Browsing through tables filled with plants and seeds on Saturday morning at Marys River Grange Hall, Trudy and Tim Ewing paused for a moment to see how much cash they had on hand. A few minutes later, the Philomath couple made a purchase and were on their way.
It may seem like an inconsequential moment, but it means a lot to the local organization. The pandemic has pretty much wiped out the grange’s income over the past year and the Plant Sale and Seed Swap represented an exciting opportunity to not only bring in some needed bucks, but to actually interact with people.
“The income is nice, but seriously, what’s better is seeing the people again and having people come out and show support for our community,” said Sonny Hays-Eberts, Marys River Grange president. “It’s tough to take a year off and not be involved and then you wonder, did people get used to staying home and that sort of thing? So that was, I think, far more reaffirming than making money. The money is nice but eventually we’ll start renting our hall and get that done.”
By the way, the grange doesn’t keep all of the proceeds. A portion goes to Philomath Community Services.
“We really like to support Philomath Community Services, I mean all different aspects of it,” Hays-Eberts said. “The garden, the food bank, the holiday cheer, the gleaners, and actually a lot of people that work with Philomath Community Services have become grange members.”
Hays-Eberts said the event drew a nice flow of people when it opened up at 10 a.m. Saturday in an area just off the hall’s parking lot. It was scheduled to continue until 4 p.m. All of the expected pandemic restrictions were in place. Outdoor ornamentals, free seeds, vegetable and house plants, flowers, eggs and even cedar birdhouses were among the items being offered.
Those last two items mentioned — birdhouses and eggs — were both associated with the Laura and Matt Coen family.
“They’re just an awesome family; they do a lot of work with the grange,” said Hays-Eberts, adding that their children, Phoebe and Wyatt, are in the junior grangers program. “Laura, she volunteers with the school … and Matt, he does a lot of work on the hall and the grounds.”
It was Matt Coen who built the birdhouses, fashioned out of some cedar trees that had died on the grange property.
Laura Coen is getting ready to restart yoga classes on May 11 at the Grange Hall (Tuesdays, 7-8 p.m., $5 for members, $10 for nonmembers, bring own equipment). The class had started in 2019 but hit the pause button in 2020 except for a few times outdoors and virtually.
“It’s a really cool space in there with the lights overhead and the wood stove, wood floors,” she said. “It’s a really nice place to practice yoga. I’m excited to start it up again.”
The Coen family represents an example of connections that the organization has made in the community. On the brink of death in 2009, the local grange survived and just recently surpassed 100 members, one of the larger groups in the entire state.
“Since then, we’ve really turned it around,” Hays-Eberts said. “It’s awesome because we do get people like the Coens … people who are really involved and bring a lot of energy.”
The organization’s junior grangers program for ages 4-14 has taken off.
“It’s huge because that really ensures our longer-term survival rather than just being a bunch of 50- and 60-year-old members. And we’re doing stuff with them; we have a nature detectives program and we go out and explore the creek here or Bald Hill.”
As far as the bottom line, Hays-Eberts said Marys River Grange has been able to survive with savings it had in place and through a small grant from the Oregon State Grange. But he added, “We are at the point where we need to start doing things again.”
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