Mar 312016
 

by Betsy E. Huber, Master
The National Grange

Betsy Huber, National Grange Master

Betsy Huber, National Grange Master

I have been asked to make a ruling on the ability of Grange members to participate, and specifically to be allowed to cast votes, in meetings of Subordinate/Community Granges without being physically present; i.e. via telephone, audio or electronic video means such as computer.

After studying the National Grange Digest of Laws, I find no mandate that members must be physically present in the room to participate and/or to cast a vote in a Grange meeting. I also find that Grange members who personally cast their vote via electronic participation in a regular Grange meeting are not casting a proxy vote, as that term is generally understood. Proxy voting is the assignment of a right to vote by one person to another. Proxy voting is clearly prohibited by the Digest of Laws. Participating in a Grange meeting via electronic means is not assigning one’s right to vote to another person. It is exercising one’s right to vote via a different medium of communication and participation.

In today’s world, people are much more mobile than in 1867 or even 1967. Grangers are required to travel for their employment or even move to another part of the country or world. Grange members proudly serve in the armed forces or the Peace Corps, far away from their communities. Some Grangers temporarily relocate to warmer climates for several months of the year. Our youth may live at college for 8 months out of the year. Grangers may be nursing home residents or may be temporarily home-bound. Many of these members would like to remain connected to their home Grange while they may be unable to attend in person, and certainly their home Granges would appreciate their
participation and input.

Today’s technology has improved so that there is little chance of someone fraudulently attempting to participate in a meeting as a nonmember or pretending to be someone else using telephone or other audio and/or audio and video technology.Our meetings are no longer secret; we encourage future members to visit meetings in order to learn
what the Grange is about. Virtual attendance at a Grange meeting could provide another means of interesting prospective members in a non-threatening manner.

The Grange for many years has allowed committee meetings in which members conduct the business of the Order via telephone or computer with no negative consequences. Even portions of the National Grange Session are broadcast via computer to members far and near.

I am not saying that virtual meetings should take the place of members meeting together for fellowship and activities in a Grange hall or meeting place. This is still the mainstay of our Order. I also rule that the Digest does not require any local, county or State Grange chapter to invest in and employ the technology necessary to allow remote participation at every meeting or any meeting, for that matter. Therefore, the scope of this ruling clearly allows each Grange to determine the method and means of remote participation in their meetings as necessary to accommodate the technological comfort level and traditions of their local Grange. However, members who are separated by distance or disability should not be prohibited, as a matter of Grange Law, from fully participating in Grange meetings by electronic means to keep them part of our family.

Mar 292016
 
L--R Fairview Grange Master Kay Young, Community Citizen Nancy Clark, Maine State Grange Master Rick Grotton.

L–R, Fairview Grange Master Kay Young, Community Citizen Nancy Clark, Maine State Grange Master Rick Grotton.

Fairview Grange #342 held a double-header Thursday night, March 24 when we celebrated our 118th anniversary with invited Grange guests from the area and also presented Nicky Clark, Smithfield’s Administrative Assistant with the Grange Citizen of the Year recognition award. Nicky was at the center of the successful Smithfield 175th weeklong celebration in addition to her other duties and was recognized for her “can do” spirit and her perpetual smile. State Grange Master Rick Grotton presented the certificate.  Selectpersons and Smithfield town officials along with friends and family of Nicky rounded out the well-wishers giving us well over fifty people in attendance. A special thank you goes to State Master Rick Grotton and the area Granges who attended.

Grange member David Hartford gave a talk on the history of the Granges in Smithfield. We’re now housed in Grange hall number 3. Fairview Grange suffered two fires over the years. The first time the hall burned to the ground and the second time the hall was so severely damaged had to be demolished. The current Grange Hall was built in 1986 in less than eight months by Grange members and locals.

