Grange gives gift of learning

When hearing the word “dictionary,” people most likely would not associate it with the National Grange. But the Grange has been thinking dictionary for the past 10 years.

Through the tireless efforts of the grange’s network of more than 300,000 volunteers, America’s oldest rural and agriculture organization has presented third-grade students across the nation with more than 100,000 dictionaries.

And, that number continues to rise.

The National Grange has dubbed this the “Words for Thirds Program.”

Laurel Point Grange No. 915 in Parks Township has been on board with the project from the very beginning, presenting dictionaries to the third graders at Laurel Point Elementary School in Parks, part of the Kiski Area School District.

The local grange espouses the philosophy of its national counterpart, which believes that a dictionary is one of the most powerful reference tools young children will be introduced to during their school years.

Its usefulness goes beyond just providing correct spellings, pronunciations and definitions. It is also a companion for solving problems that arise as children develop their reading, writing, and creative thinking abilities.

“It is amazing to see the smiles on children’s faces when we present them with dictionaries,” said Thomas Kostelansky, Laurel Point master and one of the recent presenters.

“It gives them a sense of pride when they have a dictionary to look up words on their own. It promotes learning and helps mold their self-confidence and independence.”

His daughter, Jessica Kostelansky, also participated in the presentation.

She is a fourth-generation granger now serving as lecturer.

She also is a former student of Bonnie Bober, who still teaches the third grade at Laurel Point, but will be retiring at the end of this school year.

Bober jokingly told her young charges, “See class, I had Jessica as a student when she was your age — and she lived.”

On a more serious note, Jessica informed the students, “Women have been equal members since the inception of the grange. We have a Junior Grange program for children age 5 to 14, that has helped the youngest members of the family learn about community values and citizenship for more than 100 years.

“Our Grange Youth program develops the leadership skills of our young adults and young married couples.”

In addition to telling the students about the history and purpose of the grange, the presenters first put the students to work and had the class look up the meaning of the word “grange” in their new dictionaries.

Denise Kostelansky, a grange member for 44 years and another one of the presenters, took pictures for the grange scrapbook and bulletin board. Involved with the dictionary project for about 10 years, she is proud of the work the grange does.

“The grange believes that a good education is a great foundation for anyone,” she said “I see this as a great community service.

“We get the word out about the grange and it’s a great way to help our small school.”

The money to purchase the 24 dictionaries came from donations made by grange members Aldine Young and Elinor Lauffer, both of Parks.

Young, an active member who holds the office of Chaplin, presented her great grandson Brandon with his dictionary. Young said she donated to the Dictionary Project so that the grange could continue its 10-year tradition of presenting dictionaries to the third graders at Laurel Point Elementary.

Denise Kostelansky explained that the money to purchase dictionaries each year is usually donated by grange members, as there is only one third-grade class at Laurel Point Elementary.

“Other granges hold fundraisers. They need more money because their schools have more third graders,” she said.

Denise said the future of the local program is uncertain though, as Laurel Point Elementary is scheduled to close once the district’s school building restructuring process gets under way.

Once renovations and an addition are completed at Mamont Elementary School in Washington Township, that building is expected to house students from kindergarten through fourth grade.

“We fought once to keep this school open, but it’s not going to happen this time,” she said.

Grange No. 915, she said, is also fighting to keep its head above water and hold on to its grange building, which is across the street from Laurel Point Elementary.

Taxes are the problem.

During the state grange convention held in Butler this year, members were told that the grange is hoping to get legislation passed to make grange buildings tax exempt. Denise said she remains optimistic.


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