Mar 262012
Coming soon to a theatre near you?

While some talking heads are predicting the death of newspapers, Valley Grange can testify to the fact that the power of the press lives on! When we started our “blistered fingers knitters” promotion and Yarn Drive a few months ago we never really dreamed that our program would result in one knitter who lives in New Jersey joining the effort.

Things started with a feature article written by Shelia Grant, a local freelancer… and the yarn started pouring in. Most area newspapers were happy to list collection points and help spread the word. Then just as collections started slowing down Bill Pearson of The Piscataquis Observer decided to showcase the story and included some follow-up information.

Shortly after that article appeared we heard from Roberta Fitzgerald in New Jersey, Roberta suggested that she’s actually more of a “calloused fingers” knitter, but she wanted to help us by knitting some hats for the kids. Roberta explained that her “roots to Dover-Foxcroft are actually my mother’s. She grew up in Dover-Foxcroft and graduated from FA in 1939. Mom went to NJ in 1940 for nursing school, met her husband, and raised four daughters there. Every summer, however, we all came to Dover Foxcroft, staying at Sebec Lake, and made lots of memories with our Washburn cousins, aunts and uncles.”

One fascinating aspect of Roberta’s story includes  her explanation that in 2006 she began making extended visits to her mother after she’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Roberta explains, “One of the marvelous things that happened was I was able to re-teach her to knit. After church one Sunday, she signed up for knitting the Seaman’s scarves! Yikes! I was amazed that I was able to re-introduce her to knitting and I think it was really good for her. I know it had been at least 50 years (maybe more) since the last time she’d knitted anything.”

And now that legacy lives on. “I’m a compulsive knitter  who can’t justify watching TV without knitting needles or crochet hook in hand, so knitting some hats for elementary school kids in Guilford & Dover Foxcroft is easy to do!”

We’re pleased to welcome Roberta to the knitter’s circle and look forward to receiving her first batch of hats when she visits the area this summer. We also recently took delivery of 97 pairs of mittens from Debbie Burdin. Thanks to the improving weather we’ll be arranging storage until they are needed next fall. All our mittens and hats go to Piscataquis Community Elementary School, SeDoMoCha, or the Piscataquis Santa Project. We’re still collecting yarn for a few more weeks, so visit a bin near you if you have some to donate!

Thanks to our local area newspapers, writers, and reporters for helping us help our communities and kids! We even made the marque of Centre Theatre! The power of the press lives on!

Mar 252012
Caroline Goggin’s Ad

For the fourth year running, Valley Grange has commissioned PCES third and fourth graders to create ads showing what Valley Grange is all about. Since the kids have visited the Grange Hall as part of the Words for Thirds project and grange members visit the school regularly to “bookworm” with the kids, they seem to have some good ideas of what our Grange is about. We’re especially pleased that they associate us with reading and learning. Some of the ads actually said, “Thank you for inspiring us.”

During a recent school assembly this year’s winning ads were revealed and the kids were congratulated for their effort. “While two ads get selected for newspaper publication,” Lecturer Walter Boomsma announced to the 100 kids who participated, “everyone of you is getting a thank-you magnet because you really made an effort and we appreciate that.”
In addition to appearing in the “Newspapers in Education” Supplement published by The Piscataquis Observer, the ads are used in the brochures and flyers as well as published on the Valley Grange website after the supplement is released.
WABI Channel 5 sent a news team to cover the assembly adding to the kids’ excitement. You can watch their story here on WABI website.
Mar 242012

Words from Walter…

Well, darn! I’m a week or so late with this month’s report and nobody has been beating down the door requesting it! I can’t blame it on Spring Fever, but I could whine about being busy. Suffice it to say I scheduled the “perfect storm” for March. In addition to an extra heavy schedule teaching classes, we (Valley Grange) have been busy with several activities–including the new collaboration called GrowME–which was wildly successful. (Check out the GrowME blog for more information.)

Unfortunately, I haven’t been as busy handling posts to our site! As I prepared to write this, I took a quick look at our traffic and discovered that for January and February of this year we had almost exactly the same number of visits to our site as last year. That drove me to taking another step that involved a little more effort–a comparison of the number of posts for the same period. (My counts do NOT include events.) We actually have less posts (10%) in January 2012 than last year and only half as many in February compared to the previous year.

So maybe there’s less people visiting the site because there’s less to read! Or at least that’s my theory! What do you think?

Remember, sending your news and events isn’t hard–an email to webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)   will do it. If you’re sending an event, please remember to send ALL the information.

I am constantly amazed at the growth of technology. One of the other organizations I am involved with has been tracking their inquiries and contacts and have found that the number of web or email-based inquiries have outstripped telephone calls and walk-ins. We find ourselves often discussing how that movement is changing the way we do business–and how to address the opportunities it affords. We know we can’t “keep up,” but we know we have to adapt. Technology is even changing the way (and what) we learn. In that same organization, we often have meetings where folks “Skype in” or use other technology to attend “on camera.”

