With all of the crises unfolding around us every day, it is all too easy to skip over stories and events that don’t loom quite so large. But what is happening to five Humboldt County former grange halls, including Bayside’s, has important consequences for five local communities.
And while the story has been presented in some detail (most recently an excellent August 12, 2021 article by Jacqueline Opalach for Lost Coast Outpost), I still get questions every day from concerned community members who don’t understand what is happening.
Problem is, I don’t understand it either. Yes, I understand the details of the lawsuits, and yes, I have read hundreds of pages of documents and rules that the Grange organization uses to justify its behavior.
I do not understand how the Grange organization can choose to enforce some of its own rules and not others. I do not understand how a charter granted in 1932 can be so powerful that the granting organization can, more than 50 years later, take away its chartered entities property rights with a simple change of its national by-laws.
And I do not understand why every grange hall across the country, including those who want to be granges, isn’t outraged by such a raw exercise of corporate power.
I feel like Alice headed down the rabbit hole.
It’s a David vs Goliath story. Each local group (of volunteers!) has to fight a legal battle against a national organization that has spent millions of dollars to force them into either being grange members or turning over their property. And they use some pretty outrageous tactics.
Down in Redcrest, the Grange organization stopped construction of an engine storage building for the Volunteer Fire Department. In Fieldbrook, they blatantly ignored a 45-year old agreement documented in the hall deed. Last week they froze the bank accounts of Freshwater hall, even though the legal process is still underway.
So this is really important local stuff. Things are happening in your community. The halls that are involved in this fight want to make sure that they have done everything possible to get the word out.
So they have started a website, SaveOurHalls.com. They have made short videos to share the basics about what is happening and to tell the stories of individual halls. They have collected some basic information about the Grange organization.
They have invited any community hall or grange that wants to tell its story to contribute. Please take a look and share this information. The future of your community hall is at stake.