Valley Grange Collaborates with Penquis

Working together to host a Smart Starts for Students Fund Raising Supper

Guilford/Dover Foxcroft—Valley Grange and Penquis are teaming up to raise funds for the Penquis Smart Starts for Students Project Fund in a way that’s smart for both organizations, according to Sheree Brown, Project Coordinator. “Valley Grange has been a supporter for several years, but this year we found an even smarter way to help our kids by informally partnering to offer folks in the area another way to help. In what may be our final fundraiser for this year, we’ll be offering an Italian Buffet with a build your own salad bar in exchange for a donation to the project.”

Walter Boomsma, program director for Valley Grange notes that this is just another example of the collaborative spirit that exists in the Guilford-based Grange. “We’ve had a focus on kids for some time now,” he observed. “We’re probably best known for our Words for Thirds initiative which takes us into three school districts, providing personal dictionaries to third graders throughout the area. So it does make sense for us to work with Penquis on an initiative that provides kids with school supplies.”

"Sure hope I can find an eraser!"

Boomsma explains that “the best programs we do are the ones that give us contact with the kids.” Volunteer Bookworms from Valley Grange visit Piscataquis Community Elementary School to read with second and third graders during the school year. Boomsma says he developed a real appreciation of the need for the Smart Starts program a few years ago while in a second grade classroom. “The kids were working on drafts of a report and I bounced from desk to desk to share ideas, do a little editing and correct spelling. I confess it took a while to stop reaching for my pen as I worked. Second Graders work in pencil for a reason. While finding a pencil wasn’t too difficult, finding one with some eraser left was! I asked no one in particular ‘Where do we find a pencil with an eraser?’ The kids are usually great at helping a guest find his way around the room, but there was

Glad I didn't make a BIG mistake! This eraser is really small!

a notable lack of response to my question. Eventually one little guy dug into the back of his desk and with a secretive smile presented me with his cherished possession—a pencil with a few millimeters of eraser left on top. Since a lot of our volunteer work with the school is about empowering kids, I found myself considering the idea that a simple pencil with some eraser left could mean a lot in a classroom where a lot of mistakes have been made in the course of learning.”

Brown agrees, “Kids’ needs are often simple but simple doesn’t mean unimportant.” The Smart Starts Project represents a school supply assistance program for the greater Piscataquis area by providing starter packs of new school supplies for families in need throughout MSAD #4, #41, #46, #68 and Union #60. (The starter packs include erasers!) Last year nearly over 400 kids benefitted from the program and early indications are the need will be even bigger this coming school year.

The buffet will be served on Friday, August 19th starting at 5 PM until 7 PM or until the food runs out—whichever comes first. Diners get all they can eat of a variety of traditional Italian dishes for a minimum donation of $6.00 for adults, $3.00 for children ages 5-12, and children under age 5 eat free. Valley Grange is located at the corner of Butter Street and Guilford Center Road in Guilford. Additional information regarding the Smart Starts Program is available at the Penquis website: or call Sheree Brown, 564-7116 Ext. 2440 or 1-800-215-4942.

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