Southern Oregon wildfires last year and again this year have impacted both Grange Co-op employees and customers.

That business, with its headquarters in Medford and six retail stores in southern Oregon, was quick to respond with both financial aid and products.

“The co-op and our customers have rallied to help this year and last year,” said Jason Wall, marketing manager for Grange Co-op. “We live in communities of people helping each other. Our direct purpose statement is ‘Helping our communities, customers and employees achieve more together.’ Our customers follow the same principles that we do as a cooperative.”

After the Almeda Fire of 2020 destroyed 2,600 homes between Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Medford and the South Obenchain Fire near Eagle Point burned 33 homes and numerous other buildings, Grange Co-op established a round-up program at the checkout stands at each of its stores. The business then announced it would match that program up to $25,000.

Donations by customers raised $25,000 in a month and in October, 2020, $50,000 was donated to the Phoenix Talent Fire Relief Fund.

“In our community’s greatest time of need, we want to extend thanks and gratefulness to everyone who supports this initiative with generosity and goodwill,” said Neil Itzen, the co-op’s CEO, in a statement regarding that financial donation.

The money was used for temporary housing, food and personal products for those who had lost their homes to the fires.

Several of the cooperative’s employees also brought donated kennel panels, hay and some other products to the Jackson County Expo Center in Central Point, Ore., where many evacuated pets and other animals had found temporary homes.

This year, when the Bootleg Fire in Klamath and Lake counties blew up into another disaster, Grange Co-op again set up a round-up program with a pledge to match up to $5,000. Within two weeks, that amount was raised by donations from customers and the cooperative sent $10,000 to the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association’s Livestock Aid Fund.

Hundreds of cattle were displaced by the Bootleg Fire, pasture and hay ground were burned and some hay sheds went up in flames. Livestock feed immediately became an issue, both in the present and for the next several months.

In addition to the cash donation, Grange Co-op partnered with Purina Animal Nutrition to donate 4 tons of cattle feed and 4 tons of protein tubs to the Klamath Cattlemen’s Association. The co-op also donated a ton of its private label, Rogue All Pro Textured Feed. The product donations totaled $13,000.

“Our customers at some of our smallest stores have raised the most funds,” said Demetria Marical, the youth and community outreach coordinator for Grange Co-op. “It’s very heart warming to work for a company that cares so much for its communities and customers. At the drop of a hat, all of them are willing to help.”

“It’s just in our bloodline to work cooperatively to help the communities, in both farming and ranching and outside that industry,” said Wall. “It’s fulfilling the idea that the cooperative was founded on in 1934 and it’s something we will continue to embrace into the future.”

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