NORTH JAY – Marilyn Morse remembers going to the North Jay Grange No. 10 store as a child to buy school shoes every year.

It sold “everything from ice cream and penny candy to meat, vegetables, shoes, socks, shoe strings – you could buy everything at the Grange store,” Morse, of Jay, said Saturday.

Growing up on a farm, “my mom and dad had hens, and they used to take their eggs there and trade their eggs for groceries. That stopped in 1974 because of supermarket chains that were popping up all over the state and nation,” she added.

Before the store closed in 1974, Morse said, it was the last operating Grange store in the country. After it shut its doors it was placed on the National Register of Historical Places.

The 2-story building is still used by members of the rapidly dwindling Grange organization, which began more than 100 years ago as a resource center, store and community space for farmers and their families. The Grange took root all over Maine, becoming one of the backbones of local rural communities.

Built in traditional “vernacular” style and with historic significance as a symbol of a time gone by, Grange halls all over are being put on state and national “endangered” lists as they slowly fall into ruin, Morse said Saturday.

The North Jay Grange is no exception, Morse said. Many people in town tell her it’s become a sore thumb, with peeling paint, a leaky roof and a sagging porch. Grange members still hold charity suppers and give community service awards there, Morse said, and even meet there to knit and crochet clothing to give preemies and needy families. But the building is in desperate need of repairs.

It seemed almost hopeless – repairs will cost nearly $50,000, when all is said and done – until Morse heard of a state-sponsored matching-grant program offered to help organizations restore sites on the National Historic Register.

Administered by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, the New Century Community Program grant application is due on Friday. Grange members are hoping to collect between $1,500 and $3,500 this week toward the repairs. Since starting the fund drive nine days ago, Morse said, already $1,200 has been raised. With that money, plus the same from the state, Morse said members hope to refurbish the porch this year. They’ll continue an ongoing fundraising process until all repairs can be paid for.

If every one of the nearly 3,500 taxpayers in Jay paid just a dollar, Morse said, “we’d have $3,500.” That’s $7,000 with the matching grant.

Anyone wishing to contribute is invited to send a check, payable to the North Jay Grange, Mavis Lane, Secretary/Treasurer, 390 Keep Road, Jay, ME 04239. Morse said the tax ID is 01-6017393. Both Lane and Grange Master Wesley Lane can be reached at 645-4625. Morse can be reached at 645-2910.

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