Back to the Grange Hall–as well as Zooming in
We held our first Grange meeting in-person since March, on July 18th–at least partially in-person! With fans turned on, some windows open, masks on everyone and with at least 6′ spacing between us all, 6 Grange members showed up in the Hall, with another 5 or 6 showing up on Zoom. I had the usual technical difficulties figuring out how to combine the Zoom with the projector, but we all managed. Carl Etnier was our Zoom-meister, a great help to have!
We started the meeting with a song, led by Matt Nunnelly from the piano: Blue Skies in honor of summer. We asked Zoomers to mute themselves, as we learned in a previous meeting that everyone’s audio comes in at a slightly different time, so doing a true sing-along over it doesn’t work well. Carl put the lyrics on the projector screen.
Next, we did a brief “check-in” with everyone, getting a sense of how everyone is surviving. Those in the Hall took turns in front of the camera while speaking; those virtually present spoke from their homes, of course. We heard about a wide variety of activities–kayaking, bike-riding, composing music, “podding-up” with trusted kids and grand-kids, or others who share the household. Patty Giavara is still working at VMEC (remotely), Alison Forrest is working all summer sending out food to parents and kids in Huntington from the school (where she’s been in charge of food for 30 years!); Matt Nunnelly is getting lots of work repairing and installing hot-tubs and spas with so many folks staying home–he works for Allen’s Pools & Spas. Carl Etnier is in charge campus services for Goddard College’s “Distance Learning” programs, which have had to adapt to the pandemic restrictions of course. He also works at WGDR, the Goddard community radio station.
At the meeting, we also shared news and stories about Marj Power, who was in the hospice facility at the time–see above for more details.
We also discussed the financial and rental situation of the Grange. As I think we all know, the Grange has been pretty empty since the Coronavirus restrictions came into play. Of our regular renters, the Montpelier Church of Christ began meeting again–with masks, physical distancing and fans, and only about 12 attendees–when restrictions started being lifted; the West African dancer class has held sessions outside, in the Grange parking lot. The Resident Owners’ Co-op of the Weston Mobile Home park has met upstairs (also with masks, physical distancing and fans) a few times. The Contra Dance Umbrella has chosen to make a small payment for the Saturday contra dances which are not being held, to support the Grange and the Hall–the CDU has been a supportive partner for decades, as I think most folks know. We have kept the (newly renovated) lower level closed to renters due to the restricted ventilation there.
We have, consequently, had very little rental income since mid-March, and are not expecting a major increase in the foreseeable future. Merry and I have made some choices to reduce expenses, based on the low usage of the Hall. We have cut back on cleaning costs, arranging only for a disinfectant cleaning of high-touch surfaces like door knobs, railings, etc. We will be able to cut back considerably on snow-plowing and sanding during the coming winter, but will still need to have some done to maintain access to the Hall. We have done some projections of our financial situation, based on these assumptions. We have sent information to a friend who has worked as a business manager for school systems, David Larcombe, who has helped us put the projections in a spreadsheet form. The bottom line is a loss of almost $4,000 over the next year or so. While this is not in any way a guaranteed prediction of how things will go, it really helps us focus our minds on what we can do to improve our balance sheet, and helped to stimulate useful discussion at our meeting. David was present via Zoom and
The group came up with some “palliative” measures we could take–like emptying and shutting off the kitchen refrigerator and considering volunteer disinfecting cleanings instead of paying for professionals (since usage is so low). We decided we will need to take a look at the costs vs. income we get from wintertime rentals–if snowplowing and sanding need to be done, it can cost us close to $200 for one “regular” storm. We will need to look into the cost for a more limited plowed/sanded area of the parking lot.
We’ll keep talking and planning about finances as this strange year continues. There will certainly be some fund-raising requests coming your way. We have some savings, but we don’t want to scrape the bottom of that barrel–especially when we don’t yet know the full extent of the downturn in rentals. Anyone who is moved to contribute can send checks to the PO Box 208, Northfield Falls, VT 05663 address listed above. Watch these Notes for info about how to donate on-line, as well. And if you have ideas about ways to pitch in–help with disinfecting for example–please contact me: grangenotes@capitalcitygrange.
We Say Farewell to Marjorie Power
Marj Power passed away on Saturday, July 25th, from the acute myeloid leukemia with which she was diagnosed just a couple of weeks ago. Along with her son Ben and daughter Rebecca (Pinky) Power, Marj had decided to suspend chemotherapy, after consultation with UVM Medical Center physicians and oncologists from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. She spent her last days being cared for at the McClure-Miller Respite house, getting hospice care. Marj was 78 years old–hard for us all to believe, who have known her level of activity for so long!
Besides the activities in the photo below, Marj was on the City Council of Montpelier in the 90s, a stalwart of the Progressive party in VT (including running for Lt. Gov. and Secretary of State), a leader of the Vermont Older Women’s League (OWLs), a long-time volunteer reader to school kids for Everybody Wins Vermont, an organizer for Vermont Health Care for All, a board member for the Friends of the Capital City Grange Hall, Treasurer and Webmaster (and much else) for the Socialist Labor Party Hall in Barre, was the Lecturer for this Grange from 2006 to 2019, won many prizes for knitting in the Grange needlework contests, and (I’m sure) had her finger in many other activist pies as well. Speaking of food, her soups and baked chicken dishes have been mainstays of Grange potluck dinners. Always welcoming, she was a leader in getting new folks dancing at many contra dances, including those at this Grange Hall. She is well-known throughout New England contra dancing scene, at festivals and community dances–and has also danced in many other states on her travels. Let me know what I’ve missed, and share your Marj stories with us!
Besides her formal duties as Grange Lecturer, bringing interesting and engaging speakers for Grange meeting Programs to us, Marj was always an active participant in meetings, sharing her knowledge about politics (she was a frequent lobbyist at the VT State House), running a non-profit Hall, and a thousand and one other topics on which she was well-informed and opinionated! She loved to join in the Grange sing-alongs, to welcome new people to meetings and potlucks and projects–she leaves big shoes for us all to try to fill.
As far as I know, there is not yet a plan for a memorial gathering for Marj–she would be the first to upbraid us if someone organized a physical gathering which could risk the health of those attending! We will pass along news of any plans. The best way (IMHO) to honor Marj’s memory is to get involved with the world and whatever causes you believe in, as she did.
Cards and letters of remembrance can be sent to Marj’s family at Marj’s address, where they are able to get mail:
Ben and Pinky Power
67 Independence Green
Montpelier, VT 05602
The excellent picture below, showing Marj doing a few of of her favorite things–knitting, teaching and being with kids–came from a newsletter from Queen City Contras about Marj’s illness.
More memories of Marj
2008: Marj opens the doors for the new, accessible entrance to our Grange Hall! Marj was one of the sparkplugs that got us going on this major project, the first of several.
2014: Marj takes pictures at the “World’s Longest Contra Dance Line Attempt” in Rutland, wearing her “official judge” T-shirt.