Friday, April 19, 2019

Operation Sunshine Bears project donates toys to medical organizations

Approximately 85 hand-made crochet and knit bears were recently received by Rosemary’s Gift and Yarn Shop, 39 Roosevelt Trail in Windham. The bears (and seven monkeys) were made by 29 women from the Women’s Center at the Maine Correctional Center for Operation Sunshine Bears.

Operation Sunshine Bears is the brainchild of Rosemary Libby, owner of Rosemary’s Gift & Yarn Shop, “The Largest Yarn Shop in Maine.” Knitters and crocheters create and stuff the bears, which are collected by Rosemary and her staff at the shop. The bears are then distributed to the Ronald McDonald House, the Maine Medical Child Life Program (Barbara Bush Wing in Portland), and several other organizations and agencies.

In addition to the cuddly, hand-made stuffed animals, the women from the Women’s Center at MCC made 80 adult and children’s’ hats that will be distributed to local schools and the Preble Street shelter.
The women at the correctional center rely on donated yarn to make their projects. They purchase their knitting needles and crochet hooks themselves, as the implements must meet certain requirements to be used within the Women’s Center.

Rosemary’s Gift & Yarn Shop is hosting a yarn drive on April 27 at the shop to help keep the women crafters at the MCC Women’s Shelter supplied with raw materials. The yarn collection event will be held in conjunction with Local Yarn Store Day on April 27.

The yarn collection event will be promoted on the shop’s website at and on their Facebook page at

For more information, please contact Amanda Kovats of the Women’s Center at the Maine Correctional Center at 207-893-7056, or Rosemary Libby, owner of Rosemary’s Gift and Yarn Shop, at 207-894-5770.

Music with a Mission features Travis James Humphrey in concert Saturday April 27th

On Saturday, April 27th, at 7 p.m., Music with a Mission is proud to present Travis James Humphrey for a fun evening of original music along with some of the best covers of country, folk and honky-tonk favorites.

Travis James Humphrey is a professional musician and Northern Maine native who learned his trade from his father, Tim Humphrey.  After high school, Travis served with the United States Air Force as a bandsman for 8 years.  He returned home to Maine in 2003 and became a working musician performing regularly to packed houses at Lenny’s and other clubs throughout Southern Maine.  

Travis, who mostly performs solo, has released four studio albums and opened shows for B.B. King, Ricky Skaggs, Roy Clark, David Mallett, Don Campbell, The Mallett Brothers Band, and many other fine artists.  

The Music with a Mission concert series is sponsored by the North Windham Union Church, which donates a portion of the proceeds to area non-profits.  Now in our seventh season, MWAM has provided almost $62,000 for mission support to the church and other community organizations.  

Travis James Humphrey has chosen to support the RSU14 Windham Raymond Backpack Program in their efforts to provide food to 150 students in 3 elementary schools each weekend of the school year giving balanced meals for the food insecure.

Tickets will be sold at the door and are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors.  They are also available online at  The box office opens at 6 p.m. and the doors will open at 6:30 p.m. The North Windham Union Church is located at 723 Roosevelt Trail in Windham. For more information please call 892-6142 or email

Windham graduate enjoys reconnecting with his hometown community

By Matt Pascarella

Matthew Bell knows the importance of community and applies that every day. He is the nurse at the Manchester School in North Windham. Prior to that, he was a medic for the United States Army. He is also coaching soccer, alongside Jason Dakin, and has been doing so for several years.

Matthew Bell
Before joining the Military, Bell never considered a career in the medical field.

“When I joined the military, I wanted to make sure I had a usable skill when I got out,” he explained. “My recruiter helped guide me to becoming a medic and I ended up loving it. Toward the end of my first enlistment, the Army offered me nursing school.”

From that point, he went to the Army Medical Department Center in San Antonio, Texas and received his nursing license.

While in the military, Bell worked with active duty and veteran populations. This meant a lot to him. “Being able to help these soldiers caused me to fall in love with nursing. Helping these individuals who have given so much for us is humbling and extremely rewarding.”

Working at the Manchester School was a natural fit for Bell. He stated that the students are an engaging age group. The educators and support staff are some of the greatest with whom he’s ever worked and have the best interest of the students in mind; they are always willing to help.

Bell is impressed with the teamwork and collaboration between nurses within RSU 14. Working with accomplished people who are willing to help or answer any questions has made his job even better.  

Bell got into coaching to be closer to his daughters. He quickly learned he was having more fun than they were. He and coach Dakin started coaching for Windham Youth Soccer Association (WYSA) at the U11/U12 level. They both have been moving up with this talented group of girls throughout the years. He and Dakin are also in their second year of coaching Velocity Soccer, a premier soccer league.

