GREENE — For years, repairs and upgrades to Androscoggin Grange No. 8 have been put off for lack of money.

Members have made do with small fixes to help the historic community center get by for just a little while longer. A window replacement here, a raccoon eviction there.

But in a meeting with their insurer last year, members learned they won’t be able to hold off on the most crucial — and costly — renovations for much longer.

The building is in desperate need of structural repairs, including an overhaul of its outdated wiring and a new roof. The Grange stands to lose its insurance if these aren’t addressed, leaving the organization unable to host events.

“That’s the sad thing,” Grange Master Patricia Lehoux said. “If the building isn’t habitable, we’ll have to close.”

Their plight is far from unique. Over the past two years, Granges across the state have been forced to cancel events due to COVID-19 restrictions, losing much-needed money and hastening the decline of the aging organizations.

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Androscoggin Grange No. 8 Master Patricia Lehoux looks out the front door Friday morning at the Grange on Main Street in Greene. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Each local Grange has a different role in the community, however they all share the same challenge of maintaining a hall, said Walter Boomsma, communications director for the Maine State Grange and member of Valley Grange No. 144 in Guilford. This has become increasingly difficult and expensive as the buildings grow older.

But even as some Granges close their doors for good, others have adapted and continue to grow stronger ties within their community.

“If a Grange is relevant and meaningful in the community, people will support it,” Boomsma said.

Energized by a few new members, the Grange hosted a variety show, haunted house, and trunk-or-treat to great success last year. They’re aiming to build on that momentum, already planning another variety show and a pancake breakfast for the return of Greene Village Day in September.

“If we could get some repairs done in here, we could actually do more in these rooms,” Lehoux said.

The three-story building includes a kitchen and dining hall on the first floor, a meeting room and hall with a stage on the second and storage on the third.

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Not only does the Grange host events in the hall, but local groups also rent the space during the warmer months.

The list of renovations is long. Nearly all of the windows, many original to the 1894 construction, need to be upgraded, holes in the structure mended and walls, both interior and exterior, painted. The front entryway, too, is crooked and needs repair.

“Some of the windows are just sitting there by a wing and a prayer,” Lehoux said.

The first-floor dining hall of Androscoggin Grange No. 8 in Greene features long tables and old-fashioned chairs on the wooden floor. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

And yet, despite the building’s sorry state, there’s beauty and history around every corner. From the collectible dishware displayed on the dining room walls, to the century-old water pump in the kitchen, the banister of the stairs and the decades-old photos of plays and pageants long past.

But most impressive is the painted canvas curtain on the second floor, a mainstay of the building for so long, not even Lehoux, a member of the organization for more than 50 years, knows who created it or when.

“As long as we keep improving, (our insurer) will try to work with us through this,” Lehoux said.

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Julia Coady is a member of the newly-formed restoration committee tasked with bringing Androscoggin Grange No. 8 up to code. She created a GoFundMe page for the Grange earlier this month in an effort to start collecting money online.

She set an ambitious goal of $100,000 for the fundraiser, almost certainly more than the small community of 4,300 people will be able to raise on its own. They plan to reach out beyond town residents and apply for grants to help address the building’s needs.

As of Friday, they had collected $270.

The group is also happy to receive construction material donations or help with labor.

Coady is one of several new, younger members looking to carry on the organization’s long-standing legacy; it was the eighth Grange to be formed of hundreds in Maine.

After moving to Greene in 2015, she joined a number of local groups, including the conservation and Greene Village Day committees, seeking to build stronger community ties.

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“I would love to see my kids enjoy this building one day,” Coady said.

The exterior of Androscoggin Grange No. 8 is in dire need of repair. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Barbara Bailey and other members of the Victor Grange in Fairfield have had great success in not only repairing, but also adapting their building to meet the community’s evolving needs.

They’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars for their hall over the years, adding insulation and a parking lot. The effort has enabled the group to host programs, even during the winter

She emphasized the importance of telling the community not only what the organization needs, but why.

Members should be more vocal about their service to the community and their needs, she said. When Victor Grange asked the community for help plowing this winter, locals stepped up and offered to take turns doing it for free.

“Don’t be so quiet,” she said. “There’s nothing you do in those halls that you should be ashamed of, so it’s OK, tell what it is, tell what you’re doing, tell what you’re thinking, and people just jump right in … They love supporting the Grange Hall.”

Distributing quarterly newsletters with information and generously renting the hall to other community organizations has been key to their success, Bailey said. When they put out the call for help plowing, the local Alcoholics Anonymous group, which rents the hall for $30 a meeting, gave them $1,000 to help with winter expenses.

Bailey also advised community organizations to break up their list of renovations into manageable steps, tackling one part of the building’s needs at a time.

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