STOW — The Darrow Street Grange No. 751 has been a good steward of its money even as its membership shrank, allowing it to recently distribute funds to three local churches.

The Darrow Street Grange No. 751 donated $15,000 each to St. Mark Lutheran Church in Tallmadge, the United Methodist Church in Stow and the Stow Community United Church of Christ.

The donation will help make St. Mark Lutheran Church become handicap accessible, said Dominique Porter of the church's property committee.

"We are working with a member who is an architect, and she is doing some design drawings, and we hope to put the money toward those renovations," Porter said.

St. Mark has three levels and they want to make them accessible to elderly members so they can attend events in the fellowship hall as well as services in the sanctuary, she said.

The Master of the Grange Elfrieda Lytle, who is also a charter member of St. Mark, presented the check to Pastor Deborah Wissner in April.

"The congregation was overjoyed by the donation," Porter said. "We were thrilled Elfrieda thought about St. Mark."

"We were overwhelmed by the generosity of this gift to our congregation," said Pastor Karen Drotar of the United Methodist Church. "We will be using the funds for much needed improvements and maintenance of our church and parsonage. Like most churches, we are always in need of funds to carry on our ministries and outreach to the community. This gift helps us in many ways, and we feel blessed by this gracious gift."

Pastor Jim Case of Stow Community United Church of Christ is also a member of the Grange and said the money will pay for a stair lift.

"We feel this donation is a gift from God," Case said. "We've been talking about putting in a stair lift. An elevator was out of the question."

The costs of the stairlift and electric came to $14,955, he said. The electric is in and the measurements and architecture completed. They are waiting on approval from the city of Stow.

"It was an amazing gift," Case said. "We have people who have trouble with the steps. The sanctuary is on one floor and the fellowship (hall) is on another level."

"It's nice to be on the receiving end once in a while," Case added. "The Grange is a great organization. It helps others. That's been my mission statement for the eight years I've been here. We need to help others."

Dorothy Brown, chair of the executive committee for the Grange, shared the history of the Darrow Street Grange:

In 1874, the farmers around Darrowville and Hudson began "talking Grange." Darrowville is one of the oldest villages in Ohio, its site plotted in 1800 by Joseph Darrow who had come west with David Hudson as his surveyor. Darrow surveyed most of the land bought from the Connecticut Land Co. in this area.

On March 20, 1874, a group of men and women pioneers organized work in the community and packed the little school house in Darrowville. They discussed the advisability of organizing a Grange in Darrowville as a local agricultural organization.

On March 26, 1874, a group of 31 men and women met in Dewey Hall, which is now the red barn of Mrs. Glass' farm just north of the former Grange Hall and organized Darrow Street Subordinate Grange No. 751 with the assistance of Deputy W. Williamson from Portage County.

Only five members from a single family could join, and the fee was 50 cents for women and $3 for men.

The Grange was established for farmers. They would have weekly meeting and dinners and discuss agriculture.

"My husband's grandparents belonged to a Grange," Brown said. "It was a social night out. Back in the day they held chicken dinners and had square dancing."

The Grange provided scholarships to both Hudson and Stow high school seniors who were interested in agriculture, Brown said. They also gave to the Summit County Fair and Stow Fourth of July parade.

Although there are 30 members, only about seven meet regularly now, Brown said. "We're going to continue to meet as long as we're all still around. It's a very old group."

"As the years have gone by, people interested in Grange have dropped off," she said. "Today's young people are not interested."

The Darrow Street Grange No. 751 rented its building at 5107 Darrow Road in Hudson to the Donna Coleman Dance Studio for 20 years. The money was invested and used for scholarships and donations, Brown said. Last summer the building was sold to the Saint Herman of Alaska Eastern Orthodox Church.

"The Grange group wasn't large enough to use the facility, and it became costly to keep up, so we decided at that point to sell," treasurer Don Box said.

Members met and decided to do something for the local community and divided $45,000 among the three churches that members attended, Brown said.

Originally the Grange was for the farmers and set up so they could buy insurance, but farming isn't a big deal anymore, said Box.

The Grange is a fraternal organization dedicated to forwarding the ideals of our American heritage through legislative, social, and service activities in our community and nation, said Lytle.

"We more or less support a lot of different community events," Box said. "We give away scholarships to the Stow High School. We've given them to Nordonia and Hudson high schools and supported Stow Fourth of July parade, the Summit County Fair, Good Neighbors, the senior olympics and more."

The Grange celebrated 145 years on May 4 and continues to meet at 1 p.m on the second Tuesday of the month at the Community Church of Stow on Pilgrim Drive.

Anyone wishing to join can call secretary Gladys Etz at 330-677-1440. Annual dues are $14 per year per person.

Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or lfreeman@recordpub.com