Last fall, Bell took over as the eighth grade girls’ coach. “Being involved in coaching has allowed me to connect with the community,” Bell said. “I have made friends throughout this town and surrounding area as a result of coaching. Also, coaching the kids through WYSA, Velocity and RSU 14 has been extremely rewarding. I have had the good fortune of coaching the same girls for the last few years and it has allowed me to see them grow as both players and young women.”

Bell would like every player who plays for him to grow as an athlete, but more importantly to grow as a person and teammate.

He and his wife, who is also a WHS graduate, have two daughters in the middle school. When he is not working or coaching, he enjoys spending time with his family. They like hiking, swimming and spending time outside. His youngest daughter and he have gotten back into fishing and hope to enjoy a lot more of it this spring and summer. 

Community Day shares student learning with town

By Matt Pascarella

Community is important. Manchester Community Day, held on Wednesday, March 10 at Manchester School in North Windham, showcased service projects by fourth and fifth grade students during the year. Friends, family and service members gathered in the gymnasium to view the projects and show support. The theme of the day focused on students caring for their neighbors and community.

Fourth graders Allison Shardlow and Brenna Small
from Mrs. Priebe's class show off a homemade birdhouse
Principal Danielle Donnini introduced RSU14 Superintendent Sanford Prince who was one of the guest speakers. He talked about the bravery of Maine resident Samantha Smith, who wrote a letter in 1982 to Yuri Andropov, the leader of the Soviet Union, asking why he wanted to be at war with the United States. Superintendent Prince spoke about how she made a difference and how the students at Manchester School can make a difference. Superintendent Prince added giving back is more important than receiving and the importance of caring for friends, family and community members. 

He also spoke of building relationships with others and the difference that can make.
Windham Middle School Principal Drew Patton then spoke of having role models within the community; and that Windham is full of role models. He stated that as individuals, we need to model the behaviors we want to see.

After the assembly, the students separated by class to reveal the projects they had been working on all year. Students from Carol Priebe’s class, built, painted and distributed birdhouses to those who serve and protect the public.

Priebe has been doing the birdhouse project for a while and she said, “it’s a great way to bring wildlife to the community and our brave service well as show our appreciation.”
Jill Thornton’s class collected the tabs off soda cans to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House. Another project included making dog toys out of recycled t-shirts.
Chef Ryan Roderick on the stationary bike blender
making fruit smoothies 

Kelley Simpson, coordinator of the ‘Let’s Go’ program had a stationary bike with a blender on the back. When the bike was peddled, the blender began blending fruit smoothies everyone could enjoy while getting exercise.

It’s a fun way to get physical activity while also making a healthy snack; a healthy alternative to sugary drinks. It’s been really fun and an exciting thing to bring to schools,” observed Simpson.

I think it’s nice for communities to get together whenever they can in a time of celebration and it’s an opportunity to bring parents in during the day,” stated Principal Danielle Donnini. “It’s nice for the students to see the service men and women - a show of mutual respect and support from kids to grownups and grownups back to kids.”

Friday, April 12, 2019

National Nutrition Month was a way to introduce students to a wider variety of foods

By Lanet Hane

RSU14 is well known for its incredible food service, with frequent mentions in media around the state. It has been featured on Maine Public Radio, Central Maine, and the Portland Press Herald, just to mention a few. And it continues to impress, not only with the quality of the food available, but the creativity of the whole department.

Last month’s Eat Your Way Through The Alphabet campaign is no exception.

Throughout the month of March, National Nutrition Month, the entire district participated in an exploration of food that took them all the way through the alphabet. Starting with foods like asparagus and arugula and ending the month with a variety of ways to prepare zucchini, students had the opportunity to try new healthful foods without pressure. Even quinoa had a chance to be in the spotlight!

“Our Eat Your Way Through The Alphabet campaign to celebrate National Nutrition Month is a wonderful way to introduce students to a wider variety of fruits & vegetables,” stated Jeanne Reilly, Director of School Nutrition, “Kids and parents alike enjoy this month long event.  We are frequently pleasantly surprised at how well accepted a new fruit or vegetable is!  Roasted asparagus this year got rave reviews and even emails from parents requesting the recipe.” while the month of hard work was definitely a huge hit among the lower grades, it also provided an opportunity for the high school students. Students in their second year of high school health class used the month as an opportunity to investigate the various health benefits of the featured fruits and
veggies and create posters to hang on the cafeteria walls.