Obviously we don’t want to lose human contact or the “touch” factor, but technology is making things possible that only a few years ago we would not have dreamed possible. Technology also offers some questions for us to consider… like why is it that people will reveal all sorts of personal information about themselves on social networks like Facebook, spend hours playing online games, but be too busy to attend a grange meeting, return phone calls, or volunteer in their community?

I don’t know the answer to that question either! But I do think there are times when knowing what the questions are is more important than knowing what the answers are… Valley Grange used to have a wood stove in the foyer of our hall. It was easy to picture our forefathers sitting around that stove discussing their farms and the issues affecting them. The stove is gone; the image remains. I wonder what the image will be a hundred years from now when our descendants consider what life was like for us?

Mar 222012

New Gloucester, Maine – The Grange is proud to support The Dictionary Project through its Word for Thirds program. Through the tireless efforts of the Grange’s network of more than 300,000 volunteers, America’s oldest rural and agriculture organization has presented third grade students across the nation with more than 100,000 dictionaries.

And, that number will continued to rise when the Sabbathday Lake Grange #365 presents third grade students at Burchard A. Dunn Elementary School in New Gloucester with dictionaries on during a recent visit.

A dictionary is one of the most powerful reference tools young children will be introduced to during their schooling years. Its usefulness goes beyond just providing correct spellings, pronunciations, and definitions. It is also a companion for solving problems that arise as children develop their reading, writing, and creative thinking abilities.

“It is amazing to see the smiles on children’s faces when we presented them with dictionaries,” Steven Haycock, Sabbathday Lake Grange Secretary, said. “It gives them a sense of pride when they have a dictionary to look up words on their own. It promotes learning and helps mold their self-confidence and independence.” Sabbathday Lake Grange has donated over 1,200 dictionaries to the Dunn School over the past seven years. “We would not be able to donate these dictionaries without the support of the customers who have bought raffle tickets at our Grange functions over the years. This year we want to thank Cole Farms Restaurant in Gray, Shaw’s and Wal-Mart in Windham for the generous donations of prizes for our raffle this past year,” said Secretary Haycock.

The Grange, headquartered in Washington, D.C., partnered with The Dictionary Project, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, in 2002. The goal of the program is to assist third grade students to complete the school year as good writers, active readers and creative thinkers by providing them with their own personal dictionaries. The dictionaries are a gift to each student to use at school and at home for years to come. The organization has presented more than 1.8 million children with dictionaries. For more information about Sabbathday Lake Grange please contact Steven Haycock at Granger04071ataoldotcom  (Granger04071ataoldotcom)  , and for more information about the Grange in Maine please visit or call 1-800-464-3421.


Mar 212012
Quick Tip

If  spring is making you restless and you’re looking for a community service project… The Keep America Beautiful organization has announced record-setting goal to recruit 4 million volunteers to activate a Great American Cleanup. Also, remember that Earth Day is April 22, 2012 and many local groups will be organizing events and efforts… at a minimum you could organize members and volunteers to spruce up your grange hall–inside and out!

Someone has said, “Our house is clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy.” Would that the same be said of our grange halls…!


Mar 132012

Valley Grange of Guilford is one of three collaborators creating the county-wide GrowME project taking place this week in celebration of agriculture. Volunteers are visiting local schools (kindergarten through first grade) and conducting activities such as favorite animal graphs, apple sorting and testing, butter making, and seed planting. WABI TV 5 visited one Dover Foxcroft second grade classroom to report on the program and the kids making butter. You can watch the story on their website:

Based on how engaged the kids have been and the teachers’ reactions, the program will not only be repeated but will likely expand next year. For more information about the program and activities, visit the GrowME website.

Valley Grange is also hosting an Eggstravaganza to celebrate the completion of this year’s project at their hall on Friday, March 16. The event includes a community potluck supper at 6 PM and program at 7 PM. We’ll be celebrating agriculture and the “hatching” of this great program and hosting a visit from a virtual chicken that will show how eggs are formed inside a chicken. All are welcomed to this family friend event. The grange hall is located at the corner of Butter Street and Guilford Center Road in Guilford.

Valley Grange, Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Piscataquis County UMaine Extension Service joined hands and created this program to build a truly local program of agriculturally themed activities for kids led by local volunteers with the goal of increasing agricultural literacy and making it fun!

Mar 122012
New Junior Grangers Zoe, Jillian, Emily, Shyanne and Kody with State Junior Director Laurie McBurnie

Submitted by Laurie McBurnie, Photo by Sally Downing

On Feb. 18, five young people were welcomed to the Maine State Junior Grange in a ceremony at So. Sangerville Grange. These new Jr. Grangers are already exciting about many of the contests, including sewing and baking. A thank you to the subordinate members at So. Sangerville for their support for these youngsters in this venture.

