Friday, August 10, 2018

Taking the training wheels off at Gambo Dam: A cautionary tale by Briana Bizier

One of childhood’s rites of passage is learning how to pedal a bicycle without training wheels. As last weekend’s experiences proved to this writer, kids are the not the only ones who need to adjust to this new reality.

My seven-year-old assistant took her first short ride without the training wheels last month, in the parking lot of Raymond Elementary. Letting go of her bicycle seat as she pedaled across the pavement was one of the more poignant parenting moments I’ve experienced.

Not to be outdone, my four-year-old assistant also insisted he could pedal without training wheels. After another round of two-wheel practice, this time in the gravel parking lot of Raymond’s Mill Street Ball Field and Playground, my husband and I decided to take the kids for a bike ride and a swim at the Gambo Dam in Windham.

Theoretically, this is the perfect place for a first bike ride. The Gambo Dam area along the Presumpscot River overlaps with the Mountain Division Rail Trail, a beautiful, paved path running along old railroad lines, and Gorham’s Shaw Park. If you make a few left turns, you can easily combine these overlapping trails to create a short loop with Shaw Park in the middle.

Last summer, when our daughter was still using training wheels and our son was riding a toddler balance bike, my husband and I took the kids for a bike ride along this trail. Our children loved the gentle inclines and the smooth, paved path, which was perfect for a bike with training wheels and a bright pink “motorcycle.” My son’s pink balance bike, a hand-me-down from his big sister, didn’t have pedals. And, as he pointed out quite often, motorcycles also don’t have pedals; hence, he had a motorcycle.

Hoping to replicate our past success, we loaded the two training-wheel-free big kid bikes into our car last weekend and set out for the Presumpscot. Both children loved pedaling the initial section of the Mountain Division Rail Trail, which follows a set of old railroad ties in a wide, flat path. However, the first of two bridges posed a challenge.

Even though we walked our bikes over the first bridge, a high railroad trestle, the steep drop beside the subsequent stretch of the trail made one of our two new bikers balk. She decided to walk her bike - the entire way.

The Mountain Division Trail continues from the Presumpscot all the way to Sebago Lake, but we turned left after the railroad trestle and continued to Shaw Park. Attempts to convince my assistant that riding a bike is actually much easier, and more fun, than walking a bike were met with much resistance. Apparently, there’s a big difference between feeling comfortable riding a bike around a parking lot and feeling comfortable riding a bike along a windy, curving trail.

Fortunately, by this point our family was almost to Shaw Park. It was a warm, muggy day, so the entire family left the bikes by the swings and went for a quick dip (Dad had graciously volunteered to carry towels and swim suits). Swimming in the Presumpscot improved everyone’s morale, and we were able to watch adventurous canoeists climb to the top of the railroad trestle bridge and jump into the water below.

Can I do that, Mom?” my four-year-old assistant asked.

Sure thing, honey,” I said. “When you’re thirty-five.”

After our swim at Shaw Park, the family resumed our bike ride/push. The trail loops gently through the woods past Shaw Park and circles around what looks like an old gravel pit. The path here is broad and flat, and it was finally gentle enough for our seven-year-old to decide she was willing to give two-wheeled bike riding another try. For just a few moments, our children zoomed ahead of us on their bikes, and the hike was exactly what I’d expected.

This loop trail ends at Gambo Dam, where there is a lovely pedestrian bridge across the Presumpscot. Below the dam, you can find a fascinating interpretive trail along the historic site of Maine’s Oriental Powder Mill, which made gunpowder used in the Civil War. You can also explore the ruins of the Cumberland & Oxford Canal if you’re looking for another fun, short hike with (or without) children.

If you’d like to explore the Gambo Dam area yourself, with or without bikes and children, you can find the parking area by turning onto Newhall Road from Route 202. Newhall Road becomes Gambo Road, and it ends at the Gambo Dam. To follow our loop, park just before the dam in the Mountain Division Trail parking lot.

Fixing Maine’s broken child protection system – I need your help by Senator Bill Diamond

There’s no question about it - Maine’s child protection system is badly broken but instead of placing blame, we must focus on fixing it immediately. The health, well-being and lives of Maine children are at stake.

Since the news first broke about the tragic deaths of Kendall Chick and Marissa Kennedy, the Legislature’s independent watchdog agency, the Department of Health and Human Services and Maine's Child Death & Serious Injury Review Panel have launched investigations into what happened and what we can do to make sure it never happens again. While I cannot speak for the other two investigations, what we found in the Legislature’s investigation is deeply concerning.

According to the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, Maine’s child protection system failed on several occasions and suffers from inadequate staffing, a flawed intake system and multiple opportunities for cases to fall through the cracks. This is unacceptable. I worry that we will learn of more cases that have fallen through the cracks and be too late to remove a child from a dangerous situation.

Last month, DHHS Commissioner Ricker Hamilton appeared before the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee, (known as the government Watch Dog committee) of which I serve, to provide information and answer our questions. I am encouraged that he has committed to adding 75 intake workers and am interested in additional proposals from the Department and the governor to repair the system. 

However, since Commissioner Hamilton made this commitment to add more caseworkers, the governor is now saying that he won’t include adding these badly needed workers in his emergency bill in the next few weeks. He wants to wait and let the next governor deal with that issue.  Hopefully we reach a compromise and provide some help now …before it’s too late.

