“Seventy-five years,” said State Representative Clint Owlett. “In today’s culture it’s difficult to find anyone who volunteers for seven years.”
Owlett was attending the May 28 meeting of the Ondawa Grange in Big Pond. He was there specifically to award citations to two grange members. Dilmon Dunbar and Keith Robbins were being honored as 75-year grange members.
“It’s an honor to be with these amazing individuals who have contributed so much to this community and are truly public servants,” said Owlett.
That describes the Ondawa Grange – many people who have done many things over many years to benefit many people.
In fact, that was how Gene Dunbar, Dilmon’s son, opened the meeting with a prayer.
“Please bless these special people who have done good service over many years to benefit many people,” said Gene.
At the meeting other members were honored with years of service including Larue and Carlene Austin for 30 years; Robert and Pamela Haven for 35 years; Richard and Mary Eaton for 45 years; Lyle, Ardith, Vaughn and Kathleen Harkness for 50 years; and Charlotte Stevens for 65 years.
Dinner, prepared by Kathleen Harkness included sloppy Joes, macaroni salad, baked beans, pickles, chips, coffee, iced tea and water. Michelle Harkness made a beautifully decorated cake.
The Pennsylvania State Grange was founded in 1873 as an advocacy organization for farmers, families and businesses in Pennsylvania’s rural communities.
No one knows for sure when the Ondawa Grange was started, but the earliest written records are from 1876 when they were running the store in Big Pond.
According to Grange History, edited and organized by Earle E. Bidlack, Marion Bidlack, and Mrs. Charles Saxton, at that time the Ondawa Grange didn’t have its own building. They rented a room from one of the members – E. C. Bullock – for $3.50 per quarter. Meetings were held every two weeks. Dues were 50 cents for men and 25 cents for women.
Three men were elected to oversee the store. One of them was the manager who kept an account of all sales and purchases.
In addition to regular meetings, they had parties and dances.
Today the Ondawa Grange is still active and meets once a month, sometimes in homes. They volunteer for various activities in the community.
At their meeting, Dilmon spoke of some of these activities. In cemeteries they place angels on stones of those who have passed. They have donated to the Coat Closet in Columbia Crossroads. They have picked up roadside garbage along certain local routes.
“I think if Keith and I were out picking up garbage these days,” said Dilmon, who has been known for always helping out and bringing his sense of humor with him. “We’d have to have someone behind us to pick us up!”
Every spring the Ondawa Grange plants flowers on the green in downtown Big Pond.
“And then we go out to Pizza Hut,” added Dilmon.
“Volunteering is something that is a lost art in our society today,” said Owlett. “I want to thank all of you for the volunteering you do.”
When asked what it felt like to have 75 years in the grange, Dilmon Dunbar answered with his chuckle, “Well, I’m very fortunate to have survived all the usual things at my age!”