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Around The Grange
Ekonk Community Grange in Sterling thrives on youthful leadership

By Don Bond, Norwich Bulletin (4/3/12)

  APRIL 3, 2012 --

While Granges in some northeastern Connecticut towns struggle to remain active, the Ekonk Community Grange is thriving.

It has a membership of about 170, many of whom are still active in its programs, and its Grange Hall at the Sterling-Voluntown border on Ekonk Hill Road hosts suppers and other events that raise money for a variety of community and Grange-related causes.

“I think one of the reasons we’ve remained successful is that we work hard to involve the young people in the Grange,” said Sterling First Selectman Russell Gray, a past master, who also served for four years as president of the Connecticut State Grange.

That’s evident today. Jay Allen Cameron, a college student, is president, and Kate Molodich, a high school senior, is vice president.

Gray said both of his daughters, Rebecca Gervais and Deborah Sharpe, were presidents while they were in high school, and others, including Dawn Deojay and Craig Hopps, have also held the top office while they were in high school.

Gervais said being among family and friends she’d known for years made her time as president easier to handle.

“I’m not an accomplished public speaker, but I had a great support system with my parents and others that made it a very positive experience,” Gervais said. “It was very empowering with no fear of failure.”

Gray said the Grange, originally an agriculture-based organization, has gravitated toward public service in recent years.

That’s why members of the United Protestant Church of Sterling have been allowed to conduct fundraising activities as part of two recent chowder and clam cake suppers. The church is trying to raise money to repair its basement, which was damaged by flooding three years ago.

Grange members also collect canned goods at events that Gray, without fanfare, distributes to needy families in Sterling. The organization, in recent months, has raised money to help an autistic boy in Plainfield obtain a specially trained companion dog and donated to the effort to establish a veterans home in Jewett City.

Sterling resident Lincoln Cooper recently joined the Grange after helping out with some repairs to its hall.

“It helps those who need to be helped, and I find that is a very admirable thing to do,” Cooper said. “It is something I wanted to be a part of, so I decided to become a Grange member.”

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