Mar 092012

Mariah is adding another book to the 67 she's read this year!

over 70 dictionaries distributed to Ridgeview Community School
submitted by Walter Boomsma
Piscataquis Pomona Publicity Director 

Third grade students attending Ridgeview Community School recently welcomed a team of Garland Grange members who brought words and dictionaries for them. The team was led by Bill Bemis, master of the Grange, who offered the students a summary of the grange’s history. Bemis was accompanied by grange members Ernest Rollins and Becca Myers.

This is the third year Garland has donated dictionaries to Ridgeview students as part of their “Words for Thirds” Program. The ideal of the program is to aid third grade teachers in their goal to see all their students leave at the end of the year as good writers, active readers, and creative thinkers. The dictionary is for the children to keep, so that they can take it with them into the fourth grade and use it throughout their entire school career.

As the team distributed a dictionary to each student it became apparent there was something a little different this year. As students followed the instruction to write their names on the label on the first page many exclaimed, “Hey, my dictionary smells like apples!” Rollins admitted this was probably because they had been stored briefly in the apple barn at Rollins Orchards.

Rollins introduced several new words to third graders who quickly learned to use guidewords to find definitions. It also didn’t take long for them to see the usefulness of their new tool. Mariah McCormack loves to read and write. She’s quite proud of the fact she’s read 67 books so far this year and will be adding the dictionary to her list. “When I’m writing and have to edit what I wrote, I can look up words I’ve spelled wrong or am not sure and get it right.” She also discovered the encyclopedic portion in the back. “I can also look up presidents and use the maps. There’s lots of stuff in here!”

Tom practices signing using his new dictionary

Classmate Tom Urlickson agreed and immediately began practicing sign language using the chart he discovered in his dictionary. Students familiarized themselves with their new book by looking up words like “grange” and “patron.”  After reading the definition together, Rollins explained more about the grange and pointed out “Now you have a new word and a new dictionary.”

Grange leader Bill Bemis said he’s “amazed at how much and how fast kids are learning today. We are glad to contribute something to that process!”  Bemis also suggested parents of homeschooled children should contact the school for their child’s dictionary.

Garland Grange has been providing dictionaries to students in the area for a eight years. Members also make an annual trip to Harmony Elementary School with their presentation and books. The Grange conducts a popular public supper series and other fundraisers throughout the year to support their community service program. Many of the students were familiar with the grange located on Oliver Hill Road in Garland, having been there for various community events ranging from Garland Days in the fall to hosting town meeting in March.

The Dictionary Project has provided over 17 million dictionaries worldwide since starting in 1992. The project is executed by local civic organizations and has become something of a signature program for the grange. For more information on the Dictionary Project, please contact wordpoweratdictionaryprojectdotorg  (wordpoweratdictionaryprojectdotorg)   or visit

Mar 092012

Community invited to celebrate GrowME Growth

Valley Grange will host an “Eggstravaganza” on Friday, March 19 16th at their hall on the corner of Butter Street and Guilford Center Road. The Grange is one of three collaborating organizations who sprouted and nurtured the GrowME Project. Grange Program Director Walter Boomsma says, “There’s a lot to celebrate! The numbers are still coming in but it looks like our volunteers will reach nearly 40 classrooms and over 500 students. I think we’ve lost count of volunteers because we seem to add more every day.”

The GrowME program was hatched earlier this year when three local organizations with an interest in agriculture decided there was an opportunity to assist schools and teachers by providing some “hands on” activities with an agricultural theme. Valley Grange was joined by Piscataquis Soil and Water Conservation and District and the Piscataquis County UMaine Extension and the three organizations agreed on a mission to “build a truly local program of agriculturally themed activities for kids led by local volunteers with the goal of increasing agricultural literacy and making it fun!”

During the week prior to the Eggstravaganza volunteers will be visiting grades K through 3 throughout the county with activities like creating animal graphs, apples to apples tasting and sorting, making butter, and starting seeds. Boomsma notes that “our grange would normally meet that night anyway, but it seemed appropriate to have a community celebration of our achievements and agriculture in general. We even have a virtual chicken coming so folks can learn how an egg is formed.”

The event is not just for people involved in GrowME—it is open to anyone who supports the idea of community and collaborating. The Grange promises to a “family friendly” event and hopes volunteers, teachers, kids, and parents will come. The “Eggstravaganza” features a community potluck supper at 6:00 PM—bring a dish to share! A brief meeting at 7 PM will cover some highlights of the GrowME collaboration, the virtual chicken with comments by Donna Coffin from UMaine Extension, and some discussion of the future growth of GrowME.

Additional information regarding the Eggstravaganza is available on the Valley Grange website at The GrowME collaboration maintains a blog at