Oct 172017
 

Check out WABI – TV 5’s coverage of Valley Grange’s Words for Thirds Dictionary Day!

Check out WVII – Fox News coverage of Valley Grange’s Words for Thirds Dictionary Day!

This was our first dictionary day of the season… we still have more kids coming to the Grange Hall and three schools to visit! We’ve given out over 2,500 dictionaries in the sixteen years we’ve been doing this and it’s still one of the most exciting and fun things we do! Yesterday’s event included eighty kids from SeDoMoCha Elementary School. What fun!

Apr 102017
 

Glenys Ryder, Community Service Chair
Danville Junction Grange # 65

Throughout the year, Danville Junction Grange carries out many community service projects.  However, none are more satisfying or enjoyable than the Words for Thirds program!  It is so much fun each year to enter classrooms, bursting with enthusiasm, as students anticipate receiving their new dictionaries!!!  Once they are distributed, the room is alive with excited conversation about the “longest word”, the planets, sign language, and much more that the students find in their dictionaries!  Notice the intent look on the students’ faces in the photo as they study them!!

This year we were able to distribute dictionaries to over three hundred third graders at three schools in the area.  We are already planning for next year!

 

Mar 242017
 

Lois McCarthy (shown) and Lisa Goucher visited Cape Cod Hill School in New Sharon on March 17 to present dictionaries to the third-grade students there.
A word game was played and each student signed his or her own copy. This is the second year that Mill Stream has participated in the national “Words for Thirds” program as one of their community service projects.

Jun 132016
 

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By Walter Boomsma

What does the Grange stand for? Or perhaps a more interesting question would be “What do people think the Grange stands for?”

Of course we can refer to our Declaration of Principles for an answer. While this is a noble task (and might be the basis for a lecturer’s program), we’ll get an official but somewhat conceptual understanding. I wanted something more basic and down to earth. Therefore, I decided to step outside the Grange Circle.

One perception I encountered seemed simplistic and to the point. It suggested that the Grange is “a fraternal organization… that encourages families to band together to promote the economic and political well-being of the community and agriculture.” There’s a lot to like in that definition.

As with any organization that has a long history, there’s the opportunity for some blending of the past and present. Another description I encountered focused more on the historical outlook suggesting the Grange was founded “to advance methods of agriculture, as well as to promote the social and economic needs of farmers.”

Turning again to an official source, the preamble to the National Grange Constitution explains, “The ultimate object of this organization is for mutual instruction and protection, to lighten labor by diffusing a knowledge of its aims and purposes, to expand the mind by tracing the beautiful laws the Great Creator has established in the Universe, and to enlarge our views of creative wisdom and power.”

I’ll never forget one call I got from a client during my consulting career. He’d been to a conference over the weekend on the topic of creating organizational excellence. He called me Monday morning and said, “I’m really fired up and motivated. I want to make this organization into something great. But I’m sitting here at my desk and I don’t know what to do or where to start!”

So the pressing question might be how we take these somewhat lofty purposes and give them meaning in our daily lives. If we can’t translate those purposes into practice, we may find ourselves no longer relevant. It’s practice that gives purpose meaning.

To use an agricultural metaphor, we also have to be careful that we aren’t getting the cart ahead of the horse. In my brief research I did not encounter anything suggesting that the Grange stands for membership growth. I’m not, certainly, saying membership growth is not important. But it’s a cart that should naturally follow purpose. There are a few lines in the Declaration of Purposes that do include a subtle reference to membership growth.

“We propose meeting together, talking together, working together, and in general, acting together for our mutual protection and advancement. We shall constantly strive to secure harmony, good will, and brotherhood, and to make our Order perpetual. We shall earnestly endeavor to suppress personal, local, sectional, and national prejudices, all unhealthy rivalry and all selfish ambition. Faithful adherence to these principles will insure our mental, moral, social and material advancement.”

If we do those things outlined (meeting together, working together…), we “make our Order perpetual” by attracting like-minded and like-purposed folks.

