Rising to the Challenge at Great Plains

Youth work to lift a tire over a post without touching the side.

Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade

National Grange Youth Director

LAWRENCE, Kansas – “You got it! Here, how about this? This is frustrating!” were just some of the statements Grange youth shared as they tackled the Adams Challenge Course at Kansas University during the 2017 Great Plains Regional Youth/Leaders Conference.

Nineteen youth took on the course to figure out how to work as a team, improve communication skills and have fun.

“Challenge courses provide a chance to see what skills each Grange member has,” said Outstanding Young Patron Mandy Bostwick. She organized the youth portion of the conference. “It was interesting to watch how each member reacted to the task issued by the course leaders and then how the team tried to figure out course of action for success.”

Some tasks were easily achieved others were not. “Many of the challenges required planning and working out the idea before talking the station,” Asa Houchin, National Grange Youth Ambassador, said. A favorite station was called “The Giant’s Thumb,” which required youth to lift a tire up and over a tall pole. The catch was if the tire touched the pole, the group had to start over. The talents of some former cheerleaders helped to give a boost to succeed.

The challenge course brought the group together to attempt tasks that alone would be very difficult to complete.

In addition to the challenge course, youth participated in workshops and contests.

Two youths from Texas won the group Sign A Song Contest and the Best of Show award. They are Megan Becerra and Falicity Leaming.

Two youth will represent the Great Plains region at National Session in Grange Jeopardy. They are Mandy Bostwick and Mandi Strwader.

The results of the other youth contests are as follows:

The prepared speech winner who will represent the region in the Evening of Excellence is Leslie Nutter of Oklahoma. Katelyn Bailey of Oklahoma won the youth division.

Radio Spot young adult division: 1. Molly Newman, Kansas.

Impromptu Youth: 1. Michael Leaming, Texas;   2. Krissy Hawk, Oklahoma; 3. Kathryn Honesto, Texas.

Impromptu Young Adult 1. Molly Newman. 2. Mandy Bostwick.



Learning to Serve: 2017 Eastern Regionals Recap

Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade

National Grange Youth Director

NEWARK, Del. – More than 30 Grangers including Grange youth and young adults gathered in Newark, Delaware for the 2017 Eastern Regional Youth Conference. The event was June 9-11.

Grange youth present their community service idea at the 2017 Eastern Regional Youth Conference.

Hosted by the Delaware State Grange, the event brings Grange youth together to connect with fellow youth from other states, participate in workshops, gain leadership skills and participate in a community service project.

The Delaware Special Olympics coincided with the conference. Grange youth supported the event by cheering for the athletes engaged in the track and swimming events at the University of Delaware campus.

“Community service is a longstanding tradition in the Grange and the youth department,” said National Grange Youth Development Director Charlene Shupp Espenshade. “Whether your actions are big or small, community service is about making a difference in the community.”

Espenshade and National Grange Youth Ambassador Asa Houchin of Ohio led a community service-themed workshop. Attendees were broken into groups and asked to develop a new community service project.

“It was amazing to see the ideas the groups developed,” Houchin said. “Many of the projects focused on giving a ‘hand up instead of a hand out.’ They focused on a community need and looked to bring other groups along side the Grange to make a difference.”

Ideas focused on using a Grange hall as a community action center, working with homeless veterans and talking food insecurity.

National Junior Grange Ambassador Jomni Tarbell showed members how to raise the awareness for honeybees. Honeybee awareness is a Junior Grange project.

The youth and young adults competed in several regional contests.

Jennifer Nauss of Valley Grange #1360 in Pennsylvania won the Best of Show Award in the prepared public speaking contest. She will present her award-winning speech at the Evening of Excellence during the 151st National Grange Convention in Spokane, Washington.

Three Grange youth, Jennifer Nauss, Asa Houchin of Ohio and Cassidy Cheddar of Pennsylvania, won the Grange Jeopardy contest and will represent the Eastern region at the national contest in November.

A regional impromptu public speaking contest rounded out the event. The winners are as follows.


Youth division: 1- Sara Benzio 2- Asa Houchin 3- Casey Kerschner

Young adult division: 1- Jenn Nauss 2- Cassidy Cheddar 3- Phillip Vonada

Adult division: 1- Ellen Wadsworth 2- Anna May Nauss

For photos form the event, go to the National Grange Youth Facebook page.