We held a separate event Friday, March 25 from 6:00 -9:00 p.m. with guitarist Dave Mello performing. Since the hall  was already filled with Grange members and guests of Citizen of the year recipient Nicky Clark on Thursday night, we also hosted an event on Friday night, free and open to the public with a birthday cake and refreshments as a way to engage locals. We plan for our Grange to have an open door policy as a way to show locals how much fun can be had here. Our hall is clean, bright and welcoming. Dave captivated the crowd with his mastery of the guitar(s) and stringed instruments. Grangers and attendees joined in singing “Happy Birthday” to Grange member  David Hartford (over 70 years as a Grange member) who turned 80 on Sunday. Rumor has it the 118th birthday decorations and balloons may have found their way to David’s driveway and mailbox after the event late that evening! Great fun!

Webmaster note: An interesting trivia question: what is the newest Grange Hall erected in Maine? Anyone know the answer?

Mar 282016
 
Second graders watch and listen for the magic moment when butter appears in the jar.

Second graders watch and listen for the magic moment when butter appears in the jar.

In something of a perfect storm, Valley Grangers experienced a bit of March Madness recently with two major community service projects involving local students. First up was their annual GrowME Collaboration–a joint effort with Piscataquis County UMaine Extension and Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District. By pooling resources and volunteers, the three organizations this year visited with over 500 students from Kindergarten through Third Grade in Piscataquis County. With a mission of “increasing agricultural literacy and making it fun,” volunteers help kindergartners build an animal graph, first graders taste and sort apples, second graders make their own butter, and third graders construct their very own “dirt babies.”

Walter Boomsma, program director for Valley Grange is especially proud of the fact that “we have no budget and not much structure–just a bunch of people who love working with kids and providing positive experiences.” His specialty is making butter with second graders. “We have fun and the kids almost don’t realize they are learning–some have even asked for instructions and then made butter at home as a family activity.”

Winning ad drawn by fourth Grader Summer Nesbit

Winning ad drawn by fourth Grader Summer Nesbit

Another initiative the Grange has supported long enough that it’s a school tradition is a contest among third and fourth graders to design two advertisements for the Grange in the Piscataquis Observer’s Annual Newspapers in Education Supplement. The program is a favorite of Piscataquis Community Elementary School Art Teacher Jane Daniels because it “gives the kids a practical side of art.” Valley Grange Master Jim Annis notes that “We have strong ties to kids…” with Grange members involved regularly at the local schools. “We’ve actually built a series of programs that range from Bookworming and Words for Thirds to our blistered finger knitters making hats and mittens for the kids who need them. The kids know us and we know them.”

Valley Grange Community Service Chair Mary Annis is quick to note that this is not a one-way street. “In addition to the fun we have, the kids help us. We recently collected twelve pounds of ‘Coups for Troops’ most of which came from collection boxes placed in local schools. We like the feeling that we are redefining community and good ways of working together.”

Additional information about all of the Valley Grange Programs can be found on their website, http://valleygrange.com. The GrowME Collaboration maintains a basic information and resource site at http://growmehelp.wordpress.com.

Mar 242016
 

communicationBy Walter Boomsma,
Communications Director

One of the most popular pages on the MSG Website is the Program Books and Information Page. This is a page where we list any and all resources I receive from directors or find by poking around. There are many different forms, information packets, etc. listed. Clicking on the link listed on the page opens a pdf file which you many save to your computer and/or print.

I’ve recently created a new section on that page for select National Grange Resources. Please note that most resources are best accessed directly from the National Grange Website. I have, however, uploaded information about the NG Play Contest 2016-17, the NG Distinguished Grange 2016 Info and App, and NG 100 Ways to Recruit New Members There are some neat ideas listed!

Most Granges have probably already received information about the MSG Ag Scholarship 2016 Rules-Application but I’ve also located and uploaded a copy. Note that the deadline for applying is only a month away–April 30, 2016. Note that Grange Membership is not a requirement, so you might want to spread the word among students who are pursuing a career in agriculturally related fields. (Complete details are given in the packet.)

As a reminder, the Monthly Bulletin is uploaded to the information page of the site and is available even before mailing–usually on the sixteenth of every month. Subscribers to the website receive posts daily, as they are made, but the Bulletin makes a nice summary of information received from directors. If possible, a local member might consider downloading the Bulletin and making copies for members who do not have access otherwise.

