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Around The Grange
Oklahoma Granges continue to be active in the local community

By Belvidere Daily Republican (11/18/11)

  NOVEMBER 18, 2011 --

Sunday was one of those days that will be remembered for a long time.

Flora Grange and Big Thunder Grange, both of Belvidere, Oklahoma, were having fund-raisers on opposite sides of the city. Earlier in the morning Flora Grange was notified it had won a first place, national award for community service the night before at the National Grange convention in Tulsa, Okla.

The state Grange president called Jack Ratcliffe’s house that morning looking for his wife, Laurel, who had coordinated the contest entry. She wasn’t home. She was at the Grange building off Stone Quarry Road, putting the finishing touches on the twice-annual roast beef dinner that would happen a bit later in the day.

So Jack Ratcliffe was the one to notify his wife, though he didn’t do so right away.

“He said we had to go out and celebrate but he wouldn’t say for what,’’ Laurel Ratcliffe related that afternoon, still busy with the dinner. It was a while later before he related what he had been told by the state president.

There won’t be any immediate celebrating, however. “We still have harvesting to get done before winter,’’ she said. “Work before pleasure.’’

Tom Ratcliffe, Jack’s brother and president of Flora Grange, said the organization’s extensive work in the community took third in the nation two years ago and first in the state this year. Laurel put together this year’s entry for the national competition, a scrapbook filled with photographs and articles on what Flora Grange does to benefit the community.

A short list includes Safety Town every summer at the Boone County Fairgrounds, participating in Belvidere’s Hometown Christmas, providing dictionaries for third graders and helping put together the annual county fair. 

“We have a lot of hard workers,’’ Laurel Ratcliffe said. “I was surprised; I didn’t think it would happen.’’

Jack Ratcliffe said he didn’t know how many Granges entered the community service competition, but noted there are about 2,700 such organizations in 30 states across the country.

Big Thunder Grange, also extensively involved with community service, was putting on its annual toy sale in its building at the fairgrounds.

Toys of all shapes, sizes and descriptions lined tables on both floors of the building while hotdogs, barbecue sandwiches, chili, soft drinks and slices of pie were being sold on the lower level.

Richard Nelson, a retired auctioneer from Belvidere, offered farm equipment, train engines and train cars for sale. He even had a flashing railroad crossing sign that doubled as a bank.

But he seemed happiest with a little Radio Flyer racer, made mostly of tin, which he bought that day from Sally Dredske of Poplar Grove, another of the vendors.

Nelson still does auctions, a lot of them for fund-raisers, and works part-time at the Boone County Historical Museum in Belvidere. He also takes his toys on the road to other sales, mostly in the Belvidere – Rockford area. “Every year,’’ he said. “There’s always something different.’’

Sally Dredske’s table had a little bit of most everything, from dolls to a wagon filled with little bears.

Next to her was Dave Krieg of Harvard with his antique trucks and farm equipment from the 1950s. A ‘50s spreader was still in the box.

Proceeds go to community projects and college scholarships it awards each year to high school seniors.

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