Grange Notes by Tim Swartz, Grange President (with everyone’s help), December 26, 2020
Gleaning a new use for the Hall–in these quiet times
Merry and Allison have agreed that only 3-5 volunteers will work at the Hall, well spread out and masked. Since our beautiful maple floor has been completely covered with mats for over 2 months, clean-up will be easy after their work sessions. Doing the physical work of processing the produce means that they don’t expect to need to turn up the heat, unless it is super-cold.
The Grange is very happy to support this volunteer-driven organization that works hard to build community and reduce food waste. Especially in these hard times when many VT families are facing food insecurity, their work is vital. You can learn much more on their website: www.communityharvestVT.org. They organize volunteers into crews to harvest vegetables, berries, corn, squash, or whatever farmers can’t use for commercial sale. Then, they process, sort, clean, organize it and deliver it to local food shelves, senior meal sites and other locations where people who need food can get it. If you can’t volunteer, you can also make a donation to support their work!
January 2nd Grange meeting: Virtually together again
Grange members (and all our other Grange friends) will join via Zoom to transact Grange business, discuss the current plans for Grange hall use (almost none), look at our finances (slow but still solvent) and plan for the Berlin Property Tax exemption that will be voted on, March 2nd, 2021!
As usual in odd-numbered months, our Grange meeting will run from 4:30 to 6:00 PM on Saturday, via Zoom:
One of the discussions we will certainly have regards our need to campaign for renewal of the Grange’s 5-year exemption from Town of Berlin property taxes which was voted in March 2016. This will expire!…unless we can get a renewal voted in. We have contacted the Town and confirmed that there will be no in-person Town Meeting in 2021; all Town Articles will be voted on by Australian Ballot. This means that we need to publicize the advantages that the existence of the Grange Hall brings to Berlin, and the minimal cost to the Town and its citizens. We’ve started drafting a report for inclusion in the Town Report, to support our request.
Since 2016, (at least up until rentals largely ended in March of 2020) we have provided free rentals to Berlin Town residents and Berlin organizations–about 100! These have been much appreciated by the organizers and attendees. Uses have included family celebrations–birthday parties, memorial services, wedding rehearsals, baby showers, retirement parties–plus Town government meetings, potluck dinners, church meetings, Farm Bureau meetings, and Weston Mobile Home Park Resident Owned Co-op meetings. The Grange Hall offers a community gathering place that Berlin would not otherwise have–and our volunteer organization provides it.
A small group of us have been brainstorming ways to spread the word about this upcoming vote and the Grange Hall, and to advocate for support from Berlin voters. At the meeting, we will present a variety of specific tasks that our members and supporters can pitch in on to help this campaign. We need YOU!–and any friends and family you have in Berlin–to help us! Join us on Jan. 2 to learn more, and keep reading the Grange Notes!
End of the Year fundraising campaign by the
Friends of the Capital City Grange Hall…
…quite a bit of a mouthful, no doubt, but we are very grateful to have them as part of the Grange “family”. Every year for the past several, their end-of-year campaign has raised money for Grange improvements, including the “new” dance floor installed in 2012, the basement fire exit improvements in 2014, the new lower level bathrooms in 2015. Earlier this year, we completed the major insulation, waterproofing and renovation of the lower level, all funded by donations to the Friends and grants they have received.
This year, the fundraising is centered on getting the Grange through the current Coronavirus shut-down in rental income. The letters that went out from the Friends to their mailing list of donors have been very generously answered–so far, over $5,700 in donations! We are hoping for more–but this should get us through until sufficient progress is made in vaccinations to allow groups to start to congregate, dances to begin again, and other events to rebuild. We hope to not have to deplete our savings account, and be ready to accommodate rental groups in our beautiful Hall and even-more-beautiful lower level!
If the Friends don’t have you on the mailing list for the appeal, please send an email to me, or direct to email@example.com and we’ll be happy to send one out! Or–you can make a donation online, anytime, at: http://capitalcitygrange.org/
This fundraiser has built on the success of the online concert with Pete’s Posse, which the Contra Dance Umbrella sponsored in September. That raised about $5,300! Since the Friends have far surpassed their goal of $4,000 more, they will sponsor another online concert, on January 23, 2021, featuring The Turning Stile–the duo of Joanne Garton and Aaron Marcus, joined by talented guest artists!
