TV Grange celebrates charter

Submitted photo Members of the Tygart Valley Grange met recently to celebrate receipt of a charter from the National Grange office in Washington, D.C.

BEVERLY –Members of the Tygart Valley Grange met recently to celebrate receipt of a charter from the National Grange office in Washington, D.C.

Founder of the local group, Dr. Lonnie Brewster, noted, “We began this process in the fall of 2015. I had been a Grange member when I lived in Pennsylvania, so when I moved back home to West Virginia, I thought a Grange might benefit the Tygart Valley area because the Grange focuses on family, agriculture and agricultural education, and community service.

“I met with the West Virginia State Grange master, (President James Foster, and contacted the National Grange membership officer. Foster said that West Virginia had not chartered a new Grange for a long time and that we would become the only Grange in the eastern part of the state.”

“We held our first formal meeting on Jan. 14, 2016, and began planning activities,” Brewster continued. “We are now celebrating our first year. During that year, we were able to donate $300 to the Tygarts Valley FFA, and three of our members won first place awards at the West Virginia State Grange Convention in Parkersburg.

“Eleanor Panter won a blue ribbon for a quilt she made, Carol Cutright won a blue ribbon for a pink and white afghan in the ‘Think Pink’ fight against breast cancer, and Tina Carrel won first place for her raisin-filled cookies. We have organized a trip to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History on Feb. 18, and we are planning a trip this spring to the Smithsonian. We hope to organize an international trip next year.

“We work closely with the Tygarts Valley FFA on community service projects and help with their fundraisers,” he said. “Two of our members have been elected to state offices. I am the state chaplain, and Tina Carrel is Ceres, one of the three Graces that symbolize material gifts from our Creator. Not bad for a fledgling organization.”

The Grange is a family fraternity with membership open to anyone who has reached the age of at least 13 years and six months. Youth and adults work together to serve the community, and anyone who is eligible for membership may hold office. Community service is an integral part of the Grange, and members participate in big and small projects, partner with other community organizations, and fundraise for various causes, whether it’s to help a neighbor or to raise funds for a local school.

Granges recognize outstanding citizens in their communities, such as fire fighters and police officers. Granges sponsor local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops; support 4-H, FFA and other groups; and allow families and other citizens to participate in community service.

The Grange strives to expand the knowledge of its members and to help each individual reach his or her potential. One of the key offices is that of lecturer. The lecturer’s role is to bring to members entertainment and activities to expand knowledge in different subject areas. Grange members attend cultural and educational forums, as well as political rallies and hearings. They research topics of interest to bring information to fellow members.

The National Grange was founded in 1867 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan, fraternal organization that advocates for rural America and agriculture. The Grange was the first national organization to give full voice and vote to women, 50 years before Congress granted such rights. In the Grange, all generations come together to learn from one another. The Grange has worked to expand affordable rural broadband, to monitor farm bills and to improve rural health care and Medicare access. Grange members are involved in the legislative process as resolutions are formulated at the local level, revised and approved at the state level, and passed on to the national level. Grange lobbyists work to get resolutions approved at the national level passed into law by the U.S. Congress.

The Grange emblem is a sheaf of wheat on a seven-sided shield. The seven sides represent the seven founders of the Grange and the seven degrees of membership. The “P of H” on the ribbon that binds the sheaf of wheat stands for “Patrons of Husbandry.” The founders were Masons who had a strong faith in God. They incorporated some ritual into how Grange meetings are conducted. For example, the Bible and the American flag are integral parts of each meeting, and each meeting opens and closes with prayer.

The first four degrees of membership are awarded at the subordinate or local level and are as follow: First Degree — Laborer (man), Maid (woman); Second Degree — Cultivator (man), Shepherdess (woman); Third Degree — Harvester (man), Gleaner (woman); Fourth Degree — Husbandman (man), Matron (woman). The Fifth Degree, Pomona, is awarded at the district or county level. The Sixth Degree, Flora, is awarded at the state level; and the Seventh Degree, Ceres,  is awarded at the national level.

The Digest of Laws of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry mandates that “The various Granges of the divisions of the Order shall not discriminate with regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or national origin.” There is a place for everyone at the Grange.

Alcohol is prohibited on Grange property except for unopened containers used as demonstration aids, gifts or fundraisers. Because family is the cornerstone of the Grange, members refer to each other as brother and sister. As a sign of respect, officers are addressed as Worthy Master, Worthy Overseer, Worthy Secretary and so on.

“The Grange can make valuable contributions to the community,” Brewster said. “I hope that we can grow in the Tygart Valley area and interest others in chartering Granges in Harman, Elkins and Pickens; in the mean time, our Grange is open to everyone in the county and in neighboring counties who wants to help strengthen families and make our community better for everyone.”

Because the Tygart Valley Grange does not yet have a building of its own, the group meets the second Thursday of each month at the New Life Christian Church in Beverly.

“We are grateful to the church for providing meeting space, and the rental is very minimal. Church board members Harvey Taylor and Tina Carrel have been great about working with us,” Brewster noted.

For more information about the Grange, contact Dr. Lonnie Brewster at 304-339-3381 or visit www.nationalgrange.org.