By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
COLLINSVILLE, Ohio — April is Grange Month, and the National Grange, in its 146th year, is experiencing a regrowth – while in southwestern Ohio, the Collinsville Grange is working to accomplish its own regrowth.
The Collinsville group was formed in January 1920. Members used to come to meetings by horse and buggy, said Gene Blakley, president. Meetings were held in the afternoon so members could be home by dark.
A retired farmer, he has been a member since the early 1950s. He liked what the Grange stood for in the community. It has had a display at the Butler County Fair each year for more than 50 years. Blakley also recalled service projects the group has done, such as writing letters to those in the armed services and holding a silent auction for Hurricane Sandy victims.
“We did things for the good of the community,” he said.
Blakley’s daughter and her husband, Beverly and Phil Foutz, have been members for 45 years. Many people don’t understand what the Grange is, Beverly Foutz said.
“We’re trying to get the word out that this is a great organization and we have a lot to offer,” she said. “We’re an advocate for farmers and grassroots American communities. The Collinsville Grange is committed to bettering our community through service, advocacy and fellowship.”
During the 2012 National Grange meeting, delegates passed a resolution to honor veterans. The Collinsville Grange recently held an open to the public “Getting to Know the Grange” dance. That evening the group recognized Archie Rager, Grace Rager and Jackie Hollowell for their service in World War II.
At a recent meeting the members came up with a set of local resolutions to send to the state organization, Foutz said. Some of the resolutions involved installing GPS systems on tractors to prevent theft, and establishing a Point of Sale for scrap material, also to prevent theft.
That’s how national policy begins – at the local level – said Ed Luttrell, national Grange president. The Grange is a national organization with a local focus.
“We advocate on the issues that our membership chooses to put in front of us,” Luttrell explained. “Our policy is determined by our representatives from each state.”
On the national level the Grange advocates for many issues. A current concern is carrying broadband to rural America. Grange considers that a critical issue.
“We also get involved on tax issues, regulatory issues,” he said. “There’s an issue in California, a family farm that farms oysters in the bay. They had been there for approximately 100 years and the federal government decided to kick them off of the land.
“We have supported their efforts to continue their farming operation because they enhance the environment, rather than detract from it.”
A unique thing about the Grange is that no matter the issue, civility and politeness are important. Members may have hot discussions, Luttrell said, but at the end of the day they have a piece of pie, a cup of coffee together, share a joke and remember they are all family and friends.
“People are waking up to the concept that this tried and true method that the Grange has, is much more oriented towards finding solutions to the challenges facing our nation, our states and even our local communities,” he added.
New Granges are starting in Nevada, Arkansas, soon in Indiana and all across the country – more in the last 5-10 years than in the previous 20, Luttrell said. For information visit www.national