“Students selected two foods and had to research, from a reliable source, a number of aspects of the foods,” said Kim Bartholomew, Health 2 instructor at Windham High School, “It was fun to hear them say, while they were standing in line for the lunch, ‘I made that!’.”

Research included learning nutritional facts about the foods as well as finding preparation methods and recipes, as several of the foods students had never tried before. By the end of the project, students understood not only why the foods were healthful options, but also how to best include these foods in their future food choices.

“We enthusiastically embrace this healthy eating adventure,” says Reilly, “though I must admit we are usually happy to see it end every year, but that doesn’t stop us from jotting ideas down for next year!

Thank you to Reilly and her entire staff for the hard work they put into this campaign each year. We can’t wait to see what next year’s brings!

A Palm Sunday service like no other: Creative worship and the Rutter Requiem Aeternam

Raymond Village Community Church UCC (RVCC) Pastor Nancy Foran and Music Director Patrick Martin invite everyone to a magnificent fusion of creative worship and gorgeous choral music at the RVCC Palm Sunday Service, Sunday, April 14, 10 a.m. at the church.

The service; “Passion Sunday with Palms”, begins with the story of Jesus’ triumphal procession into
Jerusalem and ends with his trial, scourging and death - a powerful prelude to the joy of Easter Sunday. The story is told through readings, visuals, and the music of the “sensitive and beautiful” choral work; Requiem Aeternam, by English composer John Rutter, performed by the RVCC Choir and a variety of guest singers.

“I am so fortunate to be able to collaborate with someone with Patrick’s energy, passion, and musical talent,” stated Rev. Foran. “Not to mention his contacts in the regional music community. For both Palm Sunday and Easter, he is augmenting our choir with a number of excellent local singers, and the results will be amazing!”

“This is the sort of service that will be deeply significant to both churchgoing people and to those who appreciate really meaningful choral music.”

The service will last approximately an hour.

This Palm Sunday collaboration will be followed by an equally powerful candlelight Tenebrae (“Shadows”) service on Maundy Thursday, April 18 at 7 p.m., and a joyous Easter Celebration Service, Sunday, April 21 at 10 a.m. The Church will also be open to everyone for quiet meditation and reflection on Good Friday, April 19 between noon and 3 p.m.

For further information, email Rev. Foran at, or call the church at 655-7749.

Raymond Village Community Church is a United Church of Christ congregation.  It is a diverse faith community embracing tolerance, committed to missions and outreach, singing joyfully, and welcoming all people no matter where they are on their faith journey.  For more information about RVCC, contact Rev. Nancy Foran, Pastor, at 655-7749 or

Windham Alumni Association: Honoring the past that contributes to future successes

By Lorraine Glowczak
Except for those who move often during the early years of life due to parental circumstance and jobs, most of us spend our young lives living in the same town and attending the same school, spending time with friends that we also consider family.

But then, at the young age of approximately 18, we graduate, stepping out into a new stage in our lives, longing for new and fun experiences. There is so much to explore, and we leave the “mundane” of small-town life behind us.

This is truth. This is reality.

But it is also true that those in our past have stayed by our side for as long as we can remember.  Friendships change as we change, but that doesn’t mean that they must fade. Nobody knows us like our oldest friends, and nobody feels like family the way they do. Just remember, while moving forward, don’t forget those who supported you for the first 18 years of your life.

That’s why the Windham Alumni Association, established over 80 years ago, is here and provides an opportunity to look back annually, providing an opportunity to remember and honor our closest friends who were there in the very beginning. “When the association was established, no one really knows,” explained Gary Plummer, a 1964 graduate of Windham High School who is presently the President of the Alumni Association and was also a former Windham teacher and a Maine State Senator. “What I do know is the association was re-established under the leadership of Harold Haskell. You know,” he began to explain to this Windham newby reporter, “That’s Windham’s Town Councilor, Clayton Haskell’s father?”

Seeing the importance of reconnecting the old with the youth, Harold Haskell worked to give the Windham Alumni Association new life in 1992 when the association was lacking in participation and numbers. Although, no one knows when the association began exactly, there is the common belief and agreement that the Windham Alumni association’s origin began in 1910.

Elsie Haskell, Harold Clayton’s wife and mother of Town Councilor, Clayton Haskell stated that her husband wanted to give the dying association new life. “He always wanted to start it back up,” she explained. “It wasn’t until the school called us, telling us they had the bank book of past alumni, that he was able to get the organization started again.” It was at that time he became president of the association.

