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GOOD NEWS!: Local Grange honored as among tops in nation

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

New York State Grange President Stephen Coye, right, presented the Distinguished Grange Award, a national distinction, to Vernon Starr, vice president of the Bethlehem Grange, and Carol Carpenter, president of the Bethlehem Grange. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

SELKIRK — Sometimes, doing the right thing has its rewards.

The Bethlehem Grange received national recognition for its work in the community and has done so for six years running.

At the same time, two of the Grange’s most active members were honored by the state for their work both with the Grange and elsewhere in the community.

The two awards were presented at Sunday’s meeting of the Bethlehem Grange No. 137, which is based on Maple Avenue in Selkirk.

Grangers Jackie Schrom and Charles Ryan Jr. are the first members of the Bethlehem Grange to receive the award.

“The Gerald M. Eastman Award was first given in 1978 and is presented annually to an individual Granger or a Grange couple who exemplify Christian principles and influence others in a positive way,” Bethlehem Grange President Carol Carpenter said to open the ceremony. “It’s important to note that this award differs from Granger of the Year in that it encompasses service not only to the Grange, but to mankind and throughout the local and greater communities because of their Christian way of life.”

Carpenter submitted the application to the New York State Grange, which made the decision to honor Schrom and Ryan this year.

The list of community services and contributions by Schrom and Ryan is long and ranges from making quilts for the Ronald McDonald House to “adopting” and assisting a homebound senior to raising collections for a Vermont-based dog rescue that matches dogs with veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Our honored couple this year have spent countless hours in projects benefiting not only the Grange and the greater community, but personal human needs as well,” according to a statement by the Bethlehem Grange. “This senior couple, Grangers for less than a decade, have demonstrated a level of fraternalism not seen in many who have been members for many years.”

Bethlehem Grange President Carol Carpenter, left, presents the Gerald Eastman Award to Charles Ryan Jr. and Jackie Schrom, awarded by the New York State Grange. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Among the projects Schrom and Ryan have taken on include transporting a homebound senior to medical appointments and with housework, even purchasing him a new microwave; making quilts and pillowcases for Ronald McDonald House; and assisting the Grange with its many projects, from installing a handicap ramp to collecting bottles and cans for various fundraising purposes.

Ryan said they do what they do not for the glory, but to help people.

“Jackie and I are always telling people that we don’t want the limelight put on us because we don’t do it for that,” Ryan said. “We do it because we love the people that we do it for. My favorite thing I tell people is ‘thank you for helping us to help others.’ I say that all the time.”

The Bethlehem Grange itself was also honored Sunday with the Distinguished Grange Award, one of 24 Granges around the country to receive the honor for 2022, according to the National Grange website.

Only one other Grange in New York — based in Stanford — was selected for the honor.

This was the sixth year in a row the Bethlehem Grange was selected. Bethlehem Grange President Carol Carpenter submitted the application for the award and New York State Grange President Stephen Coye presented the honor Sunday.

“The National Grange has a program called the Distinguished Grange program, which all Granges in the state and the nation are entitled to apply for,” Coye said. “Bethlehem applied and has received this award for several years… Out of the 150 or so Granges in the state, we just had two that qualified this year.”

Among the many projects the Grange has completed include building the handicap ramp to better distribute dinners during the COVID-19 pandemic; installing a flag receptable for worn and tattered flags that need to be decommissioned; sending Christmas cards to overseas troops; repairing and painting the Grange building; and countless projects to aid people in the community and beyond.

The Grange is also collecting returnable bottles and cans and donating the proceeds in March — which will be Girl Scout Month — to two area troops to travel to Florida and Paris, respectively.

“We are workers,” Carpenter said. “We are a very active Grange, and for having only 10 members, we get a lot done.”

The Bethlehem Grange is now gearing up to celebrate its 150th anniversary, which will be on March 17, 2024, and is looking for ways to honor the milestone.

The many projects the Bethlehem Grange carries out qualified them for the award so many years in a row, Coye said.

“They have just put service as No. 1 and that is what this award is about,” Coye said. “They go out into the community and do things that other people aren’t doing. They do what needs to be done.”

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