Guest submission: Prepping to speak to legislators

This submission comes from our friends over at the Center for Rural Affairs. This is full of good tips before you head to the hill this spring to advocate for the Grange.

Time to call your legislators
By Stephanie Enloe, Center for Rural Affairs

With legislative sessions in full swing, it is vital for rural constituents to contact legislators regarding issues that affect our communities. Here are some simple tips for calling your legislators.

Before contacting your legislator, take five minutes to visit their website and learn about their party affiliation, their background, and their stances on your priority issues. This research will help you craft a message that appeals to shared values.

Next, prepare two or three talking points that outline why your legislator should support your stance. If you want to talk about renewable energy, for example, legislators might be interested in economic benefits, environmental benefits or public health benefits. It is helpful to write out your talking points ahead of time.

When you call your legislator’s office, you will likely get a staff person. It is still worthwhile to speak with staffers. Introduce yourself and tell the legislator or staffer why you are calling. Start with a personal story or value statement, then use the talking points you prepared. End with a request for your legislator to support a bill or take a stance on an issue.

Finally, remember to be confident, courteous, brief and passionate. Even if you disagree with a legislator’s position, do not resort to name-calling, swearing or threats. End by thanking your legislator so you can continue to build your relationship.



From the Director’s Chair: Create Management Mondays

One of the most overwhelming parts of being a youth director is keeping up with all of the details of the job and balancing family, work, and farm. My farm office desk gets overwhelmed very easily.

About a year ago, I was doing my daily blog check and a headline comes flying across the feed: “Create Management Mondays.” I was intrigued. So, I clicked and read.

Lou Tonneson at Farm Progress shared several suggestions from David Koupal, a South Dakota Extension farm business management instructor.

“We know there are specific dates throughout the year to mark on your calendar: weddings, Black Friday, all the holidays, church functions, school activities, date night with your spouse, and the list goes on. What I want you to do is set aside Management Monday to do your management records,” he says. “The No. 1 issue with many of my clients is trying to find time to complete their monthly records. I agree it is hard during the year to get those records complete on a regular basis. So what I would like to suggest is Management Mondays. Pick out one or two Mondays during the month to work on the record-keeping. Depending on the size of your operation, this procedure may take anywhere from an hour to most of the day. Some may be able to stay current with only one Monday a month, where others may need to devote more time.”

The suggestions go on to say:

“The biggest obstacle is to have self-discipline to dedicate the time to complete the records. By consistently completing records on a monthly basis, I see more accuracy with my own book-keeping. Staying current with billing statements helps keep track of payments and may avoid late fees,” he says.

In order to have success with Management Mondays, everyone in the operation needs to respect the person who completes the records, Koupal says.

How does this work in my role as a youth director. It designates a time to tackle the needed filings, record keeping and planning for the department. It does not have to be Monday, and could easily be “Management Saturday” or “Management Thursday” if that works better in your schedule.

I have found by designating a dedicated time in my calendar, it carves out a defined time for department work.

I have worked at the “Management Monday” program with my farm business. I am not perfect, but I have found the “Management Monday” program has helped to manage the to-do list on my desk. I hope it might help you as well.

–  Charlene Shupp Espenshade, National Grange Youth Director

Youth activity idea: Scrabble tile coasters

Grangers work on their scrabble coasters.

The Pennsylvania Grange youth department organized a take-home project that was a hit at its recent young adult conference, Scrabble tile coasters. It might sound crazy, but I think the genius was in its simplicity and uniqueness.
The idea was discovered by Pennsylvania State Grange youth director Ellen Wadsworth on Pintrest. A short search and presto, I was linked up to a set of instructions that I could share.
First, you need to purchase Scrabble tiles. They can be purchased online through craft supply stores or Amazon. The other supplies are cork board cut into squares to fit about 4 tiles across and 4 tiles down, glue and polyurethane spray.
Arrange the tiles toGrangers work on their scrabble coasters.

build words or a message, use blanks to fill in spaces, and glue the tiles onto the cork. Once dry, take the coaster outside to spray and seal with the polyurethane and let dry.
For photos on the how to, go to http://www.listotic.com/35-easy-diy-gift-ideas-everyone-will-love/20/.