Robert Meile, a 1942 graduate of Windham High School and a veteran of WWII, has a vested interested in the Alumni Association as he views this as an organization that provides an annual occasion to visit and reconnect with long-time friends – the few that are left. “I was born the year this association was re-established,” Meile said. “And I hope that it continues to bring alumni together so everyone can see how far they have come since they graduated and to connect with friends from the past.”

Plummer stated that the mission of the WAA is “….seeking to foster a connection among all alumni who share the common bond of Windham Schools.” Plummer continued. “To further this goal, we organize events of networking and awards to encourage future alumni to join and to ensure lifelong connections that benefit the high school and the community.”

Walter Lamb, another alumni member, added to Plummer’s sentiments by stating that one is not required to graduate from Windham High School in order to be a part of the association. “You don’t’ necessarily have to graduate from Windham High School to be a part of the association,” he began. “If you were in our class and didn’t graduate with us, you are still a part of us. You contributed to our experiences and we embrace all those who had at least some part of an experience here.”

The challenge for the association is that today’s graduating seniors do not attend the annual banquet and the numbers of participants are dwindling. But President Plummer is determined to keep the organization alive.

The association offers a scholarship every year to deserving seniors during the high school’s regular graduation activities.  In addition, the alumni association also awards a second $500 scholarship, on behalf of the grange, to a student planning to pursue work in agriculture or a related field.

Plummer has worked tirelessly to keep the Windham Alumni Association alive. In fact, he has persuaded close friends who have fallen away, on the cusp of leaving the mission of gathering people together with a common bond.

The Windham Alumni Association holds an annual banquet in May on the first Saturday after Mother’s Day. This year, the event will be held on Saturday, May 18th at the Windham Middle School Auditorium.

For more information or to become involved in the alumni association, contact Plummer at or 892-8570

Robin Greeley helps students explore creativity

Robin Greeley

By Matt Pascarella

Robin Greeley is an art educator for the RSU14 district. She teaches grades kindergarten through fourth grade with three and one-half days at Raymond Elementary School and grades kindergarten through third grade with one and one-half days at Windham Primary School. Art is her passion; something she defines as sitting down to do and suddenly four hours have gone by and it feels like five minutes.

Greeley explained she brings an artistic background to the classroom by sharing stories of the artists; their struggles, how they were accepted and the historical element to her teachings. “I think you’re apt to allow the kids the freedom to ask. ‘well, what if I did this?’”
For many years, she worked in the home, raising her children. But once they were in school and was busy with their many activities, Greeley asked herself what she wanted to do next with her life.

She knew she enjoyed working with children and had always had an interest in the arts so she started researching and thought she might like to be a teacher. She knew that if she was going to be an educator, she wanted to teach something she was passionate about. It was at that point she made her decision to teach art to young children.
“The fact that I get so much joy out of doing art, making art...this is what I’m supposed to be doing because I’m thoroughly engaged, I’m not trying to rush through something...just to complete it. It’s something I fully enjoy, and it fulfills me,” Greeley explained.

The children are her favorite part of the job. Greeley stated she knows people say, ‘I learn more from the kids than they’ll ever learn from me,’ but Greeley stresses that is really true. “Kids teach adults how to look at things differently.” If she puts a colander on the table, she knows its purpose, but to a kid, it can be a hat, or something they can stand in and tip side to side. “The novelty of things and the way that they see things I think is what I love the most.”

A Raymond resident and Windham High graduate, Greeley is married with two children. She’s lived between Massachusetts and Florida for many years until she moved to Maine when she was a junior in high school. She graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a B.A. in fine arts and a concentration in education. This past summer she got her master’s degree in special education with a gifted and talented endorsement.

"YardScape" for a healthy, safer lawn

By Matt Pascarella

The Highland Lake Association held a Spring Lawncare Workshop which was sponsored by the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District on Wednesday April 3 at the Windham Public Library. Ali Clift, Educator and Outreach Coordinator from the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District, spoke about the YardScape program and the importance of proper, healthy landscaping.

“The goal of the workshop is to help participants transition their lawncare practices from dependence on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides towards a more natural lawn which focuses on soil health and requires fewer resources (nitrogen, phosphorous, water, time, and money) to grow,” explains Clift. 

“Lawns treated in this way have a stronger resistance to common lawn pests and diseases.”

Clift spoke about the dangers of ‘weed and feed’ fertilizers which contain pesticides. While pesticides kill bugs and rodents and keep weeds from growing, they can be harmful to adults, children and animals. More than 50% of pesticides contain carcinogens, which pose a threat to your family and pets. Clift described pesticides as a ‘war on lawns.

Several areas were addressed to help grow a healthier lawn: mowing, aerating, topdressing, fertilizing and overseeding.