It’s exciting to share information from and with our Grange Neighbors in New Hampshire. If you missed it, check out the information about their Spring Fling on April 9, 2016 and the compliment we received from them!

For communication to be truly effective, it must be “two-way.” Please let me know how we’re doing  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)  … and send your suggestions for information you need and can use. Another favorite topic among website visitors is “Exciting Granges and Grangers,” so be sure to send in reports of activities and events that you’re doing!

 

Mar 232016
 
Spreading ideas, information, education, enthusiasm... and more!

A Spring Fling to spread ideas, information, education, enthusiasm… and more!

Neighboring New Hampshire State Grange has extended an invitation to Maine Grangers to join their Spring Fling in Laconia on April 9, 2016.  Highlights of this year’s program include:

  • Legislative Panel will be moderated by the State Master, who will lead a question and answer period with our current New Hampshire Legislators who are Grange members. We will learn about the upcoming topics that will affect all Grangers in New Hampshire.
  • Workshop 1A. Project Night-Night is one of the many Family committees projects that they do throughout the year. These are fleece blankets that are created with no sewing.
  • Workshop 1B. Building Communities through Granges  will teach Grangers to think outside the box when doing community outreach. Come learn what others are doing in their Granges and possibly be inspired to try something new.
  • New Hampshire Humanities will provide information about grants and free public programs such as book discussions, workshops, seminars, and conferences led by scholars in literature, history, languages, ethics, philosophy, comparative religion and culture, and the interpretation of the arts.
  • Workshop 2A. Paper crafts, Old and New will show examples of using paper in your art and craft projects. You will receive ideas for your members to do at a meeting. You will also be able to complete a project to show off and enter into the Youth Paper Craft Contest later in the year if you so choose.
  • Workshop 2B. Backyard Poultry will provide you with a basic understanding of raising chickens in
    your own backyard. Attendees will learn how to raise chickens from eggs, take care of chickens as they grow and harvest the products of chickens for their eggs or meat.
  • Computer Security is a beginners guide to protecting yourself online. Learn how to determine what are real sites and which ones are not. Learn about some tools that beginners can use to resolve their own computer security issues without having to pay lots of money to fix.
  • Junior Director Joann Brandt will provide activities for any and all juniors who wish to attend.

A complete schedule, detailed directions and information are available here:

NH Spring Fling Descriptions and Directions

NH Spring Fling Schedule

Notethat reservations for lunch must be made by April 6th to provide the facility with time to prepare. Attendees also attend and go off campus to eat lunch. There are several places in the schedule where attendees need to choose one or another workshop to attend. Workshop reservations can be made until April 8th. Please make all reservations by calling, emailing, texting, or snail mailing your reservations to New Hampshire State Grange Master Chris Heath:

Chris Heath
28 Penny Lane
Barrington NH, 03825
cheathatnhgrangedotorg  (cheathatnhgrangedotorg)  

 

603-988-9703 – cell
603-664-5159 – home

Mar 222016
 

Vienna DictionariesMill Stream Grange member Lois Hinckley shows students at Cape Cod Hill School in New Sharon how to use the new dictionaries presented to them by the Grange. “Words for Thirds” is a community service project of Mill Stream Grange in Vienna and the dictionaries are a gift to each student for use at school and at home for years to come. A bookplate is inside each dictionary with a space for the student to sign his/her name. Grange members Lois Hinckley and Libby Harville participated in the presentation.

Mar 212016
 

by Jim Annis, Legislative Director

Due to a lengthy debate on the minimum wage increase and the Maine State Grange Legislative Luncheon, the legislature adjourned last Thursday before voting on LD 783. Since this gives folks a second chance to contact their representatives with comments, another action alert has been issued. It contains both the text of the proposed referendum question and the proposed amendment and is available here: Call to action on LD 783 – II. The vote will likely happen this Tuesday.

