Aug 222017

Please provide proper attribution when using material.

The following article appeared in today’s “Word of the Day” email from the Dictionary Project:

During 2016, the Arkansas Corrections Department and the Arkansas Literacy Councils partnered together to send dictionaries to fourteen prisons in the area. Heather Powell, the Training Director at the Arkansas Literacy Councils, reached out to share their story with us.

“Last year we [the Arkansas Literacy Councils] piloted a joint program with ADC to train literacy and ESL tutors within the prisons. To date, we have trained over 200 literate inmates as tutors. The tutors work with other inmates who have low or no literacy skills, tutoring from the Laubach Way to Reading/English programs. These student dictionaries are just the right level for introducing students in how to use a dictionary.”

Often times, we at the Dictionary Project are asked by organizations what they should do with dictionaries that are left over after their distributions are complete. We would ask you to please consider donating them to prisons in your area. Statistics show that literacy rates in the American prison system are at only 40% for adult inmates, and 15% for juveniles ( A vital skill that many of us take for granted, the ability to read could greatly impact the lives of inmates who would otherwise not have access to the basic level of education that every human being should have.

Thank you, Heather Powell at the Arkansas Literacy Councils for this story.

As a big fan of the Dictionary Project, this is interesting on several points. First, the question about left over dictionaries may include something that can easily be overlooked. In our Valley Grange Program, we have learned there is one hazard with keeping leftover dictionaries and mixing them with new ones the following year. Some teachers have the students keep their dictionaries at school for use in the classroom–both to learn dictionary skills and to use as a resource. If there is a change in the dictionary, mixing last year’s edition with this year’s can create confusion. This is easy to manage as long as you aware and pay attention to edition numbers. But it is possible to have “left over” dictionaries even though you are repeating the program every year.

Second, there are additional community service opportunities where we, as Granges and Grangers, can make an impact. As this article suggests, we can offer dictionaries to prisons. Most areas also have volunteer adult literacy programs. I occasionally hear the comment that the schools are already getting dictionaries from another organization. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a dictionary project–it just means it won’t be “Words for Thirds.” It’ll be words for others! Just think Literacy! (We have given our leftover dictionaries to local libraries and keep a few at the Hall to give to any children that visit.)

And it is that time of year to start thinking about your program with your schools. By providing dictionaries in the fall, kids get more use from them! In the twelve years Valley Grange has been providing dictionaries, we’ve learned a lot! You can read the history of our program and, more importantly, if you have any questions or I can help you with your program, please let me know  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)  !


Aug 152017

Short messages from your Communications Department

If your Grange participates in the Dictionary Project, you or your Grange Secretary should have recently received their recent newsletter… I believe it is mailed to all supporters and contributors. It’s a great piece because it can be a poster and even doubles as an order form. Well, this issue is of particular interest because it features Danville Junction Grange! You can read the original post here… and notice the fact that the Dictionary Project folks are subscribers to the Maine State Grange website. If you aren’t… what might you be missing!?

Congratulations to Danville Grange and thanks to Glenys Ryder for submitting the article!

Subscribe to Maine State Grange Website!

Jul 242017

Porter Grange #569 got a well-deserved face lift this summer. The outside of the building was painted and a new porch light was added in memory of Dottie Locke who we lost last year. On Saturday, July 22, we had an open house with refreshments to celebrate the National Grange 150th birthday. Porter Grange was delighted to pass out four applications to interested visitors. They were in impressed with our Words for Thirds Program and our local School Scholarships.

Our Grange was able also to put up flags in Porter Village with special donations from Jana Mayotte and Gary Nickerson in memory of Francis Mills and Ron and Marie Nickerson respectively.

Porter Grange will be holding a Bean Supper, Friday, September 22 from 5:00 pm. until 6:30 pm. We have also scheduled a Free to Veterans and their families breakfast on November 11 at 7:00 am.

For more information on any event or just to say, “Hi!” contact portergrang569atgmaildotcom  (portergrang569atgmaildotcom)  

Porter Grange Hall Before

Porter Grange After!

Front Porch Light

Front porch plaque

Apr 242017

Lois McCarthy and Lisa Goucher (in back row) of Mill Stream Grange in Vienna visited the Mt. Vernon Elementary School on March 16 to present dictionaries to the third graders there as part of the national “Words for Thirds” program. Each student signed his or her own copy and played a word game to become familiar with the dictionary. Teacher Carolyn Watkins expressed much appreciation for the “wonderful presentation” and said that her kids were “over the top” excited to receive their own dictionary.

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.

