WILTON — A unique idea for a fundraising meal finds members of the Wilson Grange in East Wilton preparing for a series of dinners from around the world.

The first stop on their “Passport Dinner Tour,” planned for 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, is an evening in Italy, said Grange secretary Chris Krauss.

“A Tuscan-inspired décor celebrates the tastes of Italy with an elegantly served sit-down dinner,” she said.

Along with linen on the tables, Italian-dressed wait staff will serve a full-course homemade Italian cuisine dinner for 90.

The Grange hall is only able to seat 90, so reservations are recommended, she said Tuesday. These can be made by calling 645-2400 and leaving a name and the number of people attending.

The meal is offered for $9.50 a person with proceeds to benefit the Wilson Grange Renovation Fund.

Just a few years ago, the state Grange decided to close the Wilson Grange, but members of the neighborhood decided to take it over, Krauss said.

“They saw our plans for meetings, the strength of our officers and energy,” she said. Just seven months before it was to be closed, the Grange was revamped with a new spirit

None of the 12 members were previously Grangers; they joined the Grange, and now most have already earned their fifth out of seven degrees, she said. Another eight members are expected to join. Membership is open to anyone.

Holding a variety of fundraisers, they have paid off prior bills on the Grange. With a loan from the state Grange, they have redone all the electrical, plumbing and heating work in less than a year.

The Grange, established in 1901, now boasts a heating system that allows the building to be open throughout the winter. The group hopes to be able to offer brunches, especially in the winter so people can come and be in a warm place to socialize and let it become a community building, she said.

Meeting on the third Friday of each month, starting with a potluck dinner at 6 p.m., the group has bonded through their activities to restore the Grange to the small town.

“We’re getting more members who want to do things, provide community service and put fun into fundraising,” she said. “They want to be productive and see results.”

Many of the original group have been friends for years, serving together on the East Wilton Neighborhood Association. They have cleaned roadsides and built a garden this summer that produced bags of fresh produce for the Wilton Food Bank. The group receives all the bottles and cans from Shelly’s Market, located across the road from the Grange Hall, to return and add funds for renovations.

Although the group raises funds, it isn’t approaching area businesses looking for a handout. They’ve been given deals, but they purchase everything for the building locally, supporting the businesses that are here, she said.

“The history of the Grange is deep and wonderful, and we’re moving back to what Grange traditionally was. We need to know more now than ever about how to prepare foods and look to neighbors for ideas on bartering. It’s like Amish barn-raisings, we look to each other and know we’re doing this together.”

The passport meals are not in competition with regular Grange dinners but provide another choice of things to do. They wanted to go off and do some adventurous things while bringing in people who might not attend other Grange dinners, she said.

Each time a passport meal is offered in the future, it will feature a meal from another country, including vegetarian options.

For more information, call 645-2400.

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A group of East Wilton neighbors have revitalized Wilson Grange No. 321 and continue to raise funds to repair the building, including a Passport Dinner on Friday that will provide diners with an Italian-themed meal, Grange secretary Christine Krauss said.


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