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Friendship Grange in danger of closing

September 23, 2009
NORTHFIELD — With the Friendship Grange in danger of closing, its members are urging local residents to join the community-service oriented club so it can keep its charter.

The Friendship Grange is located in the downstairs of Northfield's Town Hall. It was started Dec. 30, 1885.

"The way it started was the farmers in the community thought they would have a party one day a week," Grange Treasurer Phil Cain said, noting that there used to be up to 60 members at one time. "Now there's not many farmers around."

As the population has changed, so has the Grange. No longer an organization just for farmers, the group is less about parties and more about providing a service to the community. Cain said their big project now is providing about 400 dictionaries to each third grader in Franklin, Tilton/Northfield, Canterbury and Belmont. Funds come from selling meals at the Pines Community Center on Election Days.

Cain said taking the dictionaries to the schools each year (a statewide project for the past six years and one the Friendship Grange has taken part in for five) is rewarding for Grange members and students alike. He said the kids always like to thumb through the dictionaries when they first get them and find the biggest word. In the springtime, teachers often invite the Grange members back to the classroom so the students can show off what they've learned.

"That's the thing I'd hate to lose," Cain said of the dictionary donations. "We would do more in the community if we had the people."

Right now the Friendship Grange has only seven members, two of whom are active. The State Grange in Concord is pressuring them to give up their charter if they can't bring membership up to at least 13.

"We don't have enough to pay dues to the state," Cain said.

Cain has been a member for over 50 years he just became a Golden Chief and recalls the days when Friendship Grange members invited speakers to their meetings or traveled to other granges for a dinner. In more recent years, the Grange has given out a Citizenship Award each year, though with only two active members available for voting, that too has been put off for now.

The Friendship Grange used to take up the entirety of Town Hall until a fire forced the town to rebuild. The bigger facility allowed the Grange to move downstairs, which is now a meeting room used by many organizations. Currently the two Grange members meet the third Tuesday of each month.

The State Grange has been sending a team to work with the Friendship Grange to try to help the Northfield sector increase membership. One idea they've come up with is to hold an open house, which Cain said they're considering. Cain also said he hopes that once people hear about the Friendship Grange's plight, they might consider joining particularly people acquainted with the Grange's work, such as parents who have seen the impact the dictionary donations have had on their third graders, or members of other nearby granges that are doing well, like the one in Sanbornton.

"We don't want to see it go," Cain said.

Friendship Grange members can come from any town and be of any age. Dues are $30 per year.

Anyone interested in joining or hearing more about the Grange can contact Cain at 286-8110.

Martin Lord Osman
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