I also worry about the lack of transparency and information coming from the Department. The reality is, if we are going to make the necessary changes to the system charged with keeping our kids safe, lawmakers need to make sure we have all the facts.

A report from the Portland Press Herald revealed that there has been a 31 percent increase in child abuse and neglect cases in the past eight years, with more than 1,000 cases handled by the Department in 2016. Even more concerning, the number of physical abuse cases doubled over that same time. What these numbers show is that the proposed staffing increases to the Department are long overdue. They also reveal that the state needs to do more to invest in child abuse prevention programs that have a proven track record of success.

It has also been very helpful and enlightening to hear from many of you, right here in our district, about your experiences with the Department and recommendations on what we must do to transform the system so it works effectively to protect Maine kids. A huge concern of mine has stemmed from what I have heard about the mandated reporting system. I worry that those trying to do what’s best for Maine kids and report a worrisome situation are not getting the proper confirmation that their report has been received.

It’s very clear that we have a problem in this state that is only getting worse. We need a child welfare system that is going to rise to the increased challenges and best meet the needs of our kids.
I also want to be confident that we are exploring every possible option to keep Maine kids safe so they can grow up to become healthy, productive adults.

The Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee is expected to meet this week to get an update into the investigation. I am also hopeful that we will get a proposal from the governor to strengthen the child welfare system. Republican, Democrat or Independent - we must all work together for the good of Maine children.

Again, I’m asking for your help in sharing any information you may have that could be helpful to me as we seek the truth and solutions.  I urge anyone with information related to Maine’s child protective system to contact me at or (207) 287-1515. Feel free to remain anonymous if you prefer. If we are going to keep our kids safe, it’s going to take all of us working together to share information and to build a stronger, more effective child protection system.

Prompt! writing workshop back by popular demand

Whether one is experiencing writer’s block, looking for ways to hone in on their prose or recently considering putting pen to paper, the Prompt! workshop might be the perfect option to get the imagination into overdrive.

Join other writers on Saturday, August 18 at the Hawthorne House in Raymond from 2 to 4 p.m. for an opportunity to dive into your imagination and let the words fly onto paper (or laptop) with ease. The workshop will be facilitated by Diana Altman, author of “Hollywood East: Louis B. Mayer and the Origins of the Studio System.”

Altman conducted this workshop last year as a fund raiser for the Raymond Hill Community Center and it was such a hit, she was asked to do it again. Comments from previous participants included:

"Thanks!  This really gave my writing the jumpstart it needed!"
"I'm not even a writer, but this workshop really sparked my creativity!"
"I only came to support my friend, but I had such a good time!"
"I was so surprised by what we were all writing!"

For those who may be intimidated, Altman tries to put minds at ease, “Any creative endeavor requires confidence and it’s my job to help students gain that confidence,” she said. “This workshop is designed to increase the participant’s awareness of their own voice and confidence that what they wish to express is worth saying.” 

Altman has a long history in both writing and fine art – specifically in film. A graduate of Connecticut College and Harvard University, Altman is an independent film historian whose father was Al Altman, a well-known MGM talent scout who discovered Joan Crawford, Ava Gardner, Jimmy Stewart and Bob Hope – to name only a few.

Her first non-fiction novel, “Hollywood East: Louis B. Mayer and the Origins of the Studio System” tells the story of how the movies evolved. The book expels the popular misconception that the film industry was the innovative evolution of Hollywood, when in fact New York was where the real innovation began and where the stars of the early industry were discovered.

Her second book, “In Theda Bara’s Tent” is a work of fiction that delves into the life of a young boy who loses his parents in a factory fire. Yearning for love and prosperity, the boy takes solace at the movies. He befriends the theater’s owner who one day becomes a Hollywood legend.

Altman will not be accepting any reimbursement for teaching the workshop and there is a special reason for that. “I live in both New York City and Raymond,” said Altman. “I’ve had a house in Raymond for about twenty years and spend the entire summer here as well as time in the winter and fall. I feel a strong connection to Raymond and that’s why I am contributing my time.

Registration for the workshop is not required. A suggested donation for the workshop is $7. Funds from the workshop will go toward the Raymond Arts Alliance, which is hosting the event. For more information about the Raymond Arts Alliance, visit

What I learned about “The Way Life Could Be - Seeds of Peace” informational meeting by Caryl Gilman

"To inspire and cultivate new generations of global leaders in communities divided by conflict and to equip those young leaders with the skills and relationships they need to accelerate social, economic, and political changes essential for peace,” is the mission statement of Seeds of Peace. Seeds of Peace is a leadership development organization that began in 1993 with one youth camp locaton in Otisfield, Maine. 

On Tuesday, July 31, Orlando Arellano, Team Leader Multinational Programs and Strategy, spoke at
Raymond Village Community Church about Seeds of Peace. I am a member of the Raymond Village Community Church and I had asked Seeds of Peace to send a speaker who could tell the Raymond, Casco and Windham communities how Seeds of Peace successfully transforms individual perspectives during camp.

The presentation was sponsored by Raymond Village Community Church, Raymond Arts Alliance and Raymond Village Library. During the presentation, I learned that the process of individual transformation begins at Seeds of Peace camp in Otisfield, Maine. After graduating from the camp, participants build on their experiences through over a hundred local/regional leadership development initiatives.