If we did have a clearly defined purpose–one that can have different emphasis locally; that’s one of the beauties of a grassroots organization–and we were working within those principles… could we see that last sentence in declaration of principles being rewritten to read, “Faithful adherence to these principles will insure our mental, moral, social and material advancement as well as membership growth.”

Groucho Marx is often credited with saying he wouldn’t join an organization that would have him as a member. It’s a funny thought but it makes the point that one factor in people’s choices around affiliation and joining is about shared values. The early days of the Grange were quite heady and, most would agree, the explosive growth of the Grange was phenomenal. Certainly part of it was due to the passion of the founders and early leaders. But ultimately, people joined because of common purpose and values.  And what Grangers did in practice reflected those values. They looked at  what the Grange was trying to do and said, “Hey, I want to be part of that because I believe in it!”

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Any degree or ritual quotations are from the forty-sixth edition of the 2013 Subordinate Grange Manual. The views and opinions expressed in “Exploring Traditions” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official doctrine and policy of the Grange.

Jun 072016
 

Enterprise

by Marilyn Stinson, Community Service Coordinator for Enterprise Grange

Shown here is William, a member of Maine State Junior Grange #17, presenting a dictionary to Kaleb, a third grader of Marcia Buker School in Richmond. William is connected with Enterprise Grange #48 which has participated in the ‘Words for Thirds’ Program since 2002. Junior Grange is for 5 – 14 year old boys and girls to learn about the world around them and earn badges and have healthy, wholesome fun.

Grange is an organization which began in 1867 to help the American farmers after the Civil War. Officially known as ‘Patrons of Husbandry,’ Grange is still active in communities – both rural and urban – more for community service than agriculture. Enterprise Grange #48 is delighted to participate in the project and give Richmond’s children their own dictionaries to keep and use throughout their school careers and beyond. Through the tireless efforts of the Grange’s network of more than 200,000 volunteers, America’s oldest rural and agriculture organization has presented third grade students across the nation with more than 100,000 dictionaries.

Our aim is to aid third graders to leave at the end of the year as good writers, active readers, and creative thinkers. We checked with one of the fourth grade teachers about whether or not to continue the program or try to do something electronic as some Granges are doing. They appreciate the dictionaries that all the kids can use, no matter their financial situation in their homes. They ARE used! “Nothing less than our best is quite good enough for the Grange,” is a Grange expression and Enterprise #48 is delighted to give your children tools to do their best.

May 152016
 

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By Walter Boomsma

One of the honors bestowed upon me as lecturer/program director for Valley Grange is conducting the annual “Dictionary Day” for schools and classes receiving dictionaries. We currently have two districts making field trips to the Grange Hall and we have a team that visits two other districts.

In talking about the Grange, I use and explain the staves to the kids as a way of talking about the importance of tools. The kids are always fascinated by the staves and what they represent. Many times they draw the staves on their thank you notes. (The owl seems to be a frequent favorite.) I’m always impressed that they can remember all four!

The spud is of course the emblem of the Steward and is an “ancient implement” used by Stewards to eliminate roots or weeds from the fields. In the installation ceremony, it becomes clear that it serves to remind the steward of his/her duty to “prevent or remove all causes of disagreement in the Grange and our Order.”

The Assistant Stewards carry the pruning hook as an emblem of peace (since it is created from a spear) and a shepherd’s crook as a reminder “so should you nurture your members.”

The owl carried by the Gatekeeper deserves some attention. In the early days of the Grange, the Gatekeeper was, in every sense of the word, “on guard” and positioned between the outer and inner gates to prevent entry of unauthorized persons, We should remember that this was done to protect the “secret work” of the Grange which was, simply stated, to advance the farmer in a time when other groups were often exploiting farmers. The Grange provided an opportunity to strategize literally behind closed doors.

In the 2013 Subordinate Grange Manual, there is an “Alternative Installation Ceremony” that adds a new dimension to the Gatekeeper’s duties, more accurately representing how the Grange does its work today. “…be vigilant and watchful… you are the first contact with visitors and guests. Be sure to introduce them to members and be courteous and friendly to all.” Some have even suggested the position of “Gatekeeper” should be changed to “Greeter.”

