What a bunch of cut ups!

Over twenty “cut ups” met at Valley Grange recently to manufacture blankets under the direction of Pat Engstrom. (The blankets are made by cutting and tying fringe around the borders.) Several dozen blankets have been made and distributed to the Linus Project and the Veterans’ Home in Bangor. A special thanks goes to the group of students from Foxcroft Academy who attended and pitched in. No doubt we’ll be doing this again!

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Valley Granger cited in Dictionary Project Newsletter

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Sponsor Spotlight: Walter Boomsma, Valley Grange #144

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Enthusiasm is important to the success of any project, but it is not the only ingredient. Although enthusiasm is frequently the catalyst, the jump-start that gets the engine going, it is commitment that provides for the life and continuity of a dictionary project. Commitment, or the state of being whole-heartedly dedicated to a cause, is what has driven Walter Boomsma to continue The Dictionary Project for the Valley Grange #144 for the past eight years. “My passion is kids first, second and third,” said Boomsma and The Dictionary Project appreciates his efforts to ensure that today’s children have a bright future.

Read the entire article here.

Valley Grange Creates Opportunities!

Community Counts Flyer

Painted and Painting

Photo from prep day... what it used to look like!

Photo from prep day… what it used to look like!

Wow… do we owe a big thanks to the “Helping Hands” Team of seven who showed up ready to paint last Thursday! We got a lot done!

As noted earlier, the Grange Team did a great job with preparations that including moving chairs, taking down curtains, scraping and more… our motives weren’t entirely altruistic–we were hoping that we could get the bulk of the painting done in the day we had “Helping Hands.”

Thanks go to Grangers Jim Annis, Roger Ricker, Janice Boomsma, Pat Engstrom and granddaughter Heather for showing up to help on painting day. We tried to be helpful in part by staying out of the way!

So here’s the progress report and another request for some support. By the time the Helping Hands crew had to leave we had the ceiling and walls done plus one coat covering the trim. To our grateful surprise, the Helping Hands crew from the Mountainview Youth Development Program asked if they could come back and finish… and not only finish, but also paint the floor!

Jim, that's a painting cup--not coffee!

Jim, that’s a painting cup–not coffee!

So… we’ve schedule another painting day on Thursday, May 1st. In anticipation, I’ve painted the dear old Glenwood stove and picked up the additional supplies–mostly floor paint–the Helping Hands Crew took all our brushes with them to clean and return!

But I am “forced” to call on our Grange members and friends for some real easy help that doesn’t involve brushes and ladders. We did not budget for lunch for a second day of painting… and we need to feed these guys with HUGE appetites that increase as a result of hard work! So we’re looking for some help with lunch. If you can, please help by providing some sustenance!

Bear in mind, cooking is pretty much out of the question as the kitchen is in total disarray, so we’re looking for sandwiches… baked goodies are a special treat–last time we had brownies by Mary and “Seven Layer Cookies” by Janice… We could consider a crockpot of soup… Unfortunately, both Mary and Janice are not available for this party–Janice took special pride in trying to fill the guys up last time! Can we put on a “Grange Spread” for our willing workers? We’ll probably be feeding seven to ten people and lunch is usually needed around 11:30. If necessary, you can drop food off the day before–use the refrigerator.

Breakfast type snacks are a bonus–donuts, coffee cake, etc. We’ll get the coffee on and I already have “Sunny D.” The crew will probably arrive around 8:30 AM and work until 2:30 PM. Stop by and check out the work, say “thanks,” and offer your encouragement!

A preview of the finished product.

A preview of the finished product.

 

GrowME Sprouts and Spurts!

Local collaboration will provide classroom activities

GrowME logoDover Foxcroft — While it might be difficult to think about gardening and farming in mid-January, a group of volunteers are doing just that. They are meeting at Piscataquis Soil and Water Conservation District office on Thursday, January 30 at 1 PM to begin preparing a third year for the GrowME program. The program is offered to K-3 teachers and schools in Piscataquis County and the surrounding areas. The program is organized by a collaboration between Valley Grange of Guilford, PCSWCD (Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District) and UMaine Piscataquis County Extension.

The program aims to utilize local volunteers who will work with teachers to schedule an agricultural activity in their classrooms during Maine Agriculture Week (March 24-28). Ana Bonstedt, Home Horticulture Coordinator for Piscataquis County UMaine Extension is particularly excited over the “hands on” aspect of the activities. “Thanks to our rural nature in Piscataquis County, we don’t have the ‘nature deficit’ that some more urban areas experience,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be offering our kids an opportunity to involve all their senses and get some hands on learning.”

Walter Boomsma, program director for Valley Grange agrees. For a number years he’s visited second graders at PCES to make butter as part of Valley Grange’s commitment to being a resource. “We have fun and the kids almost don’t realize they are learning–some have even asked for instructions and then made butter at home as a family activity.” Grange members have also done seed planting activities and created animal graphs. “We also spend some time just talking with the kids—many have chickens and gardens and it’s fun to share experiences.” Bonstedt has also seen positive impact of these hands on experiences—during last year’s activities she was invited back to one classroom to talk about her native country, Paraguay.

Boomsma notes that last year volunteers visited with over 40 classrooms and 700 kids, but note’s there should be no shortage of volunteers and resources thanks to the collaboration. “We’ve got master gardeners and farmers available through Extension Programs and PCSWCD includes partners and resources that are committed to good stewardship. Our continued goal is to keep this informal, local, and a true partnership between our schools, teachers, and volunteers. It’s not so much that we have a program to offer—it’s more about working together to make good use of our resources. Our volunteers will have the sort of agricultural experience and background to be especially relevant to students while providing insight into the importance of agriculture in our area.”

The group focuses on kindergarten through third grade but is willing to consider requests from teachers of other grades.

GrowME volunteers visit for about 20 minutes and work with students on a simple, grade appropriate activity. Teachers and administrators who are interested need only furnish contact information: teacher’s name-email address and grade. Interested teachers may email grange@boomsmaonline.com or call Boomsma at 343-1842. An online sign-up form is also available at http://growmehelp.wordpress.com.

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!

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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!

We’re Ready for Community Night!

Party 3 (640x464)Well, almost! While this photo doesn’t show it (you’ll have to come see), the stage is painted and looking great! Members are reminded we still have some “primping” to do… and those who can are asked to stop by Friday (17th) afternoon and find a project–sweeping, dusting, setting tables, etc. Our celebration of community begins at 6 PM with a potluck supper… and continues with a 7 PM program that’s sure to please as we honor the Piscataquis Observer and WABI-TV 5 for their service to our communities.

Remember, this is a family friendly event and the price is right–all it “costs” is a few hours of your time! (If you can, bring a dish to share for potluck.) In exchange, you’ll get a great meal, a warm sense of community, some laughs and a chance to see friends old and new.

An audio-visual presentation will surprise you when you discover the value of “Just Five Minutes.” Look for a traffic jam at the corner of Butter Street and Guilford Center Road on Friday-because that’s where Valley Grange is located!

Be Ready to Help a Child…

All of us have some contact with children, as volunteers, bookworms, parents and grandparents, or just friends. Please be prepared for possible questions or statements… here is one well-written, easy-to-read article that will help you:

http://www.dougy.org/news-events/news/the-senseless-shootings-how-to-talk-with-your-children/1466/

Thanks to the JD Foundation in Abbot Maine for sharing this… if you need additional assistance, please reach out to a grief support group or professional. You can reach Cheryl at the JD Foundation at 207 876-2295.

Thank you, Veterans

I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.

~William Shakespeare