|FEBRUARY 14, 2011 --
Since the late 1800's, Granges in Connecticut and Rhode Island have made a significant impact on the states in which they are located. From supporting agricultural and legislative initiatives to service projects to fun, family-centric activities, Granges have helped changed the faces of the communities in which local chapters reside. On February 12, the two states combined their resources to present "The Grange 2011 and Beyond," a day-long event featuring workshops by National Grange Membership/Leadership Director Rusty Hunt.
Held at North Stonington Grange Hall in Connecticut, the day was well-attended by Grange members from both states, who enjoyed workshops on the role of the Pomona (county) Grange and Grange growth from the President's perspective. A soup, sandwich and dessert luncheon was served by North Stonington Grange members.
The Connecticut State Grange, which is celebrating it's 125th Anniversary, as well as the Rhode Island State Grange (established in 1887), have historically been advocates for rural quality of life issues, farm programs, rural economic development, environmental and consumer issues, and similar topics. Yet the Grange organization has evolved with the times. Health care, education, the importance of food safety, locally grown and produced foods, and communications access are just a few of the Grange's current areas of involvement, as well as legislation designed to assure strong and viable communities. Both State Granges stressed the benefits of working together and view organizational growth and sustainability as imperatives for achieving future community goals.
"I just think that it is great that a group of people can get together to be trained to better improve this great world that we live in," said Rhode Island State Grange President Stephen Logan, who was confident in the upswing of interest in the Grange organization. Logan, a Rhode Island native, has served in many Grange capacities, including Chairman of the Washington County Fair held each August. He is excited about Connecticut and Rhode Island working together. "Two States working for a common goal. It was a great day with total success."
Connecticut State Grange President Jody Cameron agreed. "It's our pleasure to work with our friends from the East. Working like this shows we have strength in numbers and makes us more influential as we continue to improve life in Connecticut and Rhode Island." Cameron, a resident of Moosup, Connecticut, has held most every major position in the Grange through the years, including the Northeast Region Convention Planner for the National Grange convention when it was in Connecticut in 2008.
Cameron and Logan both share a goal of growing Grange membership in each of their states. Cameron would like to double Connecticut's Grange membership in 4 years time, while Logan would also like to see 25% membership growth in Rhode Island within a year. The workshops saw brainstorming of ideas to achieve these goals, as well as evaluating the role and expectations of the State Grange Presidents. Three key points were stressed - leadership, flow of information, and support.
Hunt was pleased with the outcome of the workshops. "It was a great bunch of Grangers from the two states. I saw a lot of thought and consideration of new ideas from most everyone. Steve and Jody have good visions for the future and are moving their state Granges in a positive direction."
A third generation Grange member and rancher from Washington State, Hunt has been active in the Grange since "before I could walk." He has held numerous positions at all levels in the Grange, and has been the National Grange Membership/Leadership Director since 2008.
"I'm looking forward to working with both Presidents in the future," he said.
With approximately 240,000 members in nearly 3000 local and state chapters across forty states, the Grange has nearly 60 Community Grange chapters across Connecticut. There are 21 Community Granges in Rhode Island. These local Granges are committed to bettering their communities through service projects and family orientated activities. But it's the Grange's interest in legislative action that sets it apart from other organizations.
The Pomona (county) Granges are the legislative builders of the organization, taking the resolutions and concerns from the Community Granges, developing a base of initiatives, then continuing the flow of information to the State Granges. In Connecticut, there are 10 Pomona Granges. In Rhode Island, there are four Pomona Granges.
One of the key areas focused on throughout the day was the role of each of the different levels of the Grange - Community (local), Pomona (county), State and National - and how each level interacts and supports the others. Hunt used a series of presentations and exercises to illustrate the benefits each level can experience by working together.
"It is great to have the support and dedication of the National Grange as we work to make all levels of our organization stronger," said Cameron. "As we introduce the Grange to all communities across Connecticut it is essential we are able to meet the needs of the communities through leadership, community service and legislative efforts. The partnerships between Community, Pomona, State and National Grange will ensure the support system needed to meet these demands."
For more information on the Granges in Connecticut please visit www.CTStateGrange.org.
Information on the Rhode Island State Grange can be found on their website at www.rhodeislandgrange.org
More information on the National Grange can be found at www.NationalGrange.org.