Mar 202016
 

by Jim Annis, Legislative Directoreuro-870756_1280

The following should be of interest to Grangers–it is based on information provided by Representative Paul Stearns, prepared by the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services in response to several specific questions from a non-profit. Note that the last paragraph references a bill in the works (LD 1613) that could further clarify this and potentially benefit Granges in Maine! 

The issues at hand are tax-exempt, nonprofit 501(c)(3) status; casual sales; and state-based exemptions from sales and use taxes. Tax exempt 501(c)(3) status is granted by the Internal Revenue Service. The State of Maine and Maine Revenue Services does not grant tax-exempt status to organizations based or operating within Maine.

Most individuals and many nonprofit groups are protected from having to collect and remit under the concept of casual sales. Casual sales are excluded from the definition of a retail sale and are therefore not subject to a sales or use tax.

The statute defines a “casual sale” as follows: “Casual sale” means an isolated transaction in which tangible personal property or a taxable service is sold other than in the ordinary course of repeated and successive transactions of like character by the person making the sale. “Casual sale” includes transactions at a bazaar, fair, rummage sale, picnic or similar event by a civic, religious or fraternal organization that is not a registered retailer. The sale by a registered retailer of tangible personal property that that retailer has used in the course of the retailer’s business is not a casual sale if that property is of like character to that sold by the retailer in the ordinary course of repeated and successive transactions. “Casual sale” does not include any transaction in which a retailer sells tangible personal property or a taxable service on behalf of the owner of that property or the provider of that service. 36 M.R.S. § 1752(1-D)

There are many nonprofit organizations that pay sales and use tax in Maine. Unless exempted from (36 M.R.S. § 1760) Maine’s sales tax law, these organizations must collect and remit sales tax on taxable sales. Similarly, they must also pay sales tax on taxable purchases.

Schools, school-sponsored groups, and libraries are exempt from collecting and remitting sales tax to the State of Maine. They also have an exemption from collecting tax on the sales of prepared meals.

Churches and houses of religious worship are exempt from paying sales and use tax on purchases. However, these entities are required to collect and remit sales tax on the regular sales or meals. This gets back to the concept of the casual, infrequent sales.

If a church has an isolated, annual yard sale and a yearly dinner – no sales tax needs to be collected. However, if a church is regularly engaging in sales over the course of the given year, they should be collecting and remitting sales tax to the State of Maine.

The Department of Administrative and Financial Services is currently working with Sen. Tom Saviello on his bill, LD 1613, that exempts nonprofits from the meals tax. At yesterday’s public hearing, it was clarified that this bill was intended to support small tax-exempt, nonprofit groups (churches, civic, and fraternal organizations) rather than large nonprofits that could and often do compete with private businesses to host catered events.

 

 

Mar 202016
 

by Christine Corliss

Riverside Grange is interested in scheduling a joint meeting with other Granges on July 16th, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. at Maine State Grange Headquarters. We are calling all Granges who would like to participate and join the fellowship. We would like to have a “finger food” potluck at 1:00 pm and the meeting after.  Riverside Grange will bring the subordinate sashes for the event. If your Grange would like to participate please contact Christine Corliss via email at christinecorlissatymaildotcom  (christinecorlissatymaildotcom)   or via telephone at 207-651-6494, please make sure to leave a message.

Mar 152016
 
Share your ideas with other Granges!

Share your ideas with other Granges!

Here’s a great idea from Rick Watson of Fairview Grange… four members took turns at the Town Office in Smithfield during town meeting and voting day, staffing a Grange table. They sold some of their 175th-anniversary DVD’S, distributed information regarding the Grange Hall’s availability for use by citizens and groups, and handed out membership applications. Rick reports that they talked to a “couple dozen people who would add positively to our little Grange.” They also had bright yellow “save the date” tickets to their “next-ravaganza”– a free 118th Grange Birthday Party. They called them “Golden Tickets” and passed out close to 100!

That’s some creativity and energy! If your town meeting hasn’t happened yet… how quickly can you put a team and some information together?

There’s lots to like here… including the idea of “tickets” to free events that can be handed out everywhere!