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State Grange could lift the San Juan Island Grange's suspension in January

The Washington State Grange could lift the San Juan Island Grange's suspension in January and new officers could be elected and installed by March or April, State Grange Master June Hendrickson said Dec. 15.

The local Grange was suspended in August 2007 after months of local wrangling over a proposal to change the Grange-owned property leased by Carquest and All-Season Automotive into a year-round farmers market and farm-products store. State Grange officials at the time were not convinced revenue from the venture could meet or exceed the $3,000 monthly rent paid by Carquest, as well as pay for remodeling.

"It was unfortunate what happened before. But that's in the past and we're moving on," Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson said there has been "continuous communication" between local Grange members and the State Grange. "Some of the members would contact us from time to time. Last summer, we decided to come up and see what we would find out for ourselves."

She added, "We have met some delightful people."

Hendrickson, of Des Moines, and Executive Committee member Rusty Hunt of Coulee City have attended meetings here and will continue to visit as the local Grange comes back to life.

"If all goes well, the charter suspension will be lifted in January. We want to be able to take in new members that have been patiently waiting," Hendrickson said. "We're going to be coming up for the next few months, monitoring the situation. I'm sure we will be able to help them out."

The San Juan Island Grange meets the first Wednesday of the month, 7 p.m., in the Grange Hall. Steve Porten is one of the 40 or so paid members who have been participating in meetings since July and in local Grange-sponsored activities.

"I've kept my hand in it and so I've been anxious to see things going again," he said. He maintained his membership in the local Grange "because of its potential for doing good in the community, similar to Kiwanis and Lions and the rest of them."

What does the Grange mean to him? "Maintaining rural community values. That's good, that's worthwhile — stewardship of the land and small-town rural values."

Porten and his wife, Shann Weston, are helping as Grange members at Santa Claus' visit to the Grange Hall Dec. 18, and the Grange helped Santa with the cost of teddy bears that will be gifted to children at the event.

In addition, the local Grange Hall has been made available without charge for the Community Thanksgiving Dinner and other community events.

The Grange is America's oldest farm-based fraternal organization. According to the State Grange's website, the Grange is "a non-partisan, grassroots advocacy group for rural citizens with both legislative programs and community activities such as talent and craft contests, scholarships, youth programs and camps, and much more."

The Grange encourages "fellowship, discussion and formulation of policies on current issues," and "serves as a vehicle for promoting positive changes which help improve the quality of life for all citizens."

The Grange is an influential lobby on the state and national levels, working to give rural communities a stronger voice on issues; there are 3,878 local Granges in 37 states with more than 300,000 members.

"The Grange's philosophy has always been that what is good for America's farms and rural residents is good for the entire nation," the website states.

Hendrickson said, "We have been doing some background work (with local Grange members) so that members understand what the Grange is."

Kathryn Quackenbush is the county deputy, representing the State Grange in San Juan County; there are active Granges on Lopez and Orcas islands. Frank Penwell is the State Grange's rental agent for the Grange Hall.

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