Season’s Greetings!

VG Merry Xmas


from Jim and Mary, Kevin and Sunny, Opal, Walter & Janice, Carolyn, Bob and Linda, Tim, Chris, Barbara and Robert, Brita, Herb, Pat, Sherry, Elizabeth, Karen and Richard, Rod, Bonnie, Harriet, Dennis and Becky, Susan, Roger and Judy, Stub and Nena, Dora, Carolyn and Richard, Brian and Cindy, Joan, Lynn, Dodie, Deb, Karen, Don and Eileen, Roberta, Jane, Mike, Lois, and Betty… and the many, many others who are such an important part of what we do!

Aren’t you the person who…?

newspapersStu Hedstrom, reporter from the Piscataquis Observer, jokes that he has attended so many Valley Grange Dictionary Presentations he could probably fill in for me if for some reason I couldn’t make it. Well, it seems the kids agree with him. Stu emailed this morning to tell me that he was waiting for Santa to arrive in Dover Foxcroft last night and a young boy also waiting approached him with the question, “Aren’t you one of those guys who gives out the dictionaries?” Stu  says he explained his role and notes that he was pretty impressed with the young fellow’s memory and the fact he
got it “almost right.”

There’s a lot to learn from this little incident. One, even the little things we do with and for kids are appreciated and remembered by them. We may not arrive in a sleigh with eight tiny reindeer, but the kids do remember the “gift of words.”

Two, we might learn how fortunate we all are to have “community” — including a “hometown newspaper” with an interest and commitment to our communities. I think Stu is one of the guys who gives out the dictionaries, because he–along with untold others who help in some way–are part of the program and make it possible. As the kids might say, that’s pretty awesome.

Santa gets the credit for a lot what happens at this time of year, but let’s not forget our communities are filled with good people who are not just nameless faces going through the motions of life. They are people who give of their time and energy to help others and make so many of the things we have and enjoy possible.

This morning I find myself thinking that third grader really had it right. He recognized Mr. Hedstrom, but he didn’t just smile and say “Hello.” He saw that Mr. Hedstrom fit into something that happened and had meaning in his young life. That he saw it is important.

Maybe we should follow his example–start looking for those people who fit into our lives in some way. While Stu was being greeted by his friend in Dover, I was standing by the bonfire in Guilford waiting for Santa as well, enjoying the warmth not only of the fire but of the friendship. I now realize I could have walked up to more people at the tree lighting and asked some questions like:

  • Aren’t you one of those people who helped put up the town’s tree?
  • Aren’t you one of those people who baked the cookies to go with the hot chocolate?
  • Aren’t you one of those guys who kept the bonfire going?
  • Aren’t you one of the kids who came to sing Christmas songs?

The list gets longer once you get started, doesn’t it? I think one of the things we love about Christmas is watching people’s — especially kids’ — faces light up when they receive a gift or hear that Santa’s coming. And yet there are thousands of “gifts” being given in our communities every day–gifts of time, energy, compassion and friendship. We need to discover them. We need to give them. And we need to let our faces light up when we do.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

Albert Schweitzer

Here We Come, Santa!


Just a few of Santa’s Helpers… Squash Secateurs really had their work cut out for them… no pun intended!

By Walter Boomsma

With a hearty “Ho! Ho! Ho!” lots of Santa helpers got together for a Harvest Festival to benefit the Piscataquis Santa Fund! The night may have been cold, but the warmth of community (not to mention all the steam from cooking) sure created a snuggly night!

Led by Chief Cook and organizer Sheree Brown, Santa’s kitchen workers put on yet another incredible meal! These meals have been so popular we’re creating a mailing list so folks can be assured they won’t miss one! (We’ll have both email and post card versions available… more to come about that!)

One diner tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You know what’s really nice about these meals?” He didn’t wait for me to answer before he added, “Seeing all these kids actually working!” (He was one of the first to ask to be on our mailing list, so we’re going to try not to disappoint him next time! Truth be told, I hadn’t noticed that the majority of our hard workers were young people! I did notice, however that there was always someone willing to work whether it was peeling squash, carving ham, or setting up very cold metal chairs upstairs.

Barbara never misses one of these... and I think she waved to make sure we noticed!

Barbara never misses one of these… and I think she waved to make sure we noticed!

People were quick to line up and harvest a plate full from the serving line but just about everyone left some room for apple crisp. In fact, we were fortunate to have a few “leftovers” but only until the band took intermission and we had an impromptu auction. We sold everything that was left–there wasn’t so much as a crumb remaining! And we raised yet another $58 for Santa in the process. How can you go wrong when you have this combination… great food, a fantastic cause, generous folks, hardworking volunteers…

But wait, there’s even more! There was lots of toe tapping and swaying to the music as the Friends Band including Kathy & Buzz Vanadestine, John Whitman, Gary Knowles, Cornell & Judy McLellan entertained us with some old favorites and some pretty bad jokes! (Do you know what Adam said to Eve in the Garden of Eden the day before Christmas? “Merry Christmas, Eve!”) Ba-da-boom. But you know you laughed.

