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Sallal Grange plans to disband next year, close grange hall

It's the beginning of the end of an era. After 75 years of service to the community, the Sallal Grange is going to close next year if someone doesn't come forward to take over.

"We don't want to close the doors," said Beulah "Boots" Fischer, who currently runs the Grange with her husband, Fred. "We'll close because we don't have a person to take care of things."

Although Fischer and her husband run the organization and take care of the grange hall now, they're getting older and may not be able to manage things much longer, she said. Both in their 80s, the couple wants to pass the duty on to younger members. They accepted the job because, "We're the only ones who don't have an extra burden."

This is a problem because there are not many members, young or old, in the local organization. Like other service groups in the Valley, the Grange is having trouble recruiting new members. It is down to about 51 members, just 20 of them local, said Fischer.

"We're having trouble recruiting anybody," Fischer said. "People have other things to do with their lives. But people complain they want the rural atmosphere protected. What's more rural than a grange?"

The couple plans to approach the Washington State Grange between April 15 and the end of May to ask for guidance on what the organization's next step should be, she said. Then, letters will be sent to all Sallal Grange members, calling them to a special meeting to vote on disbanding.

"If someone steps up [to take over], we won't close," Fischer said. "If not, we'll close Dec. 31 of 2007."

If the Grange closes, the hall, located at 12912 432nd Ave. S.E. in North Bend, will no longer be available for rental. All activities and organization meetings currently held there will have to find other locations. The hall has played host to the Kiwanis' Giving Tree, been a polling place for seven precincts during elections and housed meetings for the city of North Bend Utility Local Improvement District (ULID), or the sewer district, according to Fischer. The hall has also been rented out to Mountain View Baptist Church and other groups at $75 per day, its primary source of income.

"We're not that wealthy cash-wise," said Fischer.

The National Grange is a service organization started by farmers in the 1860s, originally called the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, in Minnesota to ensure their rights in civic matters. It has grown into a nationwide organization with roots deeply planted in the goals of championing the needs of farmers, families and communities. Locally, the Sallal Grange began in North Bend in 1930. The Sallal Grange Hall was built in 1958.

Sallal Grange meetings are held the third Thursday of every month at 7:30 p.m. at the Grange Hall. In 2007, the meeting date will change to the second Wednesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. New members must apply, pay $28 per year in dues and a one-time initiation fee of $5, then go through a ritual in which they take an oath to abide by certain rules.

For more information about the Sallal Grange or to become a member, contact Donna Greathouse at (425) 888-4373.

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