Napa’s Welcome Grange — a supporter of local agriculture and youth programs for nearly 50 years — has a new leader. Grange members tapped Brad Simpkins for the position during the nonprofit organization’s March meeting.
Simpkins, 40, attended 4-H meetings at the Grange building on Hagen Road as a youngster. He said he decided to step in as president after learning that 4-H and other local groups would lose their meeting place if the Grange disbanded.
Carl Styger, who died Jan. 22, led the agency for nearly a decade and was a Grange member for more than 40 years. He was also chief of the Soda Canyon Fire Department and worked at Christian Brothers Winery at Mont La Salle for two decades. Styger was a longtime friend of Simpkins’ late grandfather, Alfred Simpkins, former owner of a local dairy.
Napa’s Welcome Grange was established in 1958, while the state Grange originated in 1873 and its national branch started up in 1867. “The Grange was founded to help the agriculture community. It was a sort of Chamber of Commerce for farmers,” Simpkins said, adding that the organization helped farmers acquire insurance and buy supplies in groups to conserve capital and maximize resources.
Over the years, as Napa became less rural and more developed, many Napa Valley Granges shut down, he said. While Napa County used to boast more than a dozen Granges, only two remain — Napa’s Welcome Grange and the Rutherford Grange.
Sherry Paukert, treasurer of the Welcome Grange, said the organization now has 20 members.
“Decades ago, people used to live off of the land. Now we have transplants from the outside world and a few descendants of the original Grange members. Membership has dwindled,” said Simpkins.
Paukert, a member of the Welcome Grange for 11 years, said the organization is working to recruit new members. The Grange also hosts meetings for the Four Leaf Clover 4-H Club, the Boy Scouts of America, Unity Church, and Boots and Belles, a local square dancing group. Paukert said Grange members are seeking more tenants to raise money and keep the organization active.
“The unfinished oak floor is ideal for yoga, karate or ballet classes,” she said.
Simpkins said the Welcome Grange awards a $200 annual scholarship to a student chosen from local school agriculture programs. The Grange also purchases an animal from the junior livestock auction at the Napa Town & County Fair each year.
“We want to raise more funds so we’re able to give more donations and scholarships to help youth involved in agriculture, 4-H, sports and outdoor activities,” Simpkins said.
The Grange is also accepting monetary donations.
“Because Grange bills are low, a tremendous amount of donations go to the end cause,” Simpkins said.
For more info
The Welcome Grange meets the first Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at 3275 Hagen Road. Info, www.welcomegrange.org or write to P.O. Box 3392, Napa, CA 94558.