When mowing, you do not want to cut your grass down close to the soil. Taller grass has healthier roots. With a sharp blade, cut your grass at 3” or 1/3 of the grass blade. This allows root development. Leave your grass clippings on the lawn as a fertilizer source. Mowing in the early evening is best, after the heat of the day and before the dew settles. Vary your mowing pattern so you don’t compact your soil will keep your grass healthier. Depending on rain, water your lawn between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. once or twice a week.

A core aerator removes plugs of soil from your lawn. It loosens the soil, so that air, water and nutrients can reach the roots. It makes existing nutrients more available to grass, reducing the need for fertilizers and improves root growth and thickens turf.

Topdressing is spreading a thin layer of compost on your lawn. This will help increase soil depth. The most effective way to do this, aside from hiring a lawn professional, is to make ‘compost tea.’ Compost tea is steeped in room temperature water. This process grows the population of beneficial microorganisms and makes nutrients immediately available to the grass.

When it comes to fertilizer, organic doesn’t always mean safe. It’s very important to read the ingredients and how to properly use them. People interested in using YardScaping-friendly products can look for yellow ducky stickers and tags in their local garden centers and hardware stores.

Unless you have done a soil test that identifies a need for phosphorus and potassium, all you really need is nitrogen. Looking for a 10-0-0 bag with corn meal gluten is a good choice. Slow release is ideal, too. Younger lawns (under 10 years) need nitrogen as food, while older lawns (10+ years) can get by with just lawn clippings.

Focus on fertilizing in the fall; doing so in the summer creates extra work.

Overseeding is the process of spreading seed over existing lawn to rejuvenate the grass. This restores grass and thickens turf. Adding clover, a rapid spreader that crowds out weeds and grows well with grass, takes nitrogen from the environment that plants can’t use and converts it to nitrogen plants can use.

Brent Olsen, a Windham resident and retired teacher, attended the workshop because he received a memo from the Highland Lake Association and thought it would be a good topic to explore and found it very informative. 

“Lawns do not provide adequate buffering capacity for any shoreline property,” observed Rosie Hartzler, President of the Highland Lake Association. “But when coordinated with a vegetated buffer along the shoreline, lawns can be part of the homeowners plan to exhibit ‘lake smart living.’

She continued, “The goal of Highland Lake Association education efforts is to encourage every homeowner to provide better buffering capability of their property especially if a property is located in the Shoreland zone at Highland Lake (first 250 feet from the edge of the lake). It is highly recommended that homeowners not cultivate lawns right down to the shoreline, as grass does not have an adequate root system for buffering and filtering potential runoff.”

YardScaping practices build healthy soil to grow a beautiful lawn without weed and bug killers and with reduced use of fertilizer. We all play an important role in keeping our soil and water healthy and clean.

For more information visit: and click on the Yardscaping tab.

Before the memory fades: The history, mystery and controversy of Windham’s Old Quaker Burial Ground

By Walter Lunt

Located at the crossroads of Route 202 and Pope Road, it’s an unassuming, pocket-sized expanse of ground dotted with dark colored field stone – Windham’s Old Quaker Burial Ground.

Forty-seven years ago, overgrown with small trees, litter and shrubs, it was in danger of being topped with new housing, possibly an apartment building. Builder, Mark Plummer had purchased the lot and started clearing it when passers-by stopped to protest. “That spot is an old cemetery,” they declared. Word of the “desecration” spread throughout the community; questions and complaints inundated the town office.

The old Quaker Burial Ground on Route 202 and Pope Road
Plummer indicated that there had been no mention of a cemetery at the time of purchase, and that a deed search had also turned up nothing.

A concerned family who lived close to the ancient cemetery contacted the Windham Historical Society. Then-president Phil Kennard (who, ironically, often contracted with the same builders, F.S. Plummer Homes, Inc., as their carpenter) called a special meeting of the Society where it was voted “to do everything possible to stop such a thing from happening.”

Ultimately, society member Charles LeGrow (whose descendants were buried there) was credited with saving the cemetery. LeGrow produced old maps and other documented evidence of the burial ground’s existence. Also found were hand-written records of the names of Quaker families interred there; many are immortalized by road names: Pope, Read, Varney, Webb and Swett. Others include Allen, Mayberry and Hawkes.

But there was yet another twist in the controversy. Old-timers around Windham generally agreed that many, or possibly all, of the graves in the Old Burial Ground had long ago been moved to another nearby Quaker, or Friends, cemetery located several hundred feet away and across 202, nearer the Friends Meeting House Church. No one knew for sure.

