Lynne Hermansen
Special to the Gardner News
The oldest organization in Gardner is slowly emerging from being under the radar.
The Gardner Grange No. 68, once an agricultural organization founded in 1873, unites families through various grass-root endeavors, projects, non-partisan legislative advocacy, educational programs and activities that provide services to their local rural community. The group also builds character and leadership skills through its youth.
“We are making a comeback,” Linda Rothwell, Grange Lecturer, said. “We have picked up 12 members so far this year.”
The group holds at 40 to 50 members, and is slowly growing after a decline in the 1980s-1990s. Rothwell credits social media for the rise in members.
“We have been steadily working on attracting membership and getting new families,” she said. “Facebook has been a good helper.”
All meetings are open to the public, and anyone can join starting at age 14.
“We have several teenagers involved,” Rothwell said. “And they seem to not be bored yet”.
Junior Granges are available for children 5-14 years of age across the country. Rothwell, who has been a member since she was 5 in Gardner thanks to her parents’ involvement, would like to see a Gardner Junior Grange again.
The adult Grange meets at 6:30 p.m. every second Monday of the month at their building, Grange Hall, on the west side of the Johnson County Fairgrounds. The Hall was built in the 1970s, and is the group’s biggest fundraiser. It is rented out to various organizations such as the Girl Scouts, 4-H and the Tallgrass Theater Company, and also for wedding receptions, birthday parties, etc.
Meetings begin with a potluck dinner with a new host providing the main dish each month. A business meeting follows, and then the meetings conclude with a program that is selected by Rothwell.
Programs in the past have included a book report night where members shared a book they had recently read and a Dr. Seuss Night, where reading to children was encouraged.
Rothwell said Dr. Seuss Night was one of her favorites.
“We took the program to another Grange,” she said. “A little girl, about 3 years old, sat in one of our member’s lap as they read her Green Eggs and Ham.”
Every year in November they host Veterans’ Appreciation Night and invite the VFW to a dinner. And in December they adopt an unknown family through the city for Christmas.
This month’s program of Emergency Preparedness will be hosted by Storm Chaser Ed Bruns.
“He was in Oklahoma last Friday, when the tornado hit, near the home of an Oklahoma Grange member, whose house was hit,” Rothwell said.
The evening will focus on what the local chapter can do to assist Oklahoma in recovery efforts from the EF 5 tornado that ripped up the state last Friday.
“We will probably donate to their cleanup efforts,” she said. “We go beyond just the Gardner community.”