The Sandy Grange's new start
The Sandy Grange just doesn't fit in with today's fast-paced, digital, modern culture.
The 102-year-old building on Kelso Road that used to be a schoolhouse doesn't have a television set, a computer or even a telephone.
When the 30-or-so active members aren't hosting monthly pancake breakfasts or twice-monthly bingo nights, they talk about legislation affecting the farm community and pick up trash on Kelso Road.
The Grange, tucked away just north of the hustle and bustle of Highway 26, hearkens back to a different culture, a different mentality - and its members wouldn't have it any other way.
'It's a family organization,' said Nina Stables, 77, who has been a member of the Sandy Grange the past 58 years. 'When you join, you feel like part of a family. If you don't have grandparents or grandkids, you'll find them there.'
Stable joined the Grange in 1949, during the group's time of peak membership (around 1 million people). Then, the focus was exclusively agriculture and grassroots political activism on issues affecting farmers.
But over the next 50 years, she watched the strict farm focus fade as the economy and the landscape changed.
'As we went along, small farms in this area kind of dried up, because everything started growing out,' Stable said. 'The organization changed its stature because it realized what was happening.'
That emphasis changed from agriculture issues - although legislative updates still are very much a part of monthly Grange meetings - to community service.
'We're stressing community service now more than ever before,' Stable said. 'We still have our roots in agriculture, though. We worked to make life better for farmers; now we're in the process of trying to make life better for everyone.'
The Grange does that by letting community groups use the Grange Hall and through community service efforts such as its Oregon Food Bank collections, Kelso Road cleanup and support for families in need.
The Grange meets for a potluck at 6:30 p.m. the second Saturday of every month, followed by the organization's general meeting.
'One thing the Grange is noted for is its cooking,' Stable said.
Today, many locals experience the Grange through bingo night, which takes place the first and third Fridays of every month starting at 7 p.m. - with a $500 jackpot every time. The Grange also hosts an all-you-can-eat breakfast of pancakes, eggs and ham the last Sunday of every month.
'We get a good crowd of regulars,' Grange Master Jake Cansler said. 'They expect us to be here.'
Grange leaders hope to make its 70-year-old kitchen even more of a focal point by finishing a renovation that has been in the works for three years.
The Grange wants to start hosting dinners and special events for anyone wishing to rent the hall, making it even more of a community meeting place than ever.
The Grange spent its $30,000 loan to gut the kitchen, and it needs another $10,000 to finish the remodel, which would pay for final fixtures and new appliances.
'The Grange Hall is a real intricate part of our work,' Stable said. 'We use (grange halls) for our community to assemble; that's why we need to get it back in shape again over there.'
To bring the Grange into the 21st century, the organization will host its first-ever auction fund-raiser Saturday evening, Oct. 6 at the hall, 34705 Kelso Road.
'I see them struggling and struggling, having bingos and breakfasts, bringing in $300 to $400,' said Susan Cook. 'It's not enough to get them ahead, and not that many people are helping them. Prices are skyrocketing, and it costs more every day to wait.'
Cook - the auction coordinator and an 'honorary' member of the Grange whose great-grandfather, John Jonsrud, built the hall - hopes to raise $10,000 for the kitchen remodeling project.
She thinks the high-quality items up for bid will easily accomplish that goal.
The silent auction opens at 6:30 p.m., followed by an oral auction at 7 p.m. There will be around 200 items available, 100 at each auction.
The silent auction offers many antiques and vintage items as well as boxes of books, lift tickets to Mt. Hood Meadows, a skateboard, jewelry, and many different themed gift baskets.
Big-ticket items at the oral auction include two sets of two round-trip tickets to anywhere Southwest Airlines or Horizon Air flies. There's also a DVD player with 100 movies (50 westerns, 50 mysteries) included, a computerized telescope, a Chinook Winds overnight package, golf packages from the Broadmore and Stone Creek resorts, an overnight McMenamins package, Thomas Kincade prints, Danner boots, 'a night at the movies,' a Bowflex, an iPod and a bike - to name a few.
The oral auction also features some items produced by Grange members, including a rocking chair made by Karen Cansler, a quilt made by Grange legacy Wava Ludi and free Grange hall rentals - some include a meal.
Of course, this isn't your everyday auction. Paying tribute to the organization's agricultural roots, bidders will try to win a pregnant white-faced Hereford cow, a ton of hay, cords of wood, a whole pig cut and wrapped to specifications, arbor trellises and nursery stock.
'All of these items are worth $100 or more,' Cook said. 'We've got something for everyone.'
There will be free refreshments and goodies to all attendees. Admission is free, but expect to walk away with something. There's just too much good stuff.
'We're looking to have a lot of fun,' Cook said. Organizers are expecting around 100 people.
Those people who are on the fence about going to the auction this year shouldn't expect to go next year; Cook says this is a one-time-only thing to give the kitchen project its last boost.
'This is the first and only time,' she said.
Sparking an interest
Grange leaders hope that the auction sparks an interest in their organization.
Cansler, a machinist and part-time Christmas tree farmer, says being a part of the Grange is 'just sort of a natural thing' because he's been going to the organization's functions since birth.
His family - including grandma Nina Stable - has been deeply involved in the organization, and Cansler hopes the next generation will catch hold of that legacy 'because it's history.' Otherwise, 'it's a dying thing.'
ABOUT THE SANDY GRANGE
The Sandy Grange organized in 1909, and after a short stint at the Odd Fellows Lodge, it met at a building that once sat on the land now occupied by the Sandy Weekend Market. The group met there until that building was condemned. It sold the property and used the money to buy the former Kelso schoolhouse - built in 1905 - in 1947, where it has been ever since. The first Grangemaster was Elijah Coalman, a locally famous mountain man for whom Coalman Road is named.
'The Sandy Grange has always been a small grange because it's not a large community,' longtime member Nina Stable said. 'But it's been a very active grange.'
The youngest member of the Sandy Grange is 3 months old, the oldest 87.
Member dues are $50 per family or $25 per individual. Visitors are welcome to sit in on any meeting (at 6:30 p.m. the second Saturday of every month) to see what the group is all about. Call Grange Master Jake Cansler at 503-970-6041 for more information.