While we didn’t give a prize for folks who traveled the longest distance, we were really pleased to have the Maine State Grange Master (president) join us all the way from South Portland. And while we consider Vicki a “dignitary,” she didn’t come as one. She came as a supporter both of Piscataquis Santa and Valley Grange. In fact, she sold one of the winning Meat or Heat Raffle Tickets!

We did have some questions about how Valley Grange and these events supports the Piscataquis Santa Fund. There are, as many know, sponsors grouped basically by school districts with Piscataquis Santa serving as an umbrella. Each of those districts is basically responsible for raising funds for their individual program, but one of the real benefits of the fund is the pooling of resources.  Valley Grange has members from “Monson to Millinocket”–therefore when we started these collaborative efforts, we determined that we would raise money under the “umbrella” and not specifically for any one district. In this way, if there is a particular need or shortage in one district, Penquis has the funds to meet that need.

Every year we get a few calls from people who’ve benefited from Piscataquis Santa in the past… they beg to volunteer to help because they fully appreciate the value of this program. Yes, it’s important to “pay it forward,” but in this way, it’s possible to “help pay back.” The generosity we experience from businesses and individuals is heartwarming and rewarding. Thank you, one and all!

The Friends Band donated their time and talent... thank you!

The Friends Band donated their time and talent… thank you!

Eat and Learn with Extension

Saturday, September 7 Valley Grange hosts the UMaine Extension Piscataquis County Annual Supper and Meeting and it looks like there’s going to be something for everyone!

logo-piscataquis-santaAnother yummy supper is prepared by Penquis Volunteers and all proceeds will benefit Piscataquis Santa, served from 5 PM until 7 PM by donation to benefit Piscataquis Santa. The meal deal includes baked stuffed chicken, Angus beef tips, mashed potatoes with gravy, mac and cheese, glazed carrots and string beans, dinner rolls, fruit pie and vanilla ice cream, coffee, tea, and lemonade! Suggested donation is $8 for adults, $4 for kids 3-12, under 3 eat free! 100% of the proceeds benefit the Piscataquis Santa Fund! (There will only be 109 days until Christmas from this event!)

A LOGOThe program parts include lots of exciting things! Prior to and during supper there will be Extension exhibits and demonstrations including a working bee hive and opportunity for the kids to make “bee hummers,” information on gardening, farming and nutrition. Bring your gardening, farming, nutrition, 4-H questions! There will also be lots of material available… The annual meeting starting at 7 PM will feature highlights of local programming and a feature presentation by Dr. Lois Stack, UMaine Extension Ornamental Horticulture Specialist, “Native Plants in the Home Landscape.” All exhibits, demonstrations, and the program are free!

This is collaboration and cooperation at its best! You can come to one thing or you can come to everything!

Christmas Offering…

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Santa’s Bag Gets Fuller!

santa_claus_carry_bag_150_clr_748Guilford—They came from over the river and through the woods to help fill Santa’s Bag—Piscataquis Santa, that is. The first day of December brought some winter weather but that didn’t deter folks who visited the  Valley Grange Hall for generous helpings of Barbeque and Bluegrass. The event was a collaborative effort which saw Penquis—the organization responsible for Piscataquis Santa—and Valley Grange, well-known for its support of local schools and children. The event raised over $700 thanks to community support and sponsors.

“This does say a lot about our communities,” said Walter Boomsma, program director for the Grange. “But it also says a lot about our volunteers. All of our food was donated and we even managed to auction off some leftovers and remaining home-baked pies to add to the cause.” Organizers estimate at least sixty meals were served and no one left hungry.

The goal is to provide warm winter clothing (i.e. jackets, ski pants, boots, hats, mittens) and a Christmas gift for children, infant to 16 years of age, who live in any of the five school districts in the greater Piscataquis area (MSAD #4, #41, #46, #68, and Union #60). Parents register their children to receive these items. These items allow children to have clothing that will keep them warm and to receive a gift marked especially for them at Christmas time. With over 400 children already registered, Penquis Office Coordinator Sheree Brown estimates that 700 children will be served through the program in some fashion this year. “Thanks to the support of many individuals, organizations, and businesses, we are very confident we’ll be able to meet every need.”

Brown also notes that parents were invited to write a few sentences about what the program meant to them when they registered this year. One parent wrote, “We have nine children and never enough income, so Christmas is a big hardship for us. This project is such a wonderful outpouring of love and support for the community. We feel truly blessed to be recipients of such generosity.”