What interested me the most was the beginning of the process: Seeds of Peace camp. Interested participants go through a rigorous selection process, and once selected, participants then attend camp in groups or delegations. 
At camp, which is a new type of experience for most, they are asked to set aside technology and live in close contact with people they don’t know.

The key activity is dialogue facilitated by professional facilitators, many of whom are Seeds of Peace graduates. Dialogue requires listening and speaking from the “I” perspective, not just about “what” but also about the “why” and feelings about their own story and what they are hearing.
The camp participants are asked to “lean in” when uncomfortable as there is much to be learned.
One thought I had was that it seemed like a lot of work to me and could not happen unless participants feel safe and that they can trust each other. 

Seeds of Peace camp aims to help participants feel welcome by serving food they can eat (e.g. kosher or halal) and offering a variety of religious services. They build trust through dialogue and through group activities.

Arellano helped me better understand the camp experience and related his own experiences at camp that continues his own learning. 

I admire the organization and the people involved.

Naples Causeway 5K raises funds for Dempsey Center by Scott Fowler

Back in 2015, Naples local George Vooris decided to run in a 5K race in Lewiston, which happened to be put on by the Dempsey Center for a fundraiser called the Dempsey Challenge. It was an effort to get back in shape and see how he ranked among the thousands of other participants, but what he got out of it was so much more.

It was after seeing all the other runners and walkers surrounding him, who were battling cancer that he realized it didn't matter what place he came in or what his personal time was. His being there meant more than that. The will and strength of the people in the race made him forget about his aching back and his painful ankles and changed the entire meaning of the event and the whole reason he was participating.

George with his wife Janis and Patrick Dempsey
It was then he decided to change the course of his thinking and become not only a participant, but an advocate for the event's underlying cause. After learning about its many benefits to the community, Vooris set out to be an independent fundraiser for the Dempsey Center itself and help in any way he could. While asking people to donate money to the foundation and bringing his friends and family to the race in Lewiston was doing something positive, he felt it wasn't enough. He wanted to go bigger.

That very same year, Vooris founded the Naples Causeway 5K, a local family-fun walk or run that would go through his own hometown. It would benefit not only the Dempsey Center, but his own local food pantry, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s, and police and fire departments; and it would bring the community of Naples together as a family in a common cause of fighting cancer.

He never realized what a positive impact his event would have, bringing in hundreds of participants and local sponsors from all over, who were more than happy to give their participation and support. All of Vooris’ effort and hard work in making his vision a reality has brought out the best in the people of his community and continues to amaze him as it grows each year.

To date, Vooris has raised nearly $50,000 with his 5K race and in 2017, was the top independent fundraiser for the Dempsey Challenge. He was also the recipient of the Naples Volunteer of the Year Award for 2017 and credits these unexpected achievements to his loving community for making it all possible.

For Vooris, he is humbled by all of the support and recognition he has received over the years and is still excited to be the director of the Naples Causeway 5K, which is only in its 4th year. He likes seeing the locals sporting their 5K t-shirts around town and enjoys the fame he has garnered, only to use it to further promote his race which is growing bigger every summer. He continues to volunteer at his local food pantry and holds fundraising benefits throughout the year while spreading the message about how important it is to give what you can to those who need the help.

On a sad note, Vooris recently lost his little brother Danny to cancer, which only served to strengthen his resolve in making a difference and prevent others from experiencing the loss of a loved one. He wants to remind us all that everyone has been or knows someone affected by cancer, and the best way to help out is to participate and sign up.

The 4th Annual Naples Causeway 5K is on August 25th at the Naples Marina on Route 114 and you can find Vooris running the course this year in the honor and memory of his little brother.
If you would like to donate to his cause or register to run in the race, you can head to or for more information on how you can help this great cause.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Schoolhouse Arts Center Education Program offers children creative outlet and opportunities to perform by Elizabeth Richards

Last year's "Sleeping Beauty" performance
The Schoolhouse Arts Center is more than just a thriving theater; it’s also home to a robust education program that allows young people to grow and build social skills while exploring the arts.

Education Director, Dillon Bates says he believes that the arts are the social consciousness of the world. “No matter how crazy the world is, or how different it is, throughout history artists have been the first group to accept new ideas and new people, but also to push boundaries and resist things,” he says.

That’s why arts education is so important. “The more that we can prepare people of all ages, but especially young people, to go out into the world with the social and emotional awareness that comes from the arts – that’s going to pay dividends beyond anything else you can do,” Bates said.
The education program at Schoolhouse Arts Center is doing just that. The program offers spring and fall semester classes, occasional one-time workshops, and two types of summer camps. 

Semester long classes include a ten-week production workshop, where students audition for and stage a full production. In the fall, this show is open to children five to 12-years old and in the spring the age range is eight to 15. In addition to the production workshop, the program offers options like Intro to Directing, where students learn the skills necessary to direct a show, and Storybook Theater, where students create their own show while exploring theater games, fairy tales, music and art. 

