New members vital to Grange’s continuing success

The Charlotte Grange is one of 2,000 community Granges across 41 states, including 18 in Vermont, that are part of the National Grange. Total membership is currently about 80,000 members.

The National Grange was established in 1867 to strengthen rural farming communities. The Grange quickly became influential and was instrumental in establishing landmark federal programs such as the Cooperative Extension Service, the Farm Credit System and Rural Free Delivery of mail. The Grange has continued to advocate effectively for many more issues including universal suffrage, railroad regulations, accessible farm loans, food, nutrition and agriculture support through the federal Farm Bill.

That larger influence is very important, but the Grange’s core is a strong local focus. It is a member-led, grassroots organization whose work is to help address local needs and issues, and in the process give members opportunities to learn and grow as citizens and leaders. It remains rooted in agriculture and support of farm families, but is active in a range of rural, suburban and even urban communities. We all eat; we all rely on the people who grow and raise our food.

Promotion of civic engagement and creative arts, educational programs, especially around food, agricultural issues, community resilience, service projects and social interaction are primary ways Charlotte and other local Granges serve their communities. We enjoy working together and like to have fun, which is probably as nourishing as the good food we regularly share.

After Charlotte Grange was established in 1908, it quickly became important locally for mutual support, cooperative activities and social networking. By 1940, there were 200 members or about one in every five residents. In 1958, when the former Lyceum Schoolhouse on Spear Street in East Charlotte Village was for sale, Charlotte Grange purchased that historic building to use as their home base and as a community resource.

Unfortunately, over the next 50 years membership slowly dwindled due both to members aging out and the rise of many other organizations and activities competing for people’s time.

Then from 2010-20 a handful of new members joined with a determination to keep this worthy institution alive through expanded programs and activities. They also recognized the significant historic value of the little Grange Hall and its need for special stewardship. It is still sturdy, despite having been built in 1870 and used as Lyceum Schoolhouse for 80 years prior to becoming the Grange’s home 65 years ago.

That infusion of new energetic members has slowly but surely attracted even more fresh energy. We now have 36 members, working through several active committees, organizing programs and events and looking after the building. We have created a partner 501(c)3 organization called Friends of Lyceum Schoolhouse with the goal to fundraise for significant upgrades to the building to make it more accessible and available for a variety of uses.

Our strength is growing. We look forward to increased activity in 2024 now that COVID restrictions have been lifted, and the Grange Hall has a new furnace thanks to generous community donors. Members meet on the third Tuesday evening of the month, with a business meeting or potluck supper in alternating months. Grange-curious residents of Charlotte and neighboring towns are welcome.

Our website,, has background and membership information, an upcoming events calendar and ways to donate either to Grange programs and operating expenses or to Friends of Lyceum School for maintenance and upgrading of the Grange Hall. Through the website you can also sign up for our monthly electronic newsletter which goes to members plus those who support the Grange by helping out with activities.

We just completed another successful spring clothing drive for children of Charlotte Food Shelf families and are preparing for honoring veterans by placing flags on Charlotte graves for Memorial Day.

Our March online auction featuring Charlotte businesses and makers was fun but also, with more than 100 offerings from businesses and individuals and more than 150 winning bidders, raised enough to meet our goal of covering operating expenses for the next two years.

Our Charlotte Walks program has returned with the warmer weather, with monthly outings to explore Charlotte’s accessible public trails and the opportunity to chat with other Charlotters along the way.

And, thanks to the generosity of local sponsors, in June and July our popular Grange on the Green series of family-friendly free concerts will return to Town Green, featuring some of the many talented musicians in this area. Dates and performers will be announced soon.

Please join in any of our programs and events. And please consider joining our team by becoming a member so we can offer even more. That’s how we’ll continue to grow and contribute to the mutual support and resilience of our community.

(Linda Hamilton is a member of Charlotte Grange, whose purpose is to honor our agrarian roots and help build a resilient future for all. Click for more info.)