We can get through this together, pooling our resources to keep the Grange and the Hall going as the vital community resources which they have been for so many years.
Marj Power obituary–remembering our friend
The following obituary appeared recently in the Times-Argus, submitted by Marj’s children, who wanted to share the story of Marj’s life and accomplishments with the public, as well as her friends in the Grange community:
MONTPELIER – Marjorie J. Power (née Fisher), 78, died July 26, 2020, at McClure Miller Respite House in Colchester, of Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
She was born November 20, 1941 in Philadelphia, the only child of Fred and Mary Fisher. During her childhood, her cousins served as surrogate siblings, especially during summers which were spent together on Lake Fairlee, Vt. She attended Philadelphia High School for Girls, 1959, and studied economics and history at McGill University in Montreal, B.A. 1963, and then at the University of London.
In England, Marj married Michael Power, and they settled in Wallasey, near Liverpool, having two children, Ben and Pinky. While she lived in England, she taught school, stayed home with her children, and attended law school. She was also active in folk singing, peace, justice, and nuclear disarmament protest, and sewing and machine knitting.
After divorce, she returned to Vermont with her children. There, she attended Vermont Law School, J.D. 1984, and was an attorney for the State of Vermont for over 20 years, working for the Public Service Board and the Division of Rate Setting.
Ever invested in her community, Marj served on the Montpelier City Council from 1993 to 1997 and was elected a Justice of the Peace in 2016. Politically passionate, she ran for local and state office on the Vermont Progressive Party ticket and was known to spend hours at the Legislature knitting as she kept her eye on proceedings. In particular, she was an outspoken advocate for single payer healthcare, most recently with Vermont Health Care for All, having lived happily under such a system in the U.K. She was a vigorous, long-standing member of many organizations: the Older Women’s League; the Barre Historical Society, with whom she helped save and run the Socialist Labor Party Hall; the Capital City Grange, for contra dancing, community building, and as Grange Lecturer; Everybody Wins, where she shared her love of reading with elementary school students; the Council of Vermont Elders; and the Onion River Exchange.
Her hobbies included her treasured contra dancing—she danced around the country with the goal of dancing in all fifty states; technology, computers, and gadgetry of all kinds, giving regular tech advice to her children on what she called “mother’s help line”; weightlifting at the Montpelier Senior Center, a program she called “strong women live forever”; and needlework, especially knitting, for which she won prizes at State and New England levels and clothed babies as far away as Germany. In later years, she didn’t hesitate to drive the 1500 miles to Kansas to visit her grandchildren. She always laughed about strangers who treated her like a little old lady, then were shocked by her strength and stamina.
She is survived by her son, Benjamin Power, of New York, N.Y., and daughter, Rebecca Power, of Baldwin City, Ks., beloved cousins, and her grandchildren, Isla and Simon Ellis.
A private service will be held for family at Post Mills Cemetery and a public memorial service at the Old Labor Hall in Barre, Vt. when gatherings are allowed. Memorial contributions may be made to the Barre Historical Society for The Old Labor Hall, PO Box 496, Barre, VT 05641 or to the Friends of the Capital City Grange Hall to support the contra dance community, PO Box 192, Northfield Falls, VT 05664. We invite you to share your memories of Marj by visiting https://www.facebook.com/
December meeting report:
December 5th, an “even-numbered month” featured a brief, Zoom Grange Meeting and then a program from 5 to 6 PM. Carl Etnier, Lecturer and Zoom-master, did his best to make sure everyone was heard.
The meeting reviewed the Treasurer’s report, and discussed the few Hall uses before the end of November shut-down of get-togethers at our Hall and elsewhere. We had some discussion of planning for the vote on extension of our Berlin tax exemption, as well.