By this time, Plummer, the builder, was assuring Windhamites that there would be “absolutely no building going on at all.” And further, he offered to build a split-rail fence around the cemetery, survey the property and turn over ownership to the town.

The corner cemetery at Windham Center was saved. The concerned citizens could be proud of their preservation efforts, and the simple elegance of their rehabilitated piece of history and heritage. It was decided to hold a special rededication; a decision that would ignite another controversy.

Would the conservative Quakers of a much earlier time have approved of such pomp and pizazz?
Next time, in part 2, more on the Quakers of Windham Center. Should the town celebrate their rediscovery? And who decides?  <

Friday, April 5, 2019

Insurance changes you may need to make before you sign the divorce papers

Most people buy life insurance to help family members stay financially secure after the policyholder's death. Yet, when a marriage ends, the topic of life insurance after divorce is too often overlooked.
These five tips can help you and your soon-to-be-ex discuss important changes to your policies before you sign the papers:

Read the divorce agreement carefully. "Life insurance policies are often used to secure alimony and child support payments," says Steven Weisbart, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief economist at the Insurance Information Institute . Before you sign any documents, make sure they meet your needs and that you'll be able to comply with them. Divorce agreements are legally binding and can be difficult to alter.

Discuss duration of coverage. The time frame for any obligatory life insurance coverage varies, often depending on the length of alimony and the ages of the children. If you're purchasing insurance to protect a child financially, look into affordable term life or decreasing term life plans with coverage that expires when the child support obligation ends.

Decide who will pay the premiums. Having your ex-spouse pay the insurance company may be convenient, but if you're concerned about the possibility of default, ask your ex to pay you and then pay the premium yourself. Or, have your ex add you to the policy record so that you may receive duplicate copies of billing and lapse notices. "The consequences of your ex not paying you are less than if he or she doesn't pay the insurance company," Weisbart says. "Failing to pay the insurance company could cost you the policy."

Re-designate beneficiaries. Depending on the divorce settlement, many couples will rename their beneficiaries from each other to their children. In some states, probate laws automatically disqualify a former spouse from receiving life insurance proceeds unless the insured re-designates their ex-spouse after the divorce. If the children are minors, consider appointing an adult custodian to receive and handle the benefits on their behalf. Be sure to specify when the money will be transferred to the children and the percentage each child is to receive, Weisbart says. And keep in mind that beneficiaries cannot be re-designated after the insured's death, so it's critical to keep the policy up to date.

Determine how much coverage you'll need. Examine what your ex-spouse's financial situation would be like if alimony and/or child support payments ended.
Talk with your licensed Life Insurance agent and divorce attorney to review your specific situation and how Life Insurance relates to your specific needs.

“Get in The Game” early release day activities keep students safe and engaged

By Elizabeth Richards

Recognizing the need for structured, supervised activities for middle school children on early release days, several community partners have come together to create the “Get in the Game” early release day programs.

Linda Brooks, director of Windham Parks & Recreation, said the collaboration began when she and
Rock climbing has been a past early release
day activity
the library director noticed the need for some structured options on early release days. Upon being released at 10 am, students were heading to the library or wanting to use the town hall gym, but there was no planned programming or supervision. “That was hard, without a plan in place,” said Brooks.

Jen Alvino, director of the Windham Public Library, said large groups of students were arriving at the library when school let out at 10 and staying until late afternoon. “Linda and I started talking about things we could do to work together, just to be able to offer something else so that the kids weren’t out in the community without supervision or having things to do for such a long period of time,” she said.

Brooks said the parks and recreation department tried to offer some programming, but without a specific place to gather, they were limited to off-site trips. With just a van to transport students, capacity was limited, and they quickly had a waiting list, Brooks said.   
Conversations began among several community partners to discuss solutions. These partners included the library, Be the Influence, the town manager, the superintendent and school principals, and the police department and Officer Cyr. “We put our heads together to try and come up with something that serves more people,” Brooks said.

Out of those conversations came the current format for “Get in the Game”. Students are released to the Middle School cafeteria, where lunch is served. From there, they have several options to choose from, including a mix of active and calmer activities. Programming runs from 10 am to 2 pm. The cost is $15 per person.

So far this year, activities offered have included a wide range of choices to meet the needs of all students. Some of the options have been a 3 on 3 basketball tournament; rock climbing at the High School; Wii games, movies and other activities at the library; an inflatable obstacle course; arts and crafts in the cafeteria; and a community service project at MSSPA.

The collaboration between community partners has helped the model be successful, Brooks said. Alone, none of the partners involved had the capacity to offer programming to a large number of students.