In the few minutes we have with the kids, it’s fun to consider the lessons of the staves. The Grange is an organization where we try to eliminate disagreement—remember our motto? In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, charity. Peace should naturally follow and, while we labor to serve our communities, we ought not forget to nurture ourselves, in part by pruning away discord.

As an organization steeped in tradition and ritual, we should value that—but not to the extent we stop being courteous and friendly to all. When we look at the big picture, the Grange is not meant to be a “can’t” organization. It was meant to be a “can” organization, powerful in its unity of purpose. Consider the Master’s reminders as we close our meetings. “Let us not forget the principles of our order. Let us add dignity to labor and in our dealings with our fellow men, be honest, be just, and fear not. We must avoid intemperance in eating, drinking, and language, also in work and recreation, and whatever we do, strive to do it well…”

 


Any degree or ritual quotations are from the forty-sixth edition of the 2013 Subordinate Grange Manual. The views and opinions expressed in “Exploring Traditions” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official doctrine and policy of the Grange.

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.

Aug 292015
 
Communication Bullets are short but big news!

Communication Bullets are short but big news!

As Grangers, we’re rightfully proud of our history and heritage. Of course, we don’t have a monopoly on those qualities and the folks at the Dictionary Project have provided a great history lesson on “how books are made” in their most recent newsletter. One of the really awesome things about the article is it’s fully illustrated with lots of photos (and facts) of the process. Read the article by clicking here. And read to the end to learn how many books some presses can print per hour. Did I mention this is a great reminder that you should be planning your Words for Thirds Project? Hmmm… when you deliver your dictionaries to the kids, could you also give them a “mini-lesson” in how their dictionaries are made?

Speaking of publishing… a couple of months ago I received a call from a writer who is on my local media list. The monthly list of Grange events triggered her interest and we can fast forward to an extraordinary article about Granges in the Bangor Area in the September issue of Bangor Metro Magazine. The subscription copies are out and if it’s not on the newsstands now, it should be soon! I’m not sure when the issue is posted to their website, but we’ll keep checking and let you know when it’s there!

Jul 282015
 
Share your ideas with other Granges!

Share your ideas with other Granges!

Submitted by Walter Boomsma

You may not want to be reminded, but it’s almost time for the kids to start school again! During a recent festival I “interviewed” kids and found about half are ready to return to school. Of course in about a month, it won’t matter whether we’re ready or not! For many Granges, this also means it’s time to start thinking about this year’s Dictionary Project. Some of the steps to consider:

How many dictionaries will you need? Remember, orders placed in the early fall may be delayed due to many organizations placing orders. Get your order in early!

How will you label them? There are some general templates available on the Dictionary Project website… If you’d like a copy of the one Valley Grange uses, let me know!

When will you schedule Dictionary Day? Valley Grange tends to make dictionary day into a big deal! At least two districts usually schedule a field trip to our Grange Hall… my experience with scheduling is that most teachers would prefer not scheduling special activities like this prior to mid-October. This gives them time to set routines and expectations with the kids.

There are, of course, many other considerations including how you’ll publicize your event. Because our project at Valley Grange involves four districts and typically a dozen classrooms, we find it helpful to create a timeline with deadlines. Communication with school administration and teachers is probably the most important aspect of this program. If you have any questions or would like some help with your project, please feel free to let me know! I’ll be happy to help!

May 232015
 

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Sponsor Spotlight:

Walter Boomsma, Valley Grange #144

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Enthusiasm is important to the success of any project, but it is not the only ingredient. Although enthusiasm is frequently the catalyst, the jump-start that gets the engine going, it is commitment that provides for the life and continuity of a dictionary project. Commitment, or the state of being whole-heartedly dedicated to a cause, is what has driven Walter Boomsma to continue The Dictionary Project for the Valley Grange #144 for the past eight years. “My passion is kids first, second and third,” said Boomsma and The Dictionary Project appreciates his efforts to ensure that today’s children have a bright future.

Read the entire article here.