Editor, The Spotlight;
On Saturday morning, I woke to an email alerting me to your recent editorial where you discuss the need for a new roof at the storied Bethlehem Grange Hall.
I want to commend you for your insight into what makes a town not just loosely grouped people under the same leadership of elected local officials but a hometown that holds a special place in the hearts of those who grew up there and those who settled because they found a sense of place and peace within its borders.
As a lifelong Grange member, honored now to serve as its National President, I understand that sometimes it’s the simplicity of dances, fundraising dinners and rummage sales to support local areas of need that someone points to as a favorite feature of their hometown.
Each time we are notified that a Hall has been sold or abandoned for lack of funds for repairs, I imagine the loss to the community that they may not realize in that moment.
Like nearly every other Grange Hall around the country, Bethlehem Grange Hall – which is on the National Historic Register – serves as a space where the true meaning of community is built and maintained. This Grange, too, teaches the value of community, good citizenship and service to some of the youngest members of your area who join as Junior Grange members.
If you have or had a child in a local school, you have likely been a beneficiary of the generosity of Bethlehem Grange, whose members have collected countless Box Tops for Education and provided hundreds of third graders with dictionaries through the Words for Thirds program.
If you enjoy the cultural enrichment of the Albany Symphony, Bethlehem Grange members have volunteered at the Vanguard House for years.
Members volunteer with the Town of Bethlehem Seniors, provide lap rugs to local nursing home residents and mittens and caps to the Albany County Social Services who distributes them to preschool children in need.
They’ve held true to one of our core principles – an interest in agriculture – by working with the local food pantry as volunteers and collecting pudding and yogurt cups so seedlings can be started and given to food pantry recipients so they may start to grow just a small bit of their own food.
Like most other Granges, they play well with other organizations in town, collecting pop tops for Shriners and providing meeting space for other organization that serve the community.
Those who have called up on the volunteer fire and rescue company of Selkirk can thank the Grange for its key support to get the emergency response agency started, and today the Hall, even with its roof in need of repair, is designated as a shelter for the town of Bethlehem.
This little local Grange also makes a difference on a national level by collecting bottle caps as part of the Caps for Love program, to purchase wheelchairs for handicapped children, and ConAgra product labels as part of a program to provide meals for needy families through Feeding America.
It is my greatest hope that Bethlehem Grange #137 can count on the citizens of Albany County to support them as the Grange has done for its community for generations.
Betsy Huber, President, National Grange
EDITOR’S NOTE: The National Grange Foundation has partnered with Bethlehem Grange to collect donations for the needed roof repairs. As a 501(c)(3), the Foundation can provide receipts that donors may be able to use for tax deductions. Donations can be sent to National Grange Foundation, 1616 H St. NW, Washington, DC 20006. All checks should include Bethlehem Grange Hall Fund on the memo line.