Motivational Monday Idea: Easter Egg Hunt

Looking for an idea to engage your community? Here’s is one of the many ideas from the 2016 National Grange Youth’s edition of “Recipes for Success.” These are tired-and-true activities from Grange youth, youth leaders and others to help encourage youth involvement.

With Easter a few weeks away, an Easter Egg Hunt is one way to generate community involvement. The members of Pleasant Lodge #134 in Indiana host this event annually according to Grange member Jason Smith.

The details are as follows.

Easter Egg Hunt

Type of Project: Community Service

Time: Preparation: 2-3 days, Event: 1 day

Number of People:10-25

Budget: $750-800

Other Ingredients: Candy, Plastic Eggs, Gifts

Skills Necessary: Planning, advertising, arranging prizes

Mix: Fill Easter eggs with candy.

Break children up into 4 age brackets

Hold hunt based on age groups

Notes: Have a fun carnival game area while waiting for hunt to start; prizes could be included.

Examples include Egg toss, Easter plinko, Photo board.

Low cost ideas for positive community impact

For me the answer is an absolute yes. It takes dedicated teams that takes stock of their community and pinpoint some needs and roll up their sleeves and get to work. Not every job requires a lot of money. It might just require some organization skills and the investment of Granger time.

With Grange month just around the corner, here are some ideas to consider.

  • Remove litter and debris from several miles of neighborhood streets.
  • Organize a collection of electronics for recycling.
  • Collect gently used clothing for recycling – take them to a shelter.
  • Promote the use of waste receptacles along biking and hiking trails.
  • Organize a food drive.
  • Plant flowers and bulbs in a schoolyard.
  • Plant flowers and bulbs around a Grange Hall.
  • Start a group that will build and plant flower boxes for your downtown streets.
  • Organize a yard work crew to clean areas in older cemeteries, parks and church grounds.
  • Start a community garden or a hunger garden
  • Organize a garden tour, showcasing the most beautiful lawns and gardens in town-inspire more beauty in your town.

Iowa kicks off the presidential season

Ever wonder what it’s like to be from the first state to cast votes for the presidential primary season? Iowa State Granger Doug Baldwin participated tonight in one of the caucuses.

He joked as he prepared for his local caucus, he said its “exciting and (challenging) all in one being first in the nation,” because the push to the finish was intense for many of the campaigns. In the past year, he said presidential candidates and staffers have inundated the state. As he headed in to cast his vote, he said he was still deciding on who he would make his final decision, but “that is the beauty of the process here… we will get to hear from a representative from each candidate and that should help me make my final choice.”

Indications are there were record turnouts at some locations, and the results were close. There are 49 primaries to go. Grangers are preparing to head to New Hampshire to help with the presidential campaigns of their choice. Don’t forget, if you have not registered to vote, check with your state’s Department of State and register.

Life in a Presidential Campaign

Editor’s note: Thanks to past state New Hampshire State Grange Jim Tetreault for submitting this post about his experiences volunteering with a presidential campaign.

How does someone get involved in a Presidential Campaign? First it takes a passion for an individual candidate and an interest in politics. It takes a thick skin not to be offended by what your family and friends may think of that the candidate of your choice. For instance one of my favorite cousins who I am very close to thinks that my candidate is the absolute scum of the earth so I see a steady flow of attacks on face book! I don’t comment I just let him exercise his first amendment rights to free speech.

In my case the interest in politics started in the Grange, even as a youth member I was always fascinated by the Legislative Report, as I look back on it now I thought wow “old people” give those reports but in hindsight I now realize that they were people the same age as I am now! Year latter when I became Legislative Director of the New Hampshire State Grange, and having the opportunity to be mentored by Brother Leroy Watson, I figured out I was a “darn good Lobbyist” and wanted to move beyond the Lobbying world and more into the political side of the spectrum. My political life actually started by becoming a local elected official I have served as the Town Clerk and the Tax Collector for the Town of Winchester since March of 2007, I have a job that I have strived to become good at and my goal is always to make my portion of the Government work and be effective for the Tax Payers. The Political Advocacy portion of my life began as a “bribe” now the reader looks at this and thinks an elected official took a bribe? OMG! The “bribe” was actually a dinner ticker biggest fundraising dinner the State Democratic Party runs at $100 per person. At this event is when the local Democratic Committee hit me up to be their Treasurer, being the person that usually doesn’t say no to anything I took this on and it’s given me an opportunity to see Democratic Politics from the inside.