Alvino agreed that the collaboration between all the different community groups has made all the difference. “I think we’ve really been able to offer something really cool and unique for the kids in the afternoon,” she said.

In addition to staff from the various partners, high school students have volunteered to help facilitate activities. The students in the Dare to Adventure program have also been participating as peer leaders. “Without that additional level of volunteer effort, we just couldn’t serve as many kids,” Brooks said.
“Each one is different, and it’s growing and changing as we go along and learn from it,” Alvino said. “It’s really been a way to positively engage the kids in activities from a community perspective.”

Having input from so many partners allows for a wide range of ideas and activities. “When you’re bringing different groups together, there’s lots of ideas and different skill sets that people can offer to the effort,” Alvino said.

“We want to make sure [the kids] realize there’s something for everybody,” Brooks said. “Whatever you’re comfortable with, we’ll point you in that direction.”

Participation in the program is slowly growing, Brooks said. “We’d love to see 100 kids doing this on an early release day. We aren’t there yet, but what we’re building would be able to accommodate that, I think,” said Brooks

“Get in the Game” activities have been offered on three early release days so far this school year. A fourth day is planned for the May 6, 2019 early release day. Families can register students through Windham Parks & Recreation.

Mardi Gras celebration teaches cultural traditions and supports community needs

By Briana Bizier

How can we encourage our children to help the community, learn about other cultural traditions, and make a lasting memory at the same time? For the students of Raymond Elementary School and Jordan-Small Middle School, the answer to all three of these questions took the form of a Mardi Gras parade!

Raymond students celebrate Mardi Gras and help
those in need at the same time.
Last week, both Raymond schools collected donations of non-perishable food items to stock the Raymond Food Pantry, a volunteer organization staffed by the Raymond Lions. On Friday, all the food that had been donated by students, parents, teachers, and staff at both schools was collected during a Mardi Gras parade in the Raymond Elementary gymnasium.

It was so fun,” said Sage Bizier, my Raymond Elementary School insider and a member of Mrs. Begin’s third grade class. “We all took a box of food to the gym, and then there was a huge parade, and the people in masks collected food from everyone.”

Did you learn anything about Mardi Gras?” I asked, pushing the difficult journalistic questions.

Well,” Sage explained with all the confidence of an eight-year-old, “the masks started because sometimes people didn’t have enough money to even afford food, but they were too embarrassed to beg. So, they wore masks when they asked for food.”

A bit of research on my part validated my daughter’s explanation. Apparently, Mardi Gras revelers in New Orleans used to travel door-to-door singing, dancing, and begging for offerings to make a communal meal of gumbo. They wore masks while doing so, in part for the fun, and in part to conceal their identity. Masks remain a large part of the excitement in most Mardi Gras celebrations, even the celebrations taking place at our own elementary school.

This Mardi Gras tradition of celebrating while helping those in need has now become a part of our community as well. Last week’s Mardi Gras parade at the two Raymond schools raised over 500 pounds of food for the Raymond food pantry, a significant donation whose positive effects will be felt across our community.

Our school community has come together again to help our greater town community and it is to the great credit of all that we were able to pull together so much to help those in need,” explained Randy Crockett, the principal of both Raymond Elementary and Jordan Small Middle School.

Hopefully, the students who attended the Mardi Gras parade and donated food to help their neighbors will carry a lasting memory of how satisfying and fun it can be to give back to your community.

Windham elementary students learn important life skills

By Craig Bailey

For the eighth year, students of Windham Primary and Manchester Schools are participating in the Odyssey of the Mind program (OotM). This is an international, creative problem-solving program that engages students in their learning by allowing their knowledge and ideas to come to life in an exciting, productive environment. Participants build self-confidence, develop life skills, create new friendships and recognize and explore their true potential. OotM proves that students can have fun while they learn.

Windham students compete in the Odyssey of the Mind
Several elementary school students (Elias Emerson, Ben Freysinger, Harlie Menard, Hanna Miele, Dexter Randle, Evelyn Robinson and Meng Xi) along with two OotM coaches (April O’Shea and Megan Campbell) and the school’s OotM coordinator (Linda Berry) shared their experiences from the program and the outcomes achieved.

“This year, we are fielding 10 teams, each with about seven K-5 students. A regional tournament was recently held, and three of our six Division 1 teams qualified for the state tournament in early April,” Berry said. “Additionally, we sent four teams to the Primary (K-2) tournament in Auburn. It should also be noted that Windham Middle School had a team that qualified for the state tournament.”

