Anne Grant isn’t really a fan of gift receiving. In fact, she prefers the opposite much more.
A member of the Dryden Grange for nearly 30 years, Grant is the one who hands out awards annually to certain volunteers in the community. She also goes out of her way to submit an individual or group of volunteers to Tompkins Trust Company’s annual volunteer awards.
“It’s like playing Santa Claus,” Grant said.
Gifts, honors, awards are all things that she never expects to receive. So when Grant found out she was the recipient of Gerald Eastman Award from the New York State Grange – an award that recognizes someone or a group of people who “exemplifies Christian values and influences others in a positive way” – she was, as she put it, “flabbergasted.”
“I’m sitting there tapping my foot because I hate meetings, thinking, ‘Why are they rambling on and on about this person we don’t even know, and what kind of award are they getting,’” she said. “Until they said at age 90 I lead the [Dryden Dairy Day] parade, I realized it was me and about fell off the chair.”
Grant attended the NYS Grange’s annual meeting this past October expecting to demonstrate the work she and fellow grange member Joyce Church does for Sleeping Bags for the Homeless, but wound up being honored for her efforts in the community as part of the grange. It was the most surprised she has felt since when she turned 80 years old and her daughter flew in from Seattle to surprise her for her birthday. She was so caught off guard she burst into tears.
“At least I didn’t cry at Grange,” she said.
Grant’s history of volunteering dates 50 years back to when she volunteered at her local Catholic church in a small town in Massachusetts.
“At age 40, I decided that I would put on a Christmas party for all the senior citizens in that little town – it was about the size of Dryden,” she said. “I got all the businesses to donate prizes. I got all the people in my church that were willing to drive the seniors there, and we had a ball. We had a beautiful dinner for them.”
The gathering was such a hit, she decided to make it an annual event.
“I said to the priest, ‘That was such a success now I should get indulgences for my sins for at least 20 more years,” she said. “He wasn’t too happy with that demand.”
Grant either is a part of seemingly every aspect of the Dryden community. She is responsible for the coordination of the Dryden Dairy Day parade that takes place annually – except for this past year due to the pandemic – which she leads in her convertible. She is a member of My Brother’s Keeper – a group of people who make sleeping bags for the homeless out of used materials. She is an active volunteer at the Southworth Library, and teaches Sunday School to students at the church she regularly attends. She used to volunteer at the local hospice care facility, reading and serving meals to patients.
Her passion for volunteership was not something that developed over time.
“It’s just my nature, I think,” she said.
Hospitality is also in Grant’s nature. In the past, she took in two teenagers on separate occasions from tough living circumstances and gave them a stable household. The first was a 15-year-old boy named Alex from her church, who originally was sent to George Junior Republic after his parents filed for a divorce.
“His whole life changed because of the people we associate with influenced him so much that he’s now in his 40’s and still calls me and says what a change his life took because he had a chance to meet families that really cared about each other,” Grant said.
The second was a 16-year-old girl named Deborah, who was one of Grant’s brother’s children. Her mother unfortunately shot and killed Deborah’s four other siblings and she did not want to live with her father after finding out he was seeing another woman. So Grant brought Deborah to her home and raised her before she completed hairdressing school at around 18 years old. She and Grant talk every Valentine’s and Mother’s Day.
“She made a life for herself; she bought her own home,” Grant said. “It’s a double-wide trailer in a really lovely trailer park. She’s paid all her own bills, and she’s done a wonderful job with her life and she’s now 72 I think. She’s just so proud of herself and what she’s done, and I’m so proud of her, too.”
Grant encourages everyone and anyone to volunteer more in their community, or, from her perspective, try playing Santa Claus for a change.
“It does more for you in the end because … it’s like giving a present instead of getting one,” she said.