An in-house Program: Grange lecturer Carl Etnier provided his own program this month, giving an overview of “COVID and Central VT–how it has affected us, and how have we responded?” Carl is the host of his own radio program on WGDR (91.1 FM in Plainfield) and WGDH (91.7 in Hardwick). He is also a journalist for the Montpelier Bridge. He has had a “privileged perch” to watch the response of local, state and federal governments to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic, plus the efforts of local organizations, communities and individuals.
Carl had run a local news program on the radio station, and revived it to report on COVID in March of 2020, as the only programmer in-studio. He has since relocated his studio to his own house. The news program was supported by Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding until the end of May, with daily reports and a full hour once a week.
Carl reported on the initial “scramble to communicate” by the VT Public Health Dept. and the rest of the state government. This evolved into a regular and very well-regarded press conference which is broadcast on VPR, every Tuesday and Friday. The “Dashboard” on the vermont.gov website, plus daily Facebook Live events by Senator Tim Ashe, and 2-3 times/week FB Live events hosted by Lieut. Gov. David Zuckerman provided additional points of view on the pandemic and efforts to resist it.
Among many changes in regular life, the Legislature allowed Town Selectboards to hold remote meetings, and held remote hearings and proceedings itself. While this has been awkward for many, it has also allowed some new input from people who could participate by Zoom but who could not necessarily have made it to the State House in normal times.
Carl mentioned several examples of people and organizations that re-purposed themselves in response to pandemic needs: Erin Aguayo, who has worked with the “Days for Girls” organization making washable menstrual products for girls and women across the world, switched her local volunteer group to making face-masks. Also, a rabies vaccine clinic in Hardwick relocated to being mostly outdoors during the summer months, to keep providing services safely. Farmers’ Markets, originally banned to reduce gatherings were able to switch to online pre-order and pickup systems, before adjusting to be able to provide safe, spread-out in-person markets by about mid-May. Many local businesses greatly increased online purchases–including Morse Farm–“as busy as Christmas!”–reported by co-owner Burr Morse. Musicians started providing online concerts, with payment by donation or online ticketing.
Other public services were modified too–local buses kept running with no-cost rides, limited capacity, and riders entering at the front and leaving through a rear door.
Some people were able to return to small-scale “normal” operation for a while this summer, before resurgence in the fall. Carl cited musician and music producer Colin McCaffrey, who recorded enough musicians in summertime to give him plenty to work on processing the recordings in the winter, when he can’t have people in the studio.
Many towns have created “Mutual Aid” organizations, volunteers who coordinate social services and the work of a wider network of people. One example is the Groton VT Social Services Committee, another is the Northfield VT Mutual Aid committee. The latter has, among other things, set up a mask-making group, which produced well over 3,000 masks and gave them away to community members during the spring and summer months.
Carl reported also on the “solution” found to the problems of homelessness in Vermont. State government has put many homeless people into hotel and motel rooms, vacant due to COVID. This provides public health protection by reducing crowded homeless shelters, and letting individuals and families socially distance themselves. But it is clear that this is not a long-term solution–when travel starts up again, the hotel/motel rooms will no longer be available.
Grange member and Chaplain Alison Forrest, head of the Huntington Elementary Food service reported on that town’s effort to expand provision of food beyond the school. This has included feeding all kids 18 and younger, in school or not, including 1 & 2 year-olds, at no cost, and extending community food provisions through the summer months. Federal funding through the COVID relief funds supported this through the end of the year (editors’ note: as I write this on Christmas day, we still don’t know if funding will be extended!). Alison and her crew figured out how to send out “Meal Kits” instead of individually packed portions, greatly reducing packaging and waste–this required a change in regulations, negotiated through VT-wide discussions. Her school kitchen was providing 500 meals a week during the summer, and about 1,000 per week when school is in session.
Overall, this program and discussion showed how many ways we have changed organizations and their operations to meet our needs–and the impact this has had on so many of us. We know that even with all the ingenuity and volunteer spirit Vermonters have shown, that many more people now face food and economic insecurity, with no clear end in sight. We all hope that vaccination will eventually allow resumption of a more predictable and secure way of living, but until then we will need to follow the limitations of activity and requirements for wearing masks and keeping separate that the medical professionals advise.