Happenings at The Grange

TRINA BIANCHI

For many years, the Charlotte Grange was an important part of this farming community and membership included entire families. The Grange was not only a place where neighbors shared news, compared notes about their particular farms, discussed issues that affected their lives and talked about possibilities for change both on a state and/or federal level, it was also an important part of their social life. As time went on, there were fewer farms, the Grange wasn’t as socially important and membership began to dwindle. The membership during the 1990s included well known Charlotters like Ron and Bea Marble, Shirley Bean, Floyd and Marie Miner, Dave and Lynn Perrin, Mike and Doris Claflin, Brenda Temple and others.

Right before the turn of the century and shortly thereafter, three new faces joined the Grange.  Not farmers and substantially younger than the average age of then current Grange members, these three women brought new energy and life into the Charlotte Grange. Dorothy Hill, Heather Garvey and Deb Stone, each on their own, decided to join the Grange within the span of 2-3 years of each other. For the next 18 years, these three women not only held all the major offices of the Grange, from president, vice president, secretary and treasurer, they made it possible for the Grange to continue to survive. Because of their desire to see the Charlotte Grange continue to exist, they each devoted a lot of time and energy making sure the Grange still held the two rummage sales each year, gave a dictionary to each third grader in Charlotte, provided refreshments to the blood drives, put new flags on every veteran gravesite at all the cemeteries and monuments in town, gave those running for public office an opportunity to meet constituents each year before Town Meeting and recognized an individual citizen for outstanding contribution each year.

Without the incredible work and contributions of Dorothy, Heather and Deb over the first part of this century, the Charlotte Grange would not still be in existence. Of all the members who were active during the 90s, only Dave Perrin is still one of our active members. We salute all of them for their dedication and determination to keep the Charlotte Grange alive.

Today, the Charlotte Grange has taken on the goal of rehabilitating and restoring the Grange Hall so that it can be a community resource for years to come. To date, the fuel tank has been replaced, the electrical service into the building has been upgraded, the cupola was repainted, the kitchen window was replaced, the fire escape was repositioned and extensive water damage from the fire escape to the south side of the building was repaired. The entire south side of the building and fire escape is now in the process of being painted. There is much more to do.

A conditional assessment of the building and an Americans with Disabilities Act compliance review have been done. Now the process of prioritizing the next steps towards restoration and rehabilitation of the building, which is located in the historic district of East Charlotte, begin.

Last winter, the decision was made to keep the Grange Hall open and usable in the hopes of having at least one monthly event in the hall to bring folks and attention to this historic building.  Mike Walker did an incredible job of bringing music into the Grange Hall and there were open mic events each month from September through May and Friday Night Showcases once a month from January to June. In addition, he organized a Winter Waltz, a Mardi Gras festival and a Summer Waltz night. Each of these events brought new people into the hall, people who had never stepped inside the Grange Hall before. Mike already has plans in place for this fall and winter for the hall, including open mic nights each month and other special music events.

Events coming up include Friday Night at the Grange, which includes a potluck and music, on Sept. 6 from 7 – 9 p.m. You can count on this event happening all fall and winter on the first Friday of each month.

Acoustic Open Mic events start again on Tuesday, Sept. 17 from 7 – 9 p.m. Sign up to play with Mike Walker at mjwalker@gmavt.net. This monthly event will also continue all fall and winter on the third Tuesday of each month.

A special September music event will be held on Saturday, Sept. 14 … A Danse Café featuring Breton dancing and music! Starting with a music workshop learning traditional tunes from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. and an actual dance from 7 – 9 p.m. that evening. This will be a very fun afternoon and evening with traditional French folk dances and music.

The work done to date and the work necessary takes funding. The major fundraisers each year are the fall and spring rummage sales, but those do not cover the extensive repairs and renovations needed in order to keep the building intact and usable. We are applying for grants, but those require that the Grange have matching funds. Needless to say one of the big tasks ahead is fundraising.

Anyone interested in helping in any capacity, as a member, as an event volunteer, as someone who can help with the work to be done on the building, to someone who would like to help fundraise or donate toward this project, please contact Margaret Woodruff, president, at margaret.woodruff@gmail.com.

To accomplish the goal of making this historic building a true community resource for generations to come, it will take a village!

Mark the calendars with the dates above to come and enjoy great music and support the local Charlotte Grange. Anyone who would like to be added to the mailing list to receive notices of events, send an email address to Trina Bianchi at alchemy@gmavt.net.

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