|NOVEMBER 18, 2009 --
Eight National Grange members were honored as "Heroes of the Grange" at the 143rd National Grange convention held in Grand Rapids Michigan this week. These individuals were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the Grange.
The first recipients of this prestigious award are Wib and June Justi for their work as coordinators of the Grange Germany/USA Friendship Program. In 1950 the National Grange initiated the Grange Germany/USA Friendship Program (GG/USA). Under this program, more than 500 farm youth from Germany and other ravaged European nations were brought to the United States and placed with Grange farm families for one year to directly experience the benefits of freedom, prosperity and democracy.
Mr. Justi coordinated the GG/USA program from 1950 through 1966 as part of his assignments as a staff member of the National Grange. His wife June served as a volunteer assistant with the program. Since his retirement from the National Grange in 1966 Mr. and Mrs. Justi have served as volunteer coordinators for the GG/USA alumni program continuing to achieve the program goals of building international goodwill, friendship and understanding. In a world that continues to experience continual conflict, the history of the GG/USA program demonstrates that two people working with quiet perseverance can still positively touch the lives of thousands of people around the world. After receiving the award, Mr. Justis stated, "One word...courage. Please think of the word courage when you think of the German exchanges in the GG/USA program and their American host families when they accepted one another at a time immediately after WWII. This tribute is for these people."
Next honored were Ted and Zula Bryan who traveled to Alaska to organize a State Grange pausing only to work at an information booth at the Kenai Peninsula State Fair . In addition to organizing the Alaska State Grange they are currently one of the two couples who serve as the Directors of the Washington State Membership Department and are getting new members and revitalizing Granges all across the State of Washington. Ted Bryan stated, We try to carry the Grange message and give people who have never heard of the Grange the opportunity to be a Grange member and belong to this great organization."
Marge Bernhardt, Connecticut State Grange's Lecturer (educational coordinator), is unquestionably a valuable resource for Lecturers in her state as well as throughout the New England region. She is extremely talented and dedicated to equipping fellow Lecturers with the things they need to be a valuable asset to their own Grange. In addition to her other accomplishments, she leads a training workshop every year at the New England Lecturers' Conference.
Jessica Horton was the next honored "Grange Hero" as a Membership Director for the North Carolina State Grange for 2 years where she has been a key asset in growing the organization. She has organized 3 new Granges including the formation of a Youth Grange. She has also helped organize a Pomona Grange which encompasses 3 counties and 4 Granges. Jessica is a constant support for local Granges by leading membership rallies, giving presentations on Grange membership growth and helping lead a weekend-long state officer's meeting focused on goals set forth by the National President. She has initiated innovative public relations and recruiting efforts by networking at a local farmer's market, county extension office, and agricultural teacher's conference.
Next honored Jack Cottrell Brother Jack Cottrell, who for 10 years has been the manager of a Grange Store that operates during the annual Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, Massachusetts. The exposition is the largest fair in the New England region. The Grange store specializes in selling over 60 different specialty foods products and homemade crafts. More than 75 Grange volunteers annually donate time during the 17-day fair to work at the Grange Store, to manage the sale of raffle tickets and to be promotional Grange Ambassadors.
The last "Hero of the Grange" award went to Carl Meiss, Communications/Public Relations Director for the Pennsylvania State Grange. Carl is proactive when it comes to Facebook, Twitter, and his own State Grange blog. As the National Grange Communications Department takes steps to move the National Organization into the 21 st Century with the newest communications technologies, Pennsylvania with Carl at the helm, will lead the charge.
National Grange President concluded the award luncheon by stating, "I am tremendously honored to be at the podium to present these individual as "Heroes of the Grange." They each deserve the award bestowed upon them and we applaud their ongoing efforts to live by example and promote this wonderful organization."
The National Grange is the nation's oldest general farm and rural public interest organization. Originally founded in 1867, today the Grange represents nearly 200,000 grassroots Grange members affiliated with 2,700 local, county and state Grange chapters located in 40 states. Grange members provide service to agriculture and rural communities on a wide variety of issues, including economic development, education, family endeavors, and legislation designed to assure a strong and viable rural America.