To Sister Claire Logan, Ceres of the National Grange, Brother Steve Logan, Past Master of the RI State Grange, the Officers, Delegates and Members of the Maine State Grange,
I am proud to present you with my third address as your State Master.
The Granges in Maine have had many accomplishments over the past year. We once again met the percentage goal needed to receive funds from National Grange for Community Service. Congratulations Sister Chris and thank you for your leadership. CWA has reported an increase in contest entries and most of our items that went on to the Big E came home with placement ribbons. Let’s give both committees a round of applause.
The Big E
Thanks to the generous donations of handcrafted items the New England Grange Building has an approximate profit of $25,000 dollars this year. There were a few rainy days that set us back a little but this may be the third or fourth highest profit for the Store. The building is a place to be proud of and the Big E is the fifth largest fair in the country. The sale of handmade items is 100% profit and this enables the Trustees to make needed repairs and the Grange to have a presence at the Fair. Maine Grangers once again increased the number of items made and sent to be sold at the Big E
Young people are the future of this organization, but that will only be true if we involve and engage them. If there is just one child involved with your Grange, they can become a Junior Granger by enrolling as a member of the State Junior Grange. It is not necessary for your Grange to start a Junior Grange, although that would be great! Getting our children and grandchildren formally involved in the Junior program creates opportunities for them to participate in contests and programs and helps us build our membership.
I want to thank the Agriculture Directors, their committee, the Legislative Director and his committee, the State Grange Secretary and Administrative Coordinator for all the work that goes into making Agriculture Day at the State Legislature a success. This hard work and time-consuming event is made possible through your efforts. When greeting the Legislators as they come in many of them say this is the day they look forward to the most. They enjoy the home cooking provided by our members as most other organizations provide them with a fancy dinner at a local restaurant or a catered event at a local convention site. It is a privilege to accept the praise on your behalf.
In your packets is the Maine State Grange Legislative Policy statement. Brother Jim Annis went through the policy which pretty much was a list of all the resolves from passed resolutions and turned it in to a document with sentence structure. The committee then reviewed the policy, made some changes and the document is now ready for your review. Please look it over. You will have the opportunity to make changes if you feel they are necessary during this session. The resolution, passed at the 2014 Convention, required the creation of a document that we could hand to anyone and say, “This is what the Maine State Grange has voted on and supports.” This can be a powerful document. Legislators are most concerned about their constituents that vote and Grangers vote.
One of my goals this past year was to work on the budget. I appointed four members to the budget committee, Steve Call, Maynard Chapman, Jim Owens and Dave Gowen. All but one of their recommendations is reflected in the budget located in your packets. The one remaining recommendation will be presented now. The recommendation is to sell the building located at 146 State Street in Augusta. Everyone breathe as I explain why. The upkeep and maintenance of the building are where most of our money goes. We have made capital improvements over the last few years to maintain the integrity of the building including new metal roof and new furnace. These did not come cheaply. We receive income from the tenants but if you look closely at the Headquarters budget you will see that the income is nowhere near the expense. We pay rent to ourselves to maintain the building and that money comes from the dormant Grange Fund. At the current rate of spending the money from that fund will be depleted in less than 5 years. We have had a Commercial REALTOR come and look at the building and have been told we should be able to sell it for between five – six hundred thousand dollars, the city of Augusta values it at five hundred and fifty thousand. The committee and I recommend speaking with Kennebec Savings Bank and see what they will offer us for the building. They have expressed an interest in purchasing it in the past and we have a gentlemen’s agreement that we would give them first refusal. If they will not give us the price we want then the building would be put on the market.
This does not mean that we would not have a Headquarters building. There are smaller, more modern locations that are available for purchase and we would use a portion of the proceeds to purchase a small office building. We have already looked at a building that is available here in the Skowhegan area. This building is on the market for two-hundred and thirty thousand dollars and was built in 2002. It is a smaller, fuel efficient building with less up keep. The building at 146 State Street was appropriate for the Maine State Grange at the time it was purchased. It has met our needs for nearly 75 years, but the needs of the Maine State Grange are not what they were 75 years ago. We are a much smaller organization, travel is different now and we no longer have the connection with our State Legislature that we once did. As an organization, we cannot afford to maintain the building located at 146 State Street. My recommendation is that we sell the building and have the Master and Executive Committee look into purchasing another smaller building that meets the needs of the Maine State Grange today. When the Master’s Address Committee meets they have the opportunity to accept or reject this recommendation as part of their committee report.