Dec 152016


By Walter Boomsma

For several years now I’ve used our staves as part of our Valley Grange Dictionary Day visits—whether the kids visit us at the Grange Hall or we visit their classrooms. They have always seemed to enjoy learning about these “farmer’s tools” and often will mention them when they write thank you notes. Occasionally a student will accurately draw each of the four. When that happens, I confess to wondering if we Grangers can remember all four? I hope so because I also explain to these third graders why we use them in our meetings. Historically that explanation has been a general one. This year I decided to be a bit more specific and I turned to the officer installation ceremony for help.

“Your emblem is the Spud, an ancient implement used by Stewards in passing through the fields to eradicate weeds that may have escaped the notice of the laborers… Let it remind you of your duty as a faithful steward to remove all causes of dissension or strife, in the Grange and in order.” When I’ve explained to the kids that all Grangers see the spud as a reminder to keep the Grange free of weeds, they offer what some of the things are they as classmates, might want to eliminate for their classroom. Their answers often include “bullying” and “bad words.”

“Your emblem is the Pruning Hook. The spear, beaten into a pruning hook is emblematic of peace. May it always remind you of your duty to preserve peace in our order…” There’s a natural progression here. My dictionary day helpers know the staves must be in the “right” order before I began—not just because of tradition, but because it makes sense. When we eliminate bad things (dissension and strife or bullying and bad words) we begin building peace.

“I present you, the Lady Assistant Steward of your Grange with the Shepherd’s Crook, which symbolizes a sense of caring.” I will confess that my instruction to the children takes some editorial license, in part because we have fun with this “tool.” I’ll select a volunteer to be a sheep and demonstrate how the shepherd uses the crook “like a leash” to guide the sheep. The application is, therefore, that seeing the crook reminds us that we each can be a leader, guiding others in our efforts to remove “weeds” and “build peace.”

The kids love the owl; he’s almost everybody’s favorite stave. When I remove him from the stand, someone always shouts, “He’s cute!” (The one I use is wooden and quite realistic in appearance.) Upon receiving it, the Gatekeeper is told “I caution you to be vigilant and watchful” with a comparatively lengthy explanation of the dangers to be kept from our Order. Usually the kids can come up with why a farmer might like an owl to “scare away birds and mice.” In the Grange, the owl reminds us to see what’s around us, both to enjoy beauty but also to protect it by removing dissension…

I confess the first time I tried this it was unrehearsed and probably didn’t hang together as well as it could and now does. As a teacher, for the first time I saw these four staves as potential classroom management tools—even joking with one class that it’s too bad they don’t have a set like we do—or maybe a photo poster of them. (I can picture a kid going to a corner of the room, grabbing a spud, marching over to another kid and saying, “You used an inappropriate word! That’s not allowed!” I also confess that I now see the staves a bit different myself. These tools represent tools that we must use constantly to preserve our Order, an Order that strives to remove dissension and strife, build peace and caring, and develop vigilance and watchfulness.

“The Order of the Patrons of Husbandry is the only association whose teachings accompany its members in their daily pursuits. They form part of the farmer’s life. They do not call him from his work to put his mind upon any other subjects, but furnish recreation in his daily duties, and, by cheerful instruction, lighten and elevate his labor.”

While the literal staves may remain in the holders between meetings, what they represent should accompany us in our daily pursuits. I would encourage (uh oh, sounds like we’re going to get some homework!) each member to find or borrow a Grange Manual and read/study the installing officer’s opening address. That address describes some of the reasons we need those staves—not just for four people to hold and carry during the ritual but as a way of life.

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.

Oct 312016

Third-graders from Piscataquis Community Elementary School weren’t the only ones at the Valley Grange Hall for Dictionary Day last Friday. Also present were Corporal Austin and Miss Mary (Civil War Reenactors), Grange Bookworms and Members, and Laura Smith, a reporter from FOX 22/ABC 7 in Bangor. Check on her report on Facebook.

This was Valley Grange’s fifteenth year presenting dictionaries to area students, bringing the total distributed to over 1,800. Students who make a field trip to the Grange Hall learn about the Civil War, the early days of the Grange, and the excitement of having their own personal dictionary. Another group of approximately 65 students will be visiting the hall soon and the “Dictionary Team” will be traveling to three schools to complete the program.

Additional information about the Dictionary Program can be found at the Dictionary Project Website.

Sep 232016

Dictionary Project Logo

by Walter Boomsma, based on Dictionary Project Newsletter

Here’s an interesting idea… a fundraiser sponsored by the River Region Republican Women was recently held at the Jefferson Orleans South with 11 celebrity politicians participating in the competition. The proceeds will be used to buy English and Spanish dictionaries for third-grade students in Jefferson, St. Charles and St. John parishes. You really have to read the article, but a short description is that they created a “cook off” (sounds like a natural for a Grange!) with attendees acting as “voters” to determine the top dishes.

Read the whole story.

An interesting twist on this… A Pomona Grange sponsors a “cook off” between member Granges!

Jun 132016


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.