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Sterling's Ekonk Grange named best in nation for community service

By Don Bond, Norwich Bulletin (12/9/12)

  DECEMBER 9, 2012 --

When it comes to community service, every Grange in America is looking up to the Ekonk Community Grange in Sterling.

The Ekonk Grange captured first place in the National Grange’s 2012 Community Service competition, placing ahead of the winners from 28 other states across the nation. All told, 589 Granges submitted entries seeking the award, according to Jody Cameron, a member of the executive committee of the Ekonk Grange.

“Initially, the entries were judged at the state level, with our entry capturing first place in Connecticut,” he said. “Then the 29 state winners were submitted to a national panel, which ranked us as the best.”

In recognition of its top ranking, the Ekonk Grange will receive a first place certificate and a $400 cash prize. The money likely will be put toward the Grange’s charitable efforts in 2013, Grange President Kate Molodich said.

Cameron said the scoring in the national competition was close, with the Ekonk Grange winning by the slim margin of four points on a scale of 100. The nearby Richmond, R.I., Grange captured second place in the national judging, a rare sweep by southern New England Granges.

Molodich and Grange Secretary Sue Gray credited Rebecca Gervais, the organization’s community service chairperson, with cataloging and preparing the Ekonk Grange’s entry, which detailed an estimated total of 22,716 hours of volunteer service provided by the 140 people who are active members.

These activities included support of the American Legion Veterans’ housing project in Jewett City. The Grange raised money to help finance construction of 18 housing units for homeless veterans at two suppers.

“We were invited honored guests at the dedication and there is a plaque identifying the Grange as a contributor,” Gray said.

Molodich said the Grange will continue to raise money for the veterans project.

“They need money to build a parking lot and for the daily operating expenses,” vice president Link Cooper said.

Other projects, Gray said, include working closely with Sterling Community School, including providing Christmas gifts for a family the Grange adopts annually and making lap robes and slippers for nursing home residents.

Another of its major projects involves preparing and publishing copes of the Sterling Community Calendar, which lists the access information for all town officials, the meeting dates for all local government boards and commissions and all other organizations in Sterling, as well as a listing of local churches.

Grange member Michael Molodich serves as chairman of the Sterling Family Day Committee, and Kate Molodich and Cooper also volunteer their time on that committee.

Other Grange volunteer endeavors include organizing the Ekonk Grange Fair, an event held each summer at the Grange hall on Route 49; and serving an annual dinner for members and alumni of the Killingly High School Chapter of the Future Farmers of America. Members of both the junior and senior Granges also participate in the town’s Memorial Day parade, piling onto one of Molodich Farms’ large tractor-drawn hay trailers for the ride through Sterling and Oneco villages.

The Grange will expand its community service efforts in 2013 when it takes over operation of the food booth at the Plainfield Relay for Life.

During the 24-hour weekend event, the Grange will serve three meals: lunch and supper on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday.

“The Grange won’t make any money. All profits from the meals goes to the American Cancer Society,” Molodich said.

The Junior Grangers also recently did their part toward the community service effort when they collected pledges and earned about $500 for walking laps at the Sterling Park track.

Veteran Grangers like Gray and Cameron credit some of the success of the senior Grange to the continual influx of junior Grange members once they reach the eligibility age of 14.

“Their enthusiasm helps keep us older member going,” Cameron said. “Many of them have learned leadership skills in Junior Grange and carry that with them as they join the adults.”

Cameron said the willingness of the adult Grange members to allow the younger generation to test its leadership skills has helped strengthen the program.

“Our last four presidents have been teenagers,” Cameron said proudly, pointing to Molodich, 18, as a prime example of the success of the young adults.

Molodich joined the junior Grange at the age of 5, the youngest age for membership. She served in numerous junior Grange offices, including president.

“Having an active junior Grange has helped provide new leaders for the adult Grange, and that’s a plus for the entire Grange program,” she said.

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