Junior Committee is planning Junior Summer Camp for 2020, to be held June 26-28, 2020, we checked back on what the Juniors said about last year.

We believe that we will be able to meet by the end of June and the Leaders’ Team is meeting by Zoom for planning!  Thanks to Terry for figuring it out and getting it organized.

Juniors June, 2019 Campout Survey Results

What was the best part of camp?

  • “The Scavenger Hunt!”
  • “The animals” (We visited a small farm with goats and fowl)
  • “Getting badges”
  • “The Joining Ceremony”
  • “Playground”
  • “Pizza!!!”
  • “Playing Board Games”

What was the worst part?

  • Falling off the zipline”? (Her feet were only 2 or 3 inches off the ground)
  • “No electronics”
  • “No sleep”
  • “Cauliflower” We had a pre-camp survey for food and thought what someone was marking for no was a mark for yes and we served that).
Apr 252020

By Betsy Huber  (betsyatnationalgangedotorg)  , National President/Master
Reprinted from Patrons Chain

As we complete the sixth week of isolation and social distancing, how are you doing? How has your life changed? Or more importantly, how has your outlook on life or your priorities changed? Are you looking back at all the many activities you used to do, the frantic rush from work or school to home to sports to clubs to shopping, even to Grange events, and wondering if they were worth your time?

As you are thinking these thoughts, I hope that you’re feeling that Grange was one of the important parts of your life and you will continue your involvement in person when we are finally released. If you have doubts, I hope you will think of what you can do to make your Grange time more valuable—to you and to your family and community. Do you just meet, greet, and eat? Or is there a purpose to your meeting? In these difficult times I’m sure you can find a more meaningful purpose for your Grange, even if you can’t meet together in person. This is why I strongly encourage you to hold virtual Grange meetings during this time—so you can plan a new purpose, or new ways of carrying out your purpose in the future.

I came across a word last week—entropy, the inevitable and steady deterioration of any system or society; the tendency for all things to go from order towards disorder. This is what I fear for our Community Granges in this time of isolation. If your Grange goes for two months, three months, or who-knows-how-long without connection, will it slide into entropy and disappear? Please don’t allow this to happen to you!

The National Grange allows and encourages Granges to meet by phone, Zoom, Skype, Go To Meeting, or any of the many virtual methods available. Don’t allow a virus to be the death of your Grange!

You don’t need to be the Master to initiate a virtual meeting procedure. Any youth or grandchild can set up the mechanics and offer to host. They may get in the habit of attending the meetings and become involved in your Grange. My Grange has been including members in meetings by conference call or Zoom for the last four months—yes, even before the virus—and we have had attendance from members we haven’t seen in many years. Those who have moved away, are attending college, or just lost contact with us and are now back. We’ve had great discussions and it really is a wonderful way to keep in touch. Why not give it a try next week! We want to use this crisis to make our Grange grow, not go into entropy.

Visit the National Grange Website to subscribe to the Patrons Chain!

Apr 242020

By Walter Boomsma  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)  ,
MSG Communications Director
207 343-1842

Communication Shorts are brief (short) but important items posted for your information and use, including Degree Days and Officer Installations.

Zoom Meeting for Maine Farmers

The Zoom session was started UMaine Extension as a way for farmers and farm service providers to share what is happening on their farms. What is working, what isn’t working, etc. And to find people to answer questions during this Covid19 pandemic. These sessions are moving to a new time Weekly on Friday at 10 am on Zoom. To participate, see what guest may be appearing, what topic is in the cue, or to view the chat notes from previous Zoom sessions go to https://extension.umaine.edu/piscataquis/agriculture/zoom/

Have You Created Your Book Swap Box?

You remember the challenge, right? How many Grange Book Swap Boxes will be placed on Grange Hall Porches? For more information, see the recent post showing how Fairview Grange in Smithfield took action, how they got the idea, and how they made it happen almost immediately! Not to in anyway diminish their accomplishment but this one is so easy every Grange in Maine can do it!

Welcome our New Columnist!

We’re happy to report that we have a new columnist who will be writing occasional columns on “Creating Connections.” Toby Martin is a member of Valley Grange and the editor of the WindowDressers Newsletter. One of the things that triggered his interest in the Grange and writing for us is the success and mutual benefits he’s seen from the WindowDressers connection with several exciting Granges in Maine. We are looking forward to his ideas and thoughts!

Have You Got Style?

A timely tip is to note that the proper name is spelled COVID-19, all in caps.

Website News

It’s been exciting and rewarding to post how Granges in our state are serving their communities. Keep those stories and photos coming! Don’t take what may seem like small things for granted.

The codfish lays ten thousand eggs, 
The homely hen lays one; 
The codfish never cackles, To tell you when she's done; 
And so we scorn the codfish, While the humble hen we prize;
Which only goes to show you, That it pays to advertise.