In the summer, the program offers one-week summer camp programs for ages five to 11. The most popular, Bates said, is Storybook Theater. The students work together to create their own short show using characters they might already be familiar with. Because this experience is often a child’s first experience on stage, Bates said, they cover the basics such as how to stay open to an audience, what it’s like to speak so you can be heard, and learning theater terms, such as diction, downstage and upstage.

"Once on this Island" performance
Also offered are two two-week camp programs separated by age. The first is for children five to 11 years old, while the second is for those 11 to 15 years old. When students are 11, they have the opportunity to participate in both. Many of the 11-year olds are kids who have been there for a long time and look forward to that year. “They can do both shows. They’re sort of the ‘big fish’ in the first one and then they come back and they’re at the bottom of the barrel again,” he said.  In the first camp these older kids help lead the younger ones, and in the second, they can learn from the older group. “It’s great to have them be constantly pushed and learn more,” Bates said. 

The older group has students who have been there for quite a while, although they are open to new students as well. “This group is fun,” Bates said. “We can do pretty advanced stuff that they’re not going to get at their middle school or high school. We can do some more challenging material.”
In these camps, the group puts together a full show from auditions to opening night in just two weeks. Shows run on Friday and Saturday evenings, as well as Saturday and Sunday matinees. 

Registration for workshops and camps happens online, and spots fill quickly. There are a maximum number of students they can take, which varies depending on the show being produced. Camps and workshops are led by instructors who either have a degree in their field of theater, music or dance, or have significant training. They cap the number of students they take, Bates said, so they can have enough time to work with everyone and make sure they are getting something out of it.

There are kids who return year after year but they also get kids who have never performed before. “What I really like about the developmental side of theater and the arts is that it’s stuff that will extend beyond the stage,” said Bates. “That’s the idea with the education program, that they should always be improving, and they should always be gaining something from the show no matter how experienced or inexperienced they are.”
Beyond theatrical and arts training, the education program gives students a place to be open, be themselves, and celebrate that, Bates said. “I’m really proud of the friendships and connections they make. It’s just a great outlet for kids and young adults to be themselves.”

This year’s summer productions are “Aladdin Kids” and “Mary Poppins, Jr.”.

Aladdin will run the weekend of August 3rd through 5th, and Mary Poppins will run August 17 through 19. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. 

For more information on the education program at Schoolhouse Center for the Arts, or to get on the mailing list for upcoming programs, email Information is also available at

An exciting day for the cats of H.A.R.T. Animal Shelter and young readers of Raymond by Briana Bizier

This summer, Raymond Village Library partnered with H.A.R.T, the Homeless Animal Rescue Team
in Cumberland to benefit shelter animals and encourage reading over the summer. The children in the library’s reading program spent their July tracking how many books they read, or how many books were read to them. Each time the little readers brought their reading log to the library, children’s librarian Karen Perry would tally their books and award their “prizes.”

Those reading prizes were fun for kids and animals. The children were able to choose toys, treats, blankets, or medication for dogs and cats in animal shelters. Karen provided a blank name tag, and the children could draw or write their name and a message for the animals before taping the tag to the “prize” of their choosing.

Raymond Library’s summer reading program drew to a close last week, and this past Monday, July 30, the celebration went out with a bang! A big, yellow school bus met children and parents at the library in the morning, and the young readers, their parents, librarians Karen and Allison Griffin, and all the labeled toys and treats headed to the H.A.R.T. Animal Shelter in Cumberland.

Founded in 1997, H.A.R.T. is a shelter and adoption center for cats and kittens. The children were greeted by enthusiastic volunteers in the shelter’s brightly lit lobby, where a painted tree on the wall holds paper leaves with the names of all the kitties who have been happily adopted this year.

The little readers patiently posed for photos with the treats and toys they had earned over the summer, and they were rewarded with a tour of all four rooms at the H.A.R.T. shelter. Volunteers partnered with each group of children to explain a few of the finer nuances of cat etiquette while kids and kitties alike delighted in the laser pointers, balls, and fluffy feather toys. At the end of the tour, everyone enjoyed a picnic lunch in the shade by the animal shelter, where the children were watched by a line of cats in the windows.

No kitties went home with the young readers on this trip, but the bus back to Raymond Library was filled with meows - only this time, it was the meows of children who had decided to spend the rest of their afternoon pretending to be shelter cats.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Create summer Maine memories by visiting local wild blueberries patches by Briana Bizier

Now that it’s summer in Vacationland, are you looking to re-create a few scenes from Robert McCloskey’s iconic children’s book “Blueberries for Sal?” Preferably the scenes that don’t involve losing your child or running into a mother black bear and her cub?

Well, there’s no need to travel. You might be surprised to learn Windham and Raymond are home to a robust population of wild blueberries. Blueberry bushes love Maine’s soil, which tends to be acidic, and they thrive during our warm, wet summers.

Blueberries for Ian Bizier
You may be even more surprised to learn where you can find fields of wild blueberries to create your own idyllic summer memories. Last summer, my family stumbled on an amazing patch of wild blueberries with nary a bear in sight. The berries were so thick we probably could have raked them, and the season stretched out for almost a month. It was such a fantastic find that we ended up taking all our summer guests to that field to fill bowls with blueberries.

Where did we have this great, natural foraging experience? Under the power lines.

According to Central Maine Power’s website, hiking, bird watching, and other non-motorized uses are allowed on CMP’s corridors - which means it is legal to walk beneath the power lines in Maine. What’s more, these power lines are served by rugged roads which make perfectly acceptable trails. Just keep an eye out for any “No Trespassing” signs and respect the landowners whose property abuts the CMP corridor.

While you can find wild blueberries almost anywhere in Maine, from the edges of ponds to the middle of the forest, blueberries do best in full sun. These corridors along the power lines provide everything wild blueberries need to thrive: acidic soil, frequent rain showers, and plenty of sunshine. In fact, several types of wild berries flourish beneath the power lines, including raspberries and blackberries. Blueberries, however, are the most iconic berry to pick in Maine, and they have the added perk of lacking nasty thorns.

If you’re looking for blueberries beneath the power lines, it pays to stray off the rough roads, which tend to be lined with blackberry and raspberry bushes. Blueberries are low growing plants, so keep your eyes to the ground and look for open areas, especially along hillsides. You might also encounter some of the other wildlife from the pages of McCloskey’s book, like crows and partridges.

A berry picking adventure along the power lines can also be a very kid friendly way to spend a morning or afternoon. Children are excellent companions for blueberry picking, as they tend to be on the same level as the berries. In fact, kids will probably spot the fruits before the adults!
Of course, before you pick and eat anything in the wild, be sure you can properly identify the plants first. If you’ve never been before, you might invite a friend, family member, or neighbor who has berry picking experience.

And be sure to bring a container! If you don’t have an adorable tin pail like Sal and her mother, an empty sour cream or yoghurt container, or even a small plastic bowl, works just fine. If you’re really serious about your picking, and your children are old enough to keep from eating everything, you could even bring a few plastic bags to fill. Most of our blueberries are devoured on our hike, and the few berries which make it all the way home end up in buttermilk pancakes the next morning, but I’ve heard wild blueberries freeze very well.
Finally, picking blueberries on a hot, sunny day can quickly become hard labor. It’s best to save your berry picking expeditions for cool, overcast days. If it seems too chilly to go swimming, it’s the perfect time to visit the power lines and search for blueberries! And, as always before heading out in Maine, be sure to apply sunscreen and bug spray, and do a thorough check for ticks once you return home.

The CMP power lines aren’t quite the same as the idyllic Blueberry Hill from “Blueberries for Sal,” but I promise you’ll find enough berries to fill your little tin pail! And, hopefully, your trip to the power lines will be bear free.

Children’s author from Raymond plants kindness and garden whimsy in her first published book by Lorraine Glowczak

Gayle Plummer of Raymond recently published her first children’s book, “The Flower Patch Pals,” an interactive story regarding six flower characters who teach the young reader about making good life choices, being kind and accepting others as well as ourselves.

The six characters include Polly Pansy, Benny the Bachelor Button, Rita Rose, Hollis Hollyhock, Zelda Zinnia and Willey the Woolley Thyme. While teaching the young reader to be caring, the flower characters also provide playful entertainment while also providing “how to” gardening instructions. The reader will find fun little projects at the end of the book to encourage the child to plant their favorite flower, either in a little patch of ground or in flower pots.

The concept of “The Flower Patch Pals”, published by North Country Press in Unity, ME and illustrated by her sister, Sheila Young from New Hampshire, had been simmering in the back of Plummer’s mind for a while.

“I actually outlined the book about nine years ago,” explained Plummer. “One of my grandsons, who was pretty young at the time, used to sit in the garden under the taller plants. It was obvious that all of his senses were engaged; he would gently touch the plants and “really” look at them. It seemed he was sitting in this mystical, other garden world…I could see it with him. It all just hit me as a total visual package; like a bolt of lightning. So, I started writing. And I was hoping that if the kids could relate to the little flowers with faces and names, that they may be inspired to plant. As I wrote, the little flowers seemed to have a few ‘behavior’ challenges, as we all do while we grow, and I wanted the plants to demonstrate the art of making good choices about helping others and caring about the feelings of others.”

In addition to teaching the young child how to be kind and provide fun gardening instructions and hands-on experiences, Plummer wanted to also provide something else for her readers that she believes is important. “To be honest, kids aren’t kids very long anymore and I loved trying to capture a bit of whimsy about something as ordinary as a garden; maybe making it a bit magical – to retain childhood for a bit longer,” she said. plans to continue with the mission of preserving the whimsy of childhood, as she prepares to publish her second children’s book. “It is a story based on true events about a horse called Sonny (he was ours when I was little) and his special bond with a man (my Dad) who trains him and the challenges Sonny faces,” Plummer explained. “The story is told from the horse’s point of view and will be titled, ‘Sonny the Dancing Horse and His Best Friend Sam’.”

Plummer stated that her next book will be out some time next year. Until then, you can read “The Flower Patch Pals” now, as it is currently available at the Windham, Bridgton and Casco libraries. “Each of those libraries also has a handcrafted, miniature greenhouse and garden display that corresponds to the book,” Plummer stated. Other surrounding libraries will also be carrying her book soon.

If you wish to purchase the book for your own home library, the book is not only available on the publisher’s website at, but also at the following bookstores and businesses: The Good Life Market, Kindred Farms, Bittersweet Barn, Bridgton Books, Sherman’s Book Stores (at all 6 locations along the coast), Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The Way Life Could Be - Seeds of Peace to present at Raymond Village Community Church by Lorraine Gowczak

"To inspire and cultivate new generations of global leaders in communities divided by conflict and to equip those young leaders with the skills and relationships they need to accelerate social, economic, and political changes essential for peace,” is the mission statement of Seeds of Peace. Seeds of Peace is a leadership development organization that began in 1993 with one youth camp location in Otisfield, Maine. 

But exactly how does this organization make their mission become a successful reality, especially in times of extreme conflict and diverse perspectives?

That is the question Caryl Gilman of Raymond asked herself when she attended the tenth annual UCC (United Church of Christ) Women’s Celebration X conference in April at Portland’s Holiday Inn By the Bay.

“The Executive Director of Seeds of Peace was one of the speakers at the conference,” Gilman explained. “What caught my attention during her presentation was how the perspectives of young future leaders changed over the course of their camp experience in Otisfield.”

Leslie Adelson Lewin, the Executive Director of Seeds of Peace, spoke to approximately 400 women at that conference regarding how the youth from across lines of conflict and difference arrive at the camp, often viewing others as enemies – but then through daily facilitated dialogue sessions, plus traditional camp activities, they begin to open up to new perspectives, building trust and empathy.

Gilman decided to find out exactly how Seeds of Peace successfully transforms individual perspectives during camp and to share that information with the Raymond, Casco and Windham communities and beyond. “I belong to the Raymond Village Community Church, so I approached our Pastor, Nancy Foran,” began Gilman. “I also spoke with Sheila Bourque (Board President of Raymond Village Library) and Mary-Therese Duffy (Raymond Arts Alliance) about the possibility of inviting a representative from Seeds of Peace to give us those details.”

A collaborative effort was created and put into place, resulting in the informational presentation that will occur on Tuesday, July 31 at 6:30 p.m. at the Raymond Village Community Church, 27 Main Street in Raymond.

Anyone who interested in discovering more about Seeds of Peace and how they successfully execute their mission can attend.

Briefly, Seeds of Peace began in 1993 by John Wallach, a journalist and Foreign Editor for Hearst Newspapers from 1968–1995. He believed that "If you begin to know your enemy, if you begin to hear your enemy, if you begin to understand your enemy, it is inevitable that you will begin to feel some empathy.”

According to the Seeds of Peace website, in the summer of 1993, “a group of 46 Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian, and American teenagers inaugurate the Camp [in Maine].” Soon after, President Clinton invited the attendees as their guests to the historic signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn. And thus, the success of Seeds of Peace began.

To learn more about the informational gathering that will occur on Tuesday, contact
Gilman at 627-5073.

The Seeds of Peace informational gathering is free and open to the public. “Peace is the way life could be – not only internationally, but in the U.S. and right here in Raymond and Windham, too,” Gilman said. “I’d like to invite everyone to attend to find out just how Seeds of Peace does it.”

A matter of historical record: The war time crash over Sebago Lake by Walter Lunt

May 16, 1944 – six war planes out of Brunswick Naval Air Station were buzzing in the late morning sky over Sebago Lake. Residents in the region were accustomed to the protracted drone of British Corsair fighter planes, destined for the Pacific war theater, breaking the early day stillness as they engaged in frenetic training exercises.

A North Sebago woman was watching when two of the aircraft dived low. She later told the Portland
Over 2000 gull-winged Corsair fighter planes, similar to the one show here, were issued to the British Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm during World War II. Many saw action in the Pacific on aircraft carriers. (Mobile)
Evening Express, “The planes…skimmed the water and I could see spray flying up. Then came an explosion (and) smoke. Then another explosion.” As the other four planes flew away, she and a neighbor scanned the lake with field glasses, “but there was nothing to be seen on (the surface) of the lake.”

Boaters from Long Beach searched the crash area but found no trace of the planes or the occupants. Killed, and to this day listed as missing in action, were two young Royal Navy pilots, sub-lieutenants Vaughan Reginald Gill and Raymond L. Knott, both 19. They are memorialized in their home town of Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire, England.

Military investigators sent amphibian planes, Marines and Navy men to the site and used a Navy diving bell in a recovery effort but found only an antenna and a headrest. Few other details were released. Speculation centered on either the two gull-winged planes got too close to each other or too close to the water. Press reports over the years have favored the collision theory. Both aircraft remain submerged about 300 feet down in Sebago Lake.

Sadly, air crash fatalities in Maine during training missions, especially low-level combat training were not rare during the second world war. One-hundred thirty-two mishaps involving Corsair fighter planes were recorded in Maine in 1944 alone.

“We probably had a crash every two or three days (in the state) during the war,” said BNAS spokesman, John James in a Bangor Dailey News story in 1998.

Peter Noddin, custodian of Aviation Archaeology in Maine, a website devoted to the memory of Maine’s military crash victims, reports 805 military aviation accidents in Maine between 1919 and 1989. More than half, he says, happened during World War II with a total of 143 fatalities.
Noddin maintains that the logistics of gearing up for war must be understood from a 1940s perspective.

“The war was waged with great urgency…the army didn’t have the luxury of elite flight-training programs, testing protocols or the patience for ideal flying conditions. Thousands of airmen, many with no greater qualification than a high school diploma, were rushed through training. Mass-produced planes were delivered as quickly as they were riveted together.”
From the video footage of the fuselage code

In recent years, well publicized efforts by various entities such as aircraft restoration groups, wreck hunters and “war bird” collectors have expressed interest in locating and even salvaging the Sebago Corsairs. In 2003, using historic eyewitness accounts and modern side-scan sonar equipment, one of the two aircraft was located in one of the deepest parts of Sebago’s main lake. Footage produced by remote controlled video documented the fuselage code (3BH) and the serial number and fin flash on the tail. The aircraft was shown to be resting nose-down by the weight of the engine. The wings were torn off – one was located approximately 100 feet off to the side. The landing gear was down and the canopy open. Clothing and a tangle of parachute shroud line appear to drift upward from the forward cockpit.

The second Corsair is thought to be resting less than a mile from the “3BH” plane.

Controversy surrounds release of the video footage, as well as the legality and the moral and ethical considerations in any attempt to retrieve the wreckage. Many suggest the remains of the dead pilots are still with, or near, the submerged aircraft.

 A proposed salvage operation was foiled in a federal court when a judge dismissed a suit brought by a recovery firm that sought to recover the Corsairs. The company had argued the “admiralty law” (laws of salvage and finds) applied to their retrieval plans. The court, however, ruled that Sebago Lake is considered a “great pond,” and does not fall under the jurisdiction of federal navigable waters. During deliberations, the State of Maine and Great Britain maintained that the warplanes are grave sites and shouldn’t be disturbed.

Feelings on both sides run deep, as evidenced by testimony on an aviation forum website (Key.Aero Network). Noddin, writing in favor of recovery, writes “Why has this not been recovered, and the man given a proper burial?” Jayce (from Key.Aero Network) admits to mixed feelings, “On the one hand, recovery and a proper burial can only be a good thing. But personally, I feel strongly there is something morally repugnant about recovering an air frame simply for commercial purposes.”
For the full historical record of the crash of two British Navy Corsairs over Sebago Lake, read “Finding the Fallen” by Andy Saunders. 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Tree Talk: Advice from an Arborist by Robert Fogg

Fully insured?

Cutting trees can be extremely dangerous even if you are experienced. A chainsaw, in itself, can be a dangerous tool and should be handled with extreme caution. Falling or splitting trees, falling branches and “spring poles,” to name a few, are common hazards of tree cutting. Cutting trees near buildings and other obstacles adds complication and risk to the equation. The list of things that can go wrong is endless.

If you need tree work done near your home and you are not trained to do it yourself, you should consider hiring a competent, professional tree service or individual to do the work. Such professionals should be trained at all aspects of tree cutting, and in how to avoid most hazards. They should also be a licensed arborist(s) and be fully insured. When I say “fully insured”, I mean they should not only have General Liability insurance, but more importantly, they should have Workman’s Compensation Insurance (Workman’s Comp).

Many tree service providers advertise "fully insured" but do not carry Workman's Comp Insurance, especially if it’s an individual with no employees. My opinion is that the Workman’s Comp is more important than the Liability insurance for one simple reason. If someone drops a tree and damages your property, and they don’t offer to pay for the damages (or have their insurance company pay), then your homeowners insurance will likely cover it. But, if someone gets hurt (or killed) on your property, the medical costs and lost wages can be astronomical, potentially more than your homeowners insurance is willing to pay.

If a worker is injured or killed on your property, without proper insurance in place, he/she (or their family) is likely to seek compensation from you. To be sure that your tree service provider is covered by Workman's Comp, ask them to have their insurance company issue you a “certificate of insurance” that includes Workman's Comp. If their insurance company issues you a certificate, and the tree company or individual cancels their insurance, you will be notified. Allowing any tree service provider (or any contractor for that matter) to work on your property without proper insurance could put your assets at risk.

Workman's Comp is very expensive, so a tree service provider can save money by not carrying it, thus they can work cheaper. It may be tempting to take advantage of the lower price, but my advice is “don’t do it.” You may be sorry if someone gets hurt. And, if you decide to tackle those trees yourself, double-check your health and disability insurances first (and your spouse) and then, BE CAREFUL.

The author is the General Manager of Naples-based Q-Team Tree Service and is a Licensed Arborist. You can contact him at 207-693-3831 or at

Schoolhouse Arts Center reaches out to Deaf community by Neil Ruecker

In 2019 Schoolhouse Arts Center in Standish will celebrate their thirtieth year as a community theater and educational facility in the Lakes Region. Schoolhouse was founded in 1989 with a mission to provide a safe and nurturing place for young and old to explore and enjoy live theater productions. 

They have recently brought onboard a brilliant young Artistic Director, Zachariah Stearn to provide new vision and energy for that mission in the future. Last year Stearn directed the smash hit production of “Peter Pan” for the Schoolhouse. And this year he has taken on his new role with gusto in directing their current production of “Seussical the Musical,” on stage from July 12 through July 29.
In the first weekend, audiences have been thrilled with the lively music and colorful production of this play based on a wonderful collage of Seuss stories. The performance combines clever acting,  great dance numbers choreographed by April Monte, lots of audience interaction, toe-tapping music by an orchestra led by Rachel Scala, and professional lighting and sound direction by TJ Scannel. But Stearn has also brought an important new element to the stage in his adaptation of Seussical.

His cast of 36 local actors ranging in age from four to somewhat over 65, each of whom have not only learned their dialogue, dance routines, stage blocking, and a dozen musical numbers but Stearn has taught the entire cast to perform every major element of the story line in American Sign Language for the Deaf. 

This is a first step forward in a new element of the Schoolhouse mission. During their next decade of service to the Lakes Region Community, Schoolhouse Art Center plans to reach out to the Deaf members of our community and offer them greater involvement as an underserved audience and as participants in Schoolhouse productions. Numbered among the three dozen members of the cast are five and seven-year-old brother and sister, Sephine and Jason Seal. Not only are they very talented young actors but they are also both Deaf.

Think about how difficult it would be to learn and perform dance moves and songs if you cannot hear the music. How difficult would it be to perform complicated dance moves at the right moment if you could not hear the queues in the dialog. These challenges would be daunting for an adult cast member to take on. But Sephine and Jason have succeeded admirably with a strong desire and the support of their hearing cast family.  

“The success of our deaf actors is inspiring”, said Stearn. “This is an opportunity that is seldom offered to Deaf members of our community. They are just as eager and have just as much desire as their hearing neighbors. But too often they are just not offered a chance to try.” 

Stearn grew up in Augusta and was taught American Sign Language as a child by his Deaf mother. He could sign before he could talk. 

He has an extensive performing resume for his young age, touring the country as a stand-up comedian since the age of 13. He has performed as a comedian off-Broadway in New York and returned to Maine in 2017. In 2016-17 he was Artistic Director at Art Works Studio Theater in Hamden CT.

“Seussical is an important step forward,” says Cristina McBreairty, Chairman of the Board for Schoolhouse Arts Center.  “The cast and our audiences have embraced our use of ASL (American Sign Language) in the production with enthusiasm and have been very supportive.  We feel that this is an important step forward for Schoolhouse and for our community.  We are hopeful that other theaters in Maine will follow our lead. The show itself is not officially a full-ASL production. But all of the important elements of the storyline are signed by the entire cast.  And we will be presenting a fully signed presentation of the play for Deaf patrons on July 28th.  

We are planning to provide at least one fully signed production of all of our plays in the future.”  In further support of this effort, Schoolhouse plans to offer classes in American Sign Language to the community starting this fall. Their first class, ASL 101 will be held on Thursday nights for 10 weeks starting August 2 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Schoolhouse Arts Center, 16 Richville Road (Route 114) in Standish, 7 miles west of downtown Gorham or North Windham. The cost for ASL 101 will be $175 per student. More advanced ASL classes will be offered later in the fall if there is sufficient demand.

Schoolhouse also plans to offer a wider range of educational opportunities in coming months.  They are planning classes in Acting, Directing, Stage Management, Sound and Lighting, and other theater skills. These changes represent a new emphasis in helping the Lakes Region Community to experience and enjoy the magic of live stage productions. Anyone interested in more information about Schoolhouse Arts Center, Seussical reservations, or upcoming classes, should visit their website at www.   

Friday, July 13, 2018

Tips for writing the college application essay by Suzanne Hatfield

Summer vacation is time for high school students to take a needed break from busy schedules. Members of the 2019 graduating class can rest up for an eventful academic year ahead. Those who are planning to apply to colleges and career schools can use their free time this summer to get a head start on the application process.

Writing the college application essay is a creative endeavor that should not be rushed. A classic guide to this writing process is the 2012 fully revised and updated book, “On Writing the College Application Essay, 25th Anniversary Edition”, published by HarperCollins L.L.C., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022 ( 

Written by Harry Bauld, a former Ivy League admissions officer at both Brown and Columbia Universities, this publication is available in book stores and online. Students can also check local libraries for access to the updated text.  
In this 25th anniversary edition, Bauld concentrates on the writing of a general personal statement to satisfy one of the Common Application prompts. ( His advice and encouragement can support students throughout the writing process.
A few of Bauld’s main points are as follows:

Keep a notebook of ideas and experiences for possible topics. Describe your actions, thoughts, impressions, reflections, sensations, etc., in order to share these with future essay readers.
Read other essays and try responding to different prompts or topics. Examples of common essay prompts include those below:

“Describe a person who has influenced you.”

“Describe the greatest challenge you have faced or expect to face.”

“Write on a topic that you choose.”

Stick to one topic. Have a strong lead that captures the reader’s curiosity. End the essay by satisfying that curiosity.

Use nouns and verbs to describe thoughts and experiences rather than adjectives.

Use precise and lively terms. Avoid using vague or overused words. Bauld provides extensive lists of these that include some commonly used words, “it”, “thing”, “who”, “which”, “that”.

In connecting various parts of the essay avoid using terms such as therefore, nevertheless, thus, moreover, secondly, finally. Use words such as “but”, “instead”, “now”, “later”, “then”.

When writing drafts, avoid self-criticism and freely express your thoughts and impressions. Proofread and revise as often as needed.

The final version of the college application essay is usually 300-500 words. The writing must be original and interesting. The tone of the essay should reflect the student’s humility, honesty, and positivity. Ask trusted adults to read your essay to provide constructive criticism.

Suzanne Hatfield is a certified school counselor who worked in Maine high schools for 20 years before retirement.