Friday September 7, 2012

Community. When viewed as a group of people organizing themselves in a social way within larger society, many things come to mind. I see an amazing power and ability to effect positive change. When people within a respectful community support one another, be it through listening, helping, working, teaching or mentoring, they are building relationships that are the basis for strong and positive growth for individuals, organizations, industries, living communities such as cities and towns and even internationally.

I am part of many communities -- the community of West Brattleboro, the Academy school community, our local food community, a church community the parenting community and a community of friends. If you’ve been reading my columns right along, you know that I grew up in a family closely connected to the agricultural community through my grandparent’s produce and maple farm. My parents were members of other communities as well; the community of Williamsville where I grew up where and my dad was also a volunteer fire fighter and served on the town select board while my mom was part of gardening groups and also active in our schools.

When you think about how various communities are interwoven through their members, you can see how being involved and combining our efforts can make a huge impact. We all make choices about how we are going to spend our time -- be it for employment, enjoyment or volunteering -- and these choices help define our personal, and therefore our greater communities.


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A great example of this is how the arts community in our area has such strength and supports many other local communities. This is something that I love about living here in the Southeast corner of Vermont; our choices about how to live have really developed our communities into something special.

Some of my long-time favorite community events are the Chicken Pie Suppers put on by the Evening Star Grange 154 in Dummerston Center. I remember sitting at long tables family style in the hall of the grange with my family and grandparents, eating the delicious homemade chicken and biscuits. Living in Dummerston, my grandparents seemed to know everybody, and the socializing and exchanging of information that went on was astounding. I loved feeling a part of this group of people, however indirect, and have made it a priority to support the Grange by eating a delicious dinner with my husband and girls as often as possible.

What I have learned is that the Grange plays an important role in our greater community. The Grange is a member of the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry which is a community grown out of agriculture following the Civil War in 1867. It is a grassroots nonprofit, nonpartisan organization rooted in agriculture, community and family that was founded on a national level with local focus. They have a Junior Grange program for kids and a Youth program for developing leadership skills of young people, all focusing on supporting people locally. It is this local focus that is what makes the grange such a force in local communities.

Evening Star Grange is a historic building on the edge of Dummerston Center on East West Road. They hold two Chicken Pie Suppers a year, one in June and one in September, as well as a Peach Shortcake Supper on August. They are also a cornerstone of the Dummerston Apple Pie Festival in October, raising money by grilling up hamburgers, hot dogs and selling corn chowder. In turn, they funnel the money they raise back into the community in a variety of ways; hosting senior meals twice a month, local fuel assistance, upkeep of their building for use by the Vermont Theatre Company, craft fairs, and preparation of meals for the Overflow Shelter in Brattleboro to name a few.

While I will not be able to attend the Chicken Pie Supper this Saturday night, Sept. 8, from 5-7 p.m., I will be thinking jealously of everyone who is. Join the many members of our many communities at the Grange for a home-cooked fall-themed dinner of chicken and biscuits, corn casserole, winter squash, scalloped onions, topped off with delicious apple-themed desserts made from apples from the Scott Farm in Dummerston. See who you know and say hello, see what you learn and feel a vital, supportive and supported part of one of the many communities of our special corner of Vermont.

Julie Potter is a wife, mother of two, avid gardener and passionate cook who believes good food doesn’t have to be complicated. Share your thoughts with her at jpottercooks@gmail.com.