Online Directories Available 24-7

Remember, we have two directories that are interactive–meaning you can sort and search! The first is the ODD Directory, which features all state officers, directors, and deputies with contact information. The second is the Directory of Granges, which features all Granges in the state. Both are getting used! Make sure your Grange listing is correct!

Bulletin Reminder

As a reminder, columns and news items for the monthly printed Bulletin are due by the fifteenth of the month. Columns and news items for the website can be submitted at any time.

Note that when you subscribe to the Maine State Grange Website we do not share your email address with others and only use it to send you–at the most–one email per day when new information is posted.

Apr 242020

The Winthrop Grange #209 has a durable medical supply closet free to all folks in need of supplies. Items are gently used, clean, and available on a first-come, first-served basis. We currently have available?:

1. Electric hospital bed and mattress
2. Electric wheelchair does need batteries?
3. Portable aluminum ramp?
4. Many wheeled seated walkers?
5. Toilet booster seats
6. Commodes
7. Shower seats?
9. Crutches

Contact Dorothy Sthilaire at 207-242-7251 to arrange to pick up.


Apr 242020

by Toby Martin

Yesterday afternoon I phoned Walter Boomsma, the Maine State Grange’s Communications Director and webmaster of the MSG website.

“Congratulations,” I said. “You’re famous!”

To me, he was, because he had taken his commitment to Grange values national, something that had been developing ever since he became a member of Maine’s Valley Grange in Guilford in 2003, and even more after he became Maine State Communications Director in 2014.

The afternoon before I called Walter, I had tuned in to view the national Facebook broadcast of the conversation he had with Amanda Brozana Rios, the National Grange’s Communications Director. It was the first in a series of Grange broadcasts designed to bring Grangers together in response to the national separation caused by what Americans were all facing, the overwhelming pandemic power of COVID-19.  Social distancing controlled everyone’s lives, and the need to connect, once arbitrary, had become critically important.  What had been abnormal became the new normal, and nobody wanted it. Times Square was empty.

So, seeking connection, I turned to Facebook, Walter, and Amanda as an observer and silent fan.  I had already read Walter’s book and knew him and Amanda, and several of Maine’s Granges, through my volunteer work and growing appreciation for Grange values and community service, as editor of the quarterly WindowDressers Newsletter.   Nonprofit colleagues.

From my virtual vantage, socially distanced between points connecting me here on Islesboro, Maine, the midcoast island where I live, with Amanda in the Washington, D.C. area, and with Abbot Village, Maine, where Walter lives, I cheered them on, every word, connecting what I had experienced through our common experiences, interactions, and understanding. 

Their conversation focused on the messages in Walter’s book, Exploring Traditions – The Grange Way of Life (Abbot Village Press, 2018), a collection of essays that, as National Master (President) Betsy Huber states in the book’s preface, “…unpack the teachings of the Grange and relate them to today’s world and our everyday lives.”  The book collects three years of monthly columns Walter wrote and contributed to the MSG website.

The Grange began with the concepts that originated with its seminal founder, Oliver Hudson Kelley, in the mid-1800s, just after the end of the Civil War.  Kelley was a Minnesota farmer who had homesteaded there on the bank of the Mississippi River, and the farm he established is still there, protected, restored, and preserved as living history by the Friends of the Kelley Farm.

So, here’s the point. For me, having an open mind and welcoming others into our lives is immeasurably enriching.  Learning about the Grange, and seeing how it has affected so many people ever since Oliver Hudson Kelley began making his belief and passion for an organization happen, one that has lasted so long and been so important to thousands of Americans is no small thing. 

And right now, when we need it as much as we do, to connect from such distances, it has become virtually essential. 

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. 

Apr 242020

Fairview Grange means business! They quickly set up their Book Swap… we appreciate the photos! Who else can do this!? How soon can you get it done?

Short and to the point!
Familiar advice
Not pictured are the available hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Note also that there’s Grange information and applications!

How cool would it be to have one of these on the porch of every Grange Hall in Maine? During the installation of officers, the lecturer is told, “Especially encourage the young and diffident to become writers, readers, and speakers…” Congratulations to Fairview Grange for this simple but effective method of doing just that! This is a wonderful example of something that demonstrates what the Grange is all about and supports the community.

There is a national program where you can register your “Little Free Library” so anyone can find it. There are also some great resources–you can actually get plans for building a “Book Sharing Box,” purchase ready made boxes, and find books at a discount.

Remember, it’s not the program that’s important–it’s the action–getting it done. I see no reason that you couldn’t start with a plastic tub and cover! Let me know when your Grange has one in place–we’ll start a list here on the website. Photos would be great! Don’t forget to promote it! If you’d like help writing a press release, let me know  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)  .