Saco Grange no. 53 goes strong and focuses on community giving

Saco Grange # 53 was recently honored by the Town of Saco and York County Commissioners with the Spirit of America Award. Some members, carrying banners, stopped for a photo with Saco City Council and others, including Mayor William Doyle and part of Saco’s legislative delegation at a city council meeting in October. The banner members of Grange are Peggy Berry, Sandra Leeman, Dawn Tarbox and Bob Leeman. Andrew Dickinson Photo / City of Saco

SACO – Saco Grange no. 53 has been a landmark in the community for 147 years, since it was organized in Saco by the Ordre des patrons de l’Elevage in 1847, part of a growing movement that swept across the country.

These days, those familiar with the organization and venue at 168 North Street have no doubt attended one of their famous bean suppers, craft fair, or other event.

On the verge of closing its doors seven or eight years ago due to downsizing, Saco Grange no. 53 is doing well these days, with over 50 members on the roster, said Grange secretary Sandra Leeman.

Saco Grange # 53, which has been in the community for 147 years, this year received a Spirit of America Award from Saco City Council and York County Commissioners. Photo by Tammy Wells

They are a busy bunch. Although farming remains part of the barn’s focus, these days the focus has shifted to community service, Leeman said. The members like it, she said.

“We have taken the leap,” said Leeman.

They did, and people took notice, acknowledging not only the current resurgence, but also the long history of the organization and the community.

In October, Saco Grange no. 53 was recognized by the town of Saco with a Spirit of America award and, in early December, by York County Commissioners, who present the awards annually.

The contribution of the barn is important and varied. When COVID-19 brought about changes in the way community organizations delivered services, the barn changed as well – offering its first take-out bean supper in fall 2020 that drew 100 people eager to try beans again. barn.

They hold raffles to benefit various organizations, such as when a quilt donated by the Barn Quilt Club has been raffled, with the proceeds going to a local pantry.

Sales of plants have benefited Cultivation Works.

The Country Jam sessions benefited Volunteers of America Huot House, which provides transitional housing for homeless veterans.

Proceeds from four craft fairs were split between the Saco Middle School Family Adoption Program, CK Burns School Pantry, My Place Teen Center, and Courage Lives.

There were agricultural shows at the Acton, Ossipee Valley and Fryeburg fairs.

The Saco Grange no. 53 Quilt Club sewed 80 sets of bed runners for Ronald McDonald House and now makes quilts for the “We Honor the Veterans” program for hospice veterans.

The knitting group makes hats for cancer patients.

The barn supports Project Linus, providing a space to collect quilts and afghans destined for Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital and Sweetser, and families in need through local hospitals. In March, the barn sponsored a chicken breeding course.

And the list continues.

Dawn Tarbox is the Barn Community Services Manager. She is responsible for checking out the needs of the community, finding ways for the barn to meet them and making sure there are enough volunteers to carry out the projects.

One program she is particularly fond of, which barn members hope to bring back in 2023, is the two-day community clothing donation. COVID-19 has dashed plans to hold the event in the past two years, Tarbox said, but her fingers crossed it could take place in January 2023.

Tarbox has been involved with Saco Grange no. 53 for seven or eight years. She had been there for an event and loved it. After reading that they were running out of active members, “I said ‘sign me up’,” she said. “I’ve been there ever since. I love it.”

Sandra Leeman and her husband Bob, who is currently serving a third term as Barnmaster, joined around the same time.

“My mother, Patricia Berry, grew up in the Barn,” said Sandra Leeman. “She got me involved, as well as my husband. When I was elected there were seven or eight active members.

She said the group at the time was on the verge of shutting down. But they persevered; some old members have returned and new ones have joined.

“It was hard work keeping it open,” said Bob Leeman. “It’s mostly community service now, and that’s what keeps people signing up. “

Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of the month, either at Grange Hall or online, as COVID-19 continues. For more information, send an email to: [email protected].

Other Spirit of America Award recipients this year were: community volunteer David Flood of Biddeford; Arundel Fire and Rescue; those who work for the Old Orchard Beach Fire Department and the Old Orchard Beach Police Department; Kennebunk Parks and Recreation Department; and community volunteer Claire Julian from Kennebunkport.

Additional York County recipients include the Newfield Volunteer Fire Department and Newfield Rescue, and volunteer Gloria Dyer, also of Newfield; Cornish community volunteer Diann Perkins; the Leach family of South Berwick; Buxton Fire Chief’s Nathan Schools; community volunteers Joseph Palmer, and John and the late Beth Mattor, both of Hollis; Youth Full Maine in Dayton; community volunteer Leo Ruel de Lyman; community volunteers, John and Elizabeth Champion, and the children of Pittiglio, all of North Waterboro; Shapleigh pandemic volunteers and essential workers; Waban in Sanford; and the Rotary Club of York.

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