You wonder how this all relates to the Presidential campaign? Well when the Clinton Campaign was looking to set up a regional campaign Committee, they went to one of my good friends JoAnn Fenton and asked her who should be on the Committee? JoAnn listed a grouping of people and I was one of the people included! So here I site on the Monadnock Region Campaign Committee for Hillary Clinton, a candidate that I supported in 2008 and proud to support today. So what does a member of this type of committee do? Well a lot of grunt work! Canvassing homes, phone banking – you know those annoying calls you get while you’re watching “Jeopardy or the Big Bang Theory” while you’re feeling annoyed remember these are dedicated volunteers who take time out of their personal lives to work for a candidate they really believe in! So please don’t be rude to them, thank them for the call but let them know you’re not interested.


There are times when I am not home and people are in my house launching canvasses, having meetings, we also feedback information to the campaign from the field. Do they listen to us? Probably not! For the field operation it’s an opportunity for volunteers to feel they have someone “connected” to offer suggestions or complaints back to the campaign. We also do some serious things for campaign beyond the grunt work. We also work to accomplish campaign goals and we work as parts of the local brain trusts that helps map out the strategies to meet these goals. The Clinton Campaign is taking advantage of the expertise and knowledge of local activist who have strong roots and connections within each of those communities. On a personal note I have had the opportunity to connect with so many new people. People right in my own neighborhood, that I have waived to as they have driven or walked passed my house. I have also had the opportunity to mentor some young activist who I see great promise in for the future. Ask me and I will tell you about the two exceptional young men from Cheshire County are going be either a US Senator and member of the US House of Representatives from New Hampshire in the next ten years.

So the downside of being involved in a campaign to this extent, you’re always finding left over literature on the counters, Hillary stickers on every suit jack and coat and on the bottom of every pair of shoes. The glove box of the car is full of Hillary brochures, stickers and commit cards.

So when you are home on a Sunday afternoon watching the football game or on a Monday night watching Jeopardy think of me and my associates out in the cold knocking on doors and working the phones, working really hard to get the candidate elected we believe in. If any of this sounds interesting join us for the NH Primary Fly-In on February 5-7 in Manchester NH.





January Director Update

Greetings state directors – I hope you enjoyed the holiday season.

The new year brings a chance to focus on new goals/missions for each of our youth departments. I know many of you will be hosting reorganizational meetings with your youth committees and/or state leadership.

The new year also can bring a change in department leadership. If you are turning your state department over to a new director, please forward this email to the new director. Also send me their contact information so I can update my department listing for 2016.

The new handbook is available at http://nationalgrangeyouth.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Youth-2016-Program-Book.pdf. Please distribute to your youth committee, subordinate/Pomona youth directors and other leaders.

The National Department has a focus on legislative/citizenship/get out the vote. The 2016 presidential election generates plenty of excitement among younger voters. This excitement can be utilized to develop workshops to teach youth how to register to vote or why its important to vote (Apathy Not Allowed program), learn how to visit with elected officials or speak on behalf of their local Grange at school board/town council/township supervisor meetings.

At the 2015 National Session, we did release a new “recipe book” of ideas for youth activities. I have attached the booklet here for you. There are plenty of ideas from other Grangers that could provide some inspiration for your local departments.

Social media: We have a Grange Youth Department Facebook page, twitter account and youth department blog located at: http://www.grange.org/youth/. The blog is where I post department news and updates. Also, if your department has something you would like to share, I can post it on the blog as well. Ideas would include news from state camps, contests, lock-ins, family weekends and other state department updates.

Regional conferences for 2016. The states are still working out the details, but as of now, here are the dates I have for conferences.

Eastern: New Jersey April 8-10

Great Plains: Oklahoma June 17-19

Midwestern: Wisconsin June 24-26

Northeast: New York, July 8-10

Southeastern: Virginia July 29-31

Western: Oregon August 5-7

Thanks so much for your work, dedication in 2015 and best of luck with a successful 2016.