One of the items discussed during the budget committee was a dues increase. We all felt that raising the dues was not a solution to the problem. We understand that money is tight for the local Granges and the types of fundraising that we used to do simply do not work with the numbers of members most of the Granges have today. The Grange at all levels needs to think outside of the box and come up with ways to increase revenue without increasing dues. We felt at this point we needed to tighten our belts a little more and actively cut operating cost and those changes are reflected in the budget as presented.
Our image in the Community
I am very thankful to those Granges that have been working on making their Grange Halls more attractive. Our Grange buildings generally are what people associate with our organization. They can give the impression that the Grange is busy or not, and that the Grangers take pride in their building or not. When folks drive by the Grange hall in your community what impression will they receive? Granges should be welcoming and inviting. People need to feel comfortable when they are in our buildings. I have heard that people think of Granges as a place where they can be “safe”. Does your Grange Hall feel safe? “Safety means you have up to date fire extinguishers… your kitchen is clean… and it means people feel surrounded by caring, compassionate people.” This is what we are taught when we do the altar circles in the fourth degree.
One of the successes we had this year was a workshop featuring leadership and sharing from some of our Granges that are making a difference. I am hoping that we can make this a traveling workshop. I would like to see this done a couple of times over the next year and in different parts of the state. Those who attended felt it was well worth the couple of hours of their time and that they did get something out of it. This wasn’t just rhetoric or “preaching,” these Granges offered proven “how to” methods for building Granges and increasing membership.We need to share more of our successes, small successes breed big successes and we can accomplish more taking one step at a time.
The more that we are out in the community and showing that we are still an active, vital part of our community the more people will want to know what the Grange is. Being involved in the community and trying to fill the community need has allowed Granges such as Halcyon, Highland Lake and Danville Junction to continue to grow and be successful. We can no longer think that people want to join us. We have to show them what they are missing. As Wes Ryder, “my Dad,” would say,“They are missing the fun, food and fellowship.” Where else but in the Grange can you have such an extended family?
Granges in Maine need to continue to make a difference in their communities. This is what makes us who we are. We can still make a difference in the lives of the people closest to us. We can and still need to shine, shine shine. Like Thomas the Train says “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Like Thomas we have obstacles to climb and together. “I know we can, I know we can, I know we can.”
In May Michael Martin, then National Leadership/Membership Director and I held workshops for the Granges in Washington and West Washington Pomonas. We need to continue working with the new Membership/Leadership Director Joe Stefanoni. We will continue with these very valuable tools and plan two more workshops next year in other parts of the state. Michael did leave some extra packets and if you would like to take one back with you please see me, first come basis I only have about a dozen.
There have been two really great articles published on the Grange in the past two months. The first one came out in the September issue of the Bangor Metro Magazine and is an extremely positive article. The second one was in The Source an insert in this past Sunday’s Telegram. While the media does not always get all the facts straight the article gives a fairly accurate description of the Grange today. There have been other articles in the past year regarding specific Granges who have been trying to generate an interest and what the Grange means to that community. The majority of the time publicity is a good thing and the more information we can give them to show that we are still relevant the better our chances of creating a positive image. We create the positive image and the media reports it. I know we can! I know we can! I know we can!
Tools at our Disposal
As the Granges in Maine move into the future we have all the tools we need to make our Granges grow.
- We have to plant the seed. Just like we are taught in the first degree we have to till the soil we also have to till the mind of the person we are asking to be a member. We need to know what kind of soil/mind we are working with.
- We are taught in the second degree that we need to nurture and cultivate. We need to do the same with new members. If we tend them, give them support as they grow it gives us a better crop. Tending and cultivating new members takes time but they will be better, stronger members if we take the time to teach them and help them grow.
- When they are ripe it is time to harvest. We have to remember some plants need to be harvested earlier than others. Some grow faster and others take their time to ripen and mature. As Grangers we need to use good judgment on when a member is ready to be picked.
- We enjoy together the fruits of our labors but only for a short time because the seasons will once again change and it will be time to plant once again.
We need to keep repeating the cycle. This will ensure that the Grange will continue long in to the future. “I know we can, I know we can, I know we can.”
I am very proud to serve as your State Grange Master. I could not do this without the support of all of you and the support of my family and very close friends. To the person who critiques my Masters column, this address and is an amazing sounding board thank you for believing in me and pushing me and giving me the occasional swift kick when I need it. You are a wonderful friend. To the “love of my life,” your support of my dreams, your countless hours spent at home alone do not go unnoticed. I can never thank you enough for being my rock, you are always there for me. I love you “Handsome.” To Sharon, Jim and The Executive Committee your knowledge makes this job much easier and to the members of the Granges in Maine thank you for your faith in me.
I know we can, I know we can, I know we can!
Victoria S. Huff