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News / Northwest

Granges seek funds to keep community centers in rural Cowlitz County

By Brennen Kauffman, , The Daily News, Longview, Wash. (TNS),
Published: June 9, 2023, 7:38am

Jun. 8—The Rose Valley Grange is used to fundraising for good causes in the community. Now they’re working to raise money to keep the building open.

Last Saturday the grange held a rummage sale in the building at the same time as the neighborhood’s annual community garage sale. The fundraisers are seeking to bring in at least $40,000 to bring the building’s septic system and furnace online.

“Our kids and grandkids went through here, it’s been important and we cannot let it go,” Rose Valley Grange leader Nicole Nickel said. “The community is still invested here.”

Nickel was one of several grange members at the building Tuesday morning to clean up and reorganize from Saturday’s event. Other members of the Rose Valley community trickled through the building during the morning, helping to set up a makeshift clothes hanger for future sales throughout the summer and offering to donate items.

Granges started out as fraternal organizations for farmers after the Civil War, giving them a place to organize community events or political efforts. The Rose Valley Grange was established in 1930 and the current building has been around since 1953.

Washington has one of the largest networks of granges in the U.S. with around 200 active chapters listed on the Washington State Grange website. Cowlitz County has six granges still operating, down from a peak of 28 locations.

Over the last few decades, the Rose Valley Grange’s focus has shifted away from farming to community events. The grange organizes a wide range of community events, from making quilts for nursing homes to running food drives to planning the Rose Valley Community Garage Sale, which they also sell maps for. Several of the grange’s projects work with students at the neighboring Rose Valley Elementary School.

“A lot of us have gotten into it because it makes such an impact on the community. It’s a way to meet a lot of new people,” member Tammy Johnson said.

As a nonprofit, the grange’s main source of revenue is renting out the building for events. That has not been possible for the last year after one of the lines in the septic system collapsed, leaving the building with no working bathrooms. The furnace broke around the same time, also leaving facility without heat.

The Cowlitz County Commissioners approved the grange’s request of $5,400 on May 23 to help cover such maintenance.

Commissioners approved another $7,800 request Tuesday from the Sunnyside Grange 129 in Castle Rock. Funding for both granges comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, federal pandemic relief aid that brought millions to the county.

Silver Lake Grange members also requested $10,000 from the county to repair their roof, but the proposal is still being reviewed.

Brad Hoisington said he helped rebuild Silver Lake’s grange into one of the most active granges in the county over the past seven years. Hoisington said each grange was largely on their own to keep up their building and find the best ways to engage with the community.

“If we throw something out there and it sticks to the wall, then we keep doing it,” he said. “We are finding there is longing from everybody to get together and get out of their own circle.”

If you go

What: Rose Valley Grange rummage sale to fund building repairs.

When: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., July 15.

Where: Rose Valley Grange, 1520 Rose Valley Rd., Kelso.

Info: www.facebook.com/rosevalleygrange