Boomsma said he agrees with that parent. “The food was great, the bluegrass music had toes tapping, but the best part of the evening was feeling the love and support of the volunteers and attendees. Collaborations between Penquis and Valley Grange are always good, but there’s something very special about this one. You just knew you were being part of something that is both important and good.”

Music for the evening was provided by members of the Cambridge-based Back Porch Bluegrass Band and Santa himself arrived both to hear the requests of children attending and to say “thanks” to his helpers. A complete list of sponsors and donors can follows. Additional information regarding the Santa Fund is available at


Santa says, “Thanks!”

Barbeque and Bluegrass was a great success!

Special thanks to our sponsors for their generous support–stop by or give them a call to let them know you appreciate it:

      • Engstrom & Tumosa Tree Service – 564-8290 or 876-6907
      • Mallett Real Estate – 564-8073
      • Dover Foxcroft Chiropractic – 564-2211
      • McKusick Petroleum – 564-3406
      • Lovell’s Hardware – 876-2222
      • Walter Boomsma, teacher and trainer – 343-1842
      • Troy Brown, building and construction – 672-5586

And to the many individuals and businesses who helped in so many ways including:

      • Abbot Village Bakery
      • Jim and Sherry French, French Construction
      • Bill Bemis
      • Garland Grange
      • April Sargent
      • Vicki Curtis
      • Jim Macomber
      • Sheree Brown
      • Jessica Davis
      • Parvanah Withee
      • Dennis and Becky Patterson
      • Walter and Janice Boomsma
      • Valley Grange  Pie Makers: Judy Ricker, Cheryl Morin, Mary Annis, and Janice Boomsma
      • Penquis and Valley Grange  volunteers who worked from preparation through clean up!

And, of course, to the many folks who attended… you have helped many children to have a happy holiday–you should too!

 “Our family has had a rough year with one of our children suffering with congenital heart defects and undergoing nine operations and multiple complications trying to repair her heart. This has been very difficult on our family and financially caused us great strain.  Programs like this are what gives us a chance at rebuilding and getting life back on track while still giving our children the joy and fun of the holidays. It’s an amazing gift you give not just the children but the parents as well.”

You can still help–


You’d Better Watch Out! You Don’t Want to Miss This!

Barbeque and Bluegrass!

Saturday, December 1, 2012


The Valley Grange Hall

Corner of Butter Street and Guilford Center Road in Guilford Maine

Barbeque served from 5 PM until 7 PM

BBQ pulled pork or chicken served on fresh Kaiser rolls with baked beans, coleslaw, potato & macaroni salad corn bread and a variety of home-made pies for dessert!

Bluegrass served from 7 PM until 9 PM

Music served by the Back Porch Bluegrass Band

 You’ll eat well, have fun, and help Piscataquis Santa as he provides clothing and a special gift for needy children in the Piscataquis Region. (SAD 4, 41, 46, 68 and Union 60).

Adult Dinner $7, Concert $5, Combo ticket $10!

Child (3-12) Dinner $3.50, Concert $3.50, Combo $5!

Children under 3 years old FREE!

You can download a Santa Barbeque and Bluegrass Flyer with detailed information. We still can use some elf helpers… For more information contact Walter Boomsma. If you can help with food and/or kitchen, please contact Jessica Davis.

Visit the Back Porch Bluegrass Band Facebook Page.

Barbeque and Bluegrass — Piscataquis Santa Event

Here is your resource for information about the Barbeque and Bluegrass event… The event takes place Saturday, December 1st with barbeque being served starting at 5 PM and bluegrass being served starting at 7 PM… Featuring the Back Porch Bluegrass Band!

Download a Santa Barbeque and Bluegrass Flyer with detailed information.

Download a Santa Sponsor Letter and/or Santa Sponsor Form. We need some “elves” to help! For more information regarding sponsorships, contact Walter Boomsma. If you can help with food and/or kitchen, please contact Jessica Davis.

Visit the Back Porch Bluegrass Band Facebook Page.

This event is a joint venture between Valley Grange and Penquis Piscataquis Santa Fund. The Santa Fund provides clothing and a special gift for needy children in the Piscataquis Region (SAD 4, 41, 46, 68 and Union 60). We’ve got it covered from Greenville to Milo to Dexter!

Just Five Minutes…

Just Five Minutes is a PowerPoint presentation converted to video that was produced in conjunction with our 2012 Community Citizen Program to give folks a sense of what our Grange is all about and to present some thoughts about community service.

(Should you experience difficulty with buffering, you can watch the program on You Tube by clicking the You Tube logo on the bottom right.)