When students were asked why they decided to participate in this year’s competition, there were many responses. “My mom said this would be a good thing and something that I could do,” was Menard’s answer. “Now that I’ve done it for the second year, I’m going to the state finals.”

O’Shea, coaching for the third year, reinforced Menard’s statement. “Many kids aren’t interested in sports. It is great to have a non-athletic outlet for kids to build skills and create new friendships as part of a team. The program challenges them to think and work together to overcome conflicts - all skills they’ll need in the adult world.”

There are two main components of the program. First comes solving a long-term problem which involves planning, brainstorming and collaboration in preparation for performing on stage in front of judges. The second involves addressing numerous spontaneous problems throughout the program and during the finals, also in front of judges. This could involve a hands-on solution to build something, a verbal response in round table format or a combination of both, all on the spot, with no prior knowledge of the problem to be solved.

An example of a long-term problem to be solved was titled Museum Makers, in which the team had to create and present an original museum and its exhibits. The team decided to make a holiday museum, complete with displays featuring Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. During the judged performance, the team had to share creative displays explaining the theme and show off team-made items via a tour guide who took audiences on a journey through the museum.

Campbell explained that team members quickly decided upon the long-term problem they’d solve. “We had team members interested in each role (props, set design, costumes, skit, dance (which needed to be choreographed) as well as a poem and song which had to be written by the students. The most challenging part as a coach is to guide the team through the process, while not helping to solve the actual problem.”

O’Shea stressed the commitment-level of the students, parents and coaches. “We had to meet once or twice weekly on nights and weekends to work on our problem in preparation for the competition.”

The most telling feedback came from the students when asked what they learned from the program.
“I learned that when you work together you can make stuff bigger and better than you could by yourself,” Miele answered.

Emerson said, “It was hard working with teammates and the big kids, for the first time. It wasn’t so bad after-all and I learned how to be a really good teammate.”

“I like to work independently, Xi realized. “And, it made me think more creatively and logically. It taught me how to use things I see in the world to solve problems.”

Menard shared that, “You learn not just to say something without examining it first. For example, you need to listen to your friends and not just say ‘no, that is a bad idea.’ We can’t think our ideas are better than everyone else’s. When working as a team you learn from others. If someone makes a mistake you help them out and don’t laugh at them.”

O’Shea reinforced, “This volunteer, parent-driven program develops skills including: time management, conflict resolution, commitment, perseverance, collaboration and grit,” O’Shea said. “All this rolled into one program, for kids at a very young age (5-10 years). Since my team has been involved for three years, they have experienced both the thrill of victory as well as the agony of defeat. All of which is just part of the journey.”

Chamber’s Morning Momentum is back with this month’s focus on social media success

Join the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce for their quarterly Morning Momentum breakfast event, designed to deliver practical tips, tricks and knowledge you can implement to grow your business – fast!

The morning’s topic will be “Social Media Success – The Recipe from a Popular Food Blogger” and will include a light continental breakfast and networking on Thursday, April 18 from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at Alliance Realty, 290 Bridgton Road in Westbrook.

Janel Hutton
The social media portion will be led by successful entrepreneur and food blogger, Janel Hutton, whose website has a monthly reach of six million followers. Her popular chocolate cake recipe has been pinned over 500,000 times and is one of the most viewed on her website. “We can vouch, it really takes the cake,” stated the Chamber’s Ambassador Committee member, Molly Shaw.

Hutton, who lives with her family in Minnesota and will be visiting Maine in two weeks, has worked with hundreds of brands, mostly national food brands, product companies, start-ups, and restaurants, and developed recipes and content to feature their products. She has appeared in numerous print and online publications and conferences including All You, Cottages & Bungalows, Woman’s Day, Stillwater Gazette as a weekly contributor, Huffington Post and more.

In this edition of Morning Momentum, Hutton will put her expertise to work for you by delving into how to best utilize social media as a business-growing tool. Hutton will help you better understand:

Where to put your social media efforts for your business.
Which platforms to be on and why.
Trends to identify in social media.
How to prioritize engagement over numbers.

I love seeing those "aha" moments on the faces of business owners when they realize what they could be doing or should stop doing in online marketing to really reach their ideal clients in a better, authentic way,” Hutton said. “The icing on the cake is, this April, that I have the opportunity to see those moments in Maine - where I fully intend to eat and drink as much as humanly possible in a few short days.”

Attendees will walk away feeling inspired and ready to implement new ideas. Seating is limited so please register with the chamber by email at or by phone at 207-892-8265.The cost is $10 for Sebago Lake Region Chamber members and $15 for nonmembers. Pastries and beverages provided.

To learn more about Hutton, check out her website at