Friday, April 3, 2020

Windham Food Pantry open by appointment during COVID-19 crisis

By Elizabeth Richards

With school closures and non-essential businesses shutting down food insecurity can become a much bigger issue in the community.  The Windham Food Panty is a resource that can help.

“The Windham Food Pantry is making every effort to ensure that residents are receiving enough food to help them during this difficult time,” says Colette Gagnon, Social Services Administrative Assistant for the Town of Windham.  Gagnon runs both the Windham Food Pantry and the Windham Clothes Closet.

Of particular concern, Gagnon says, are individuals and families that have suddenly found themselves without the means to buy food and non-food products. 

The food pantry generally serves about 300 people per month, but Gagnon says there’s been a rise in demand due to the current situation.  “I’m getting a lot of new people who are reaching out,” she says.  “They’ve lost their jobs and so they’re reaching out to get food. And we’re here to help, in any way we can.”

The food pantry, located at 377 Gray Road in Windham, is open by appointment only at this time.  Gagnon said they are serving one person at a time due to the requirements for social distancing.  “We’re being very, very cautious about that,” she said.

Donations are being accepted, also by appointment.  There is a specific need for donations of toilet paper, tissues, soups and canned goods.

People in need of an appointment, or anyone wishing to make a donation to the food pantry, can call 207-891-1931 Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Cyber safety tips when working from home

By Lori Sussman

Cybercrime has been growing with the increased use of connected technology. Recent events only confirm what we know. We all need to be vigilant when conducting business over the Internet. Hackers are using our coronavirus fears to make their spear-phishing and misinformation campaign more effective. As coronavirus infections surges, hackers are weaponizing information about the COVID-19 virus. They intend to spread malware and disinformation, according to security researchers and the State Department. The US intelligence agencies are showing examples where Russian actors, linked with Moscow through "state proxy websites," have been using "swarms of online, false personas" to spread misinformation about the new coronavirus.

Here are some tips to help you navigate cyberspace safely:

1.   Keep all software up to date.
Turn on automatic system updates for your device.
Make sure your desktop web browser uses automatic security updates.
Keep your web browser plugins like Flash, Java, etc. updated.

2.   Use antivirus (AV) software and keep it up to date. Use antivirus software from trusted vendors and only run one AV tool on your device.

3.   Use firewalls and other home security systems and solutions. A firewall helps screen out hackers, viruses, and other malicious activity that occurs over the Internet and determines what traffic can enter your device.
Windows and Mac OS X comes with firewalls (Windows Firewall and Mac Firewall).
Your router should also have a built-in firewall to prevent attacks on your network.

4.   Use strong passwords and consider a password manager tool.
Adopt user-friendly phrase-like passwords but have at least eight characters and a maximum length of 64 characters.

Don't use the same password twice.

The password should contain at least one lowercase letter, one uppercase letter, one number, and four symbols but not the following &%#@_.

Choose something easy to remember and never leave a password hint out in the open or make it publicly available for hackers to see.

Reset your password when you forget it. But, change it once per year as a good practice.

5.   Use Two-Factor or Multi-Factor Authentication. Two-factor or multi-factor authentication is a service that adds additional layers of security to the standard password method of online identification. Many platforms commonly used like Facebook offer this option.

6.   Learn about Phishing Scams. Everyone needs to be very suspicious of emails, phone calls, and flyers. In a phishing scheme attempt, the attacker poses as someone or something the sender is not to trick the recipient into divulging credentials, clicking a malicious link, or opening an attachment that infects the user's system with malware, trojan, or zero-day vulnerability exploit.

These schemes often lead to a ransomware attack. 90% of ransomware attacks originate from phishing attempts. A few crucial cyber safety tips to remember about phishing schemes include:
Most importantly – don't open an email from people you don't know!

Know which links are safe and which are not – hover over a link to discover where it wants to direct you.

Be suspicious of the emails sent to you in general – look and see where it came from and if there are grammatical errors

Malicious links can come from friends with infected computers. So, be extra careful!

7.   Protect Your Sensitive Personal Identifiable Information (PII). PII is any information that can be used by a cybercriminal to identify or locate you. PII includes information such as name, address, phone numbers, date of birth, Social Security Number, IP address, location details, pet names, or any other physical or digital identity data. In the new "always-on" world of social media, you should be very cautious about the information you include online.

8.   Use Your Mobile Devices Securely. Your mobile device is now a target of more than 1.5 million new incidents of mobile malware. Some quick tips for mobile device security:
Create a complex mobile passcode – not your birthdate or bank PIN

Install apps from trusted sources

Keep your device updated – hackers use vulnerabilities in unpatched older operating systems
Avoid sending PII or sensitive information over text messages or email

Use Find my iPhone or the Android Device Manager to prevent loss or theft
Perform regular mobile backups using iCloud or enabling backup & sync from Android

9.   Backup Your Data Regularly. Follow a simple rule called the 3-2-1 backup rule, where you keep three copies of your data on two different types of media (local and external hard drive) and one copy in an off-site location (cloud storage).

10.   Review Your Online Accounts & Credit Reports Regularly for Changes. With recent events, it's more important than ever for you to safeguard your online accounts and monitor your credit reports. A credit freeze is the most effective way for you to protect your personal credit information from cybercriminals right now. Essentially, it allows you to lock your credit and use a personal identification number (PIN) that only you will know. You can then use this PIN when you need to apply for credit.

Science and math in the kitchen

Sage and Ian Bizier making "real bread"
By Briana Bizier

The past few weeks have been full of new experiences for many of us. Parents in the Windham and Raymond area found themselves at home with their children after all RSU14 schools closed due to concerns about spreading the COVID-19 virus. Many of us also had a sudden crash-course in telecommuting as we attempted to work from home. And many local grocery stores’ shelves were shockingly empty. For me, this meant I came home from the store last week without bread for the first time in my life.

I’d made two loaves of molasses oatmeal bread over the weekend, but my two little food critics kept asking for “real bread.” So, on Monday I pulled out my twenty-year-old copy of Fannie Farmer’s cookbook and found a recipe for basic white bread. Then I called my children into the kitchen to help.

Like many other parents across the world, I spent last week trying to carefully curate an enriching educational experience for my two children while my husband and I simultaneously struggled to adjust to working from home. And, like many other parents across the world, I’ve discovered that it’s actually impossible to serve as a replacement kindergarten and fourth-grade teacher. The Bizier family has learned many things over the past week, and one of our most humbling lessons has been how incredibly valuable elementary school teachers truly are.

Yet we’ve also discovered that education can take many forms. As I called the children into our sunny kitchen to make bread together, I realized how much science and math underlies even the simplest recipe. When we added a packet of yeast to warm water and watched for bubbles, I asked if my children knew yeast was alive.

“Whoa,” said my five-year-old Ian, staring at the yeast with newfound interest. “You mean those are animals?”

A quick Google search while the yeast proofed reveled that yeast are actually fungi, in the same broad category as mushrooms and mold. The yeast we use for baking bread eats sugar and then produces carbon dioxide gas, which is then trapped as tiny bubbles in the bread dough, making the bread rise.

“That is pretty cool,” my nine-year-old daughter Sage admitted.

Once the yeast and warm water mixture had begun to bubble in its small bowl, we started mixing the dough. I read the recipe aloud while Sage measured the flour, sugar, and salt into a bowl and Ian mixed the ingredients. When she couldn’t find a measuring cup for three cups of flour, Sage decided to add six half-cups of flour instead, proving once and for all that an understanding of fractions is an important life skill. Ian helped me count out tablespoons of sugar, and the kids argued over who would be the first to knead the dough. They ended up kneading the dough together, although somehow that still wasn’t enough to stop the argument.

An hour later, I called the children back into the kitchen to witness how big the bread dough had grown through the yeast’s enthusiastic sugar consumption.

“The yeast did all that?” Sage asked as she pressed the elastic surface of the newly-risen bread dough.

“Well, with a little help from you kids,” I answered.

As we moved the dough into loaf pans to rise once again under a damp tea towel, I thought about the crash course we’d just had in practical math, science, and culinary arts. It wasn’t the lesson I’d designed for the day, but it was still a learning experience. And, as we all adjust to the current reality of living during the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s remember that educational opportunities come in all forms.

If you have older children, my husband Dr. Bizier, the Honors and Advanced Placement chemistry teacher at Windham High School, has a website featuring “Chemistry of Cooking” projects completed by his students. Your student will need an RSU14 email address to log in to the site, where they can peruse PowerPoint presentations about everything from the chemistry of chocolate chip cookies to how to make the perfect Reuben sandwich. You can find the website here:

In case you’d like to try making “real” white bread yourself, here’s the recipe from “Fanny Farmer”:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup hot milk
1 cup hot water
1 package dry yeast
6 cups of white flour, approximately

Mix the oil or butter, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the hot milk and hot water, then let cool until lukewarm. In a small bowl or cup, mix the package of yeast and 1/4 cup warm water and let stand for 5 minutes to dissolve. Add the dissolved yeast and 3 cups of flour to the butter, water, and milk mixture; beat until well blended. Add another 2 cups of flour, mix, and turn onto a lightly floured board. Knead for a minute or two, then let rest for 10 minutes. Adding just enough of the remaining flour so the dough is not sticky, resume kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (no need to fight, there’s plenty of dough to go around). Put the dough in a large, greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in bulk. Gently punch down and shape into two loaves. Place in greased loaf pans, cover, and let rise again until doubled in bulk. Preheat oven to 425. Bake bread for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and bake for 30 minutes more. Remove from pans and cool on a rack.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Local field trip options for parents

By Rachelle Curran Apse, Director of the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust

As a working parent of two young kids, adding homeschooling parent to my daily requirements (since schools closed March 16th) has been overwhelming to say the least. To keep our spirits up, get exercise, and decrease the cabin fever, I aim to bring the kids on a morning field trip to a local forested trail every sunny day to explore our fascinating local landscape.

Our first trip was to Nelson Preserve to walk the 1.5-mile loop trail on conserved land owned by the
Presumpscot Regional Land Trust, which is located next to 187 Flaggy Meadow Road in Gorham.
On our adventure we practiced our math through a scavenger hunt collecting different types of leaves and seeds. We explored the life sciences when listening to different bird songs and observing woodpecker holes. We ate tasty snacks, jumped off stumps, climbed on downed logs, and all felt much better about life by the end of our exploration. We are planning to head to Black Brook Preserve on Windham Center Road in Windham.

The Presumpscot Regional Land Trust has an interactive online map with all the walking and hiking trails in Gorham, Gray, Standish, Westbrook, and Windham plus downloadable maps for all 14 Land Trust trails and the Sebago to the Sea Trail (a 28-mile trail from Sebago Lake to Casco Bay). All of these trails are free and open to the public and families are welcome to explore the land. This is all possible thanks to the support by hundreds of Land Trust members and business partners. Go to to learn more. Happy adventuring.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Book Review: “Last Things” by Jenny Offill

Reviewed by Jennifer Dupree, Circulations Supervisor