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Local Grange reorganizes with new members, big plans

ORWIGSBURG – Jefferson Grange #1384 is back and ready to do great things, according to its new leadership.

On Friday, May 21, more than a dozen people met at the Orwigsburg Memorial Building to reorganize the local chapter of the National Grange, the oldest rural and agricultural advocacy organization in the U.S.

“It’s really exciting to see a lot of young people and excited adults with so many good ideas come together and help get this organization back in our community,” newly elected President Rachel Brobst said. Brobst said in addition to the people at the meeting, several other individuals had filled out membership applications for the fraternal organization before the meeting, bringing the total of charter members up to about 20. The charter application period will remain open through early June.

Brobst, who was previously a member of Jefferson Grange about a decade ago but had not been involved in a number of years and when the local chapter lost its charter in 2019, said she is happy to be part of returning locally raised funds to the area to do good work for Southern Schuylkill County.

National Grange Membership and Leadership Development Director Amanda Brozana Rios said the charter was revoked by the State Grange in 2019 because at the time Jefferson Grange had fallen below the requisite 13 members and were no longer very active. The Grange Hall, which had been located in South Manheim Township, was sold and those proceeds along with the remaining treasury of Jefferson Grange was put in trust with the State Grange.

“To have a Grange reorganize within seven years of its closure means funds come home, and that helps provide a base and momentum for the new group to do a variety of service projects and otherwise fulfill their mission,” Brozana Rios said. She was elected Secretary during the meeting.

She said each local Grange can determine the needs of their community and work to meet those in ways they feel are most effective.

In addition to Brobst and Brozana Rios, the membership elected the remaining 11 officers, which range in age from 17 to 50.

Members discussed other projects, events and programs they’d like to work on in the coming months.

Newly elected Jefferson Grange Food and Agricultural Director Hannah Burke, a Junior at Blue Mountain High School talked about her initiative to reestablish the greenhouses at Blue Mountain High School.

Treasurer Marie Bildheiser and her daughter, Valerie, who was elected Youth Director, mentioned their desire for the group advocate at both Blue Mountain and Schuylkill Haven school districts for enhanced funding for agriculture, home economics and traditional “shop” classes. This was met with a lot of positive comments.

Junior Director Michelle Zimmerman has begun planning programs with various hands-on activities and field trips for children age 5 through 13 who join the Junior Grange.

Brozana Rios said the group hopes to charter a full Junior Grange in the next few weeks, noting only seven children in the age bracket are needed in order to get a Junior charter and allow children to hold their own meetings and set their own service projects.

Lecturer Liz Kattner will work with Citizenship and Advocacy Director Torie Konkus to plan a presentation of Quilts of Valor to a few local veterans. They hope to have Juniors involved in the event as a way to encourage respect for those who served in the military.

Additional officers are Vice President Victor Barreto Rios, Steward Mykal McCulloch, Chaplain Abby Konkus, Greeter, Membership Director Amy Burke and Personal Development Director Will Bildheiser.

In addition, the group discussed holding a family picnic in the coming months to introduce others to the Grange and discuss with others what activities the Grange could take on to enhance the community.

All Jefferson members have been invited to travel to Virginville Grange on June 6 to enjoy fellowship with other members at a free, member-appreciation barbeque and milkshake meal at the fundraising event the Berks County chapter is holding.

The Grange also voted to hold their next meeting on Friday, June 4 at 7 p.m. at the gazebo at Bubeck Park in Schuylkill Haven, with the meeting room at the borough’s Senior Center as a back-up in case of bad weather.

At that meeting, Burke will show off the Community Gardens that she established at the park.

Individuals interested in joining can visit to learn more about the Grange, the mission and planned activities of the local organization and apply for membership. Applicants and those interested are invited to attend the June 4 meeting to be welcomed into membership. Dues were set monthly with an online automatic payment plan at $1 for Junior-age children, $2 for youth members 14 to 22, $5 for individuals 23 and older and $10 for families. One-time annual payments can be made online or by check or cash. Individuals or local businesses who wish to support the Grange but not to hold fraternal membership can become associate members for an annual amount of $175 or $325 respectively.

In addition, local businesses may partner with Jefferson Grange, offering discounts to members while receiving recognition on the Grange’s website and several times each year in the local chapter’s bi-weekly e-newsletter. Learn more on the website or contact Brozana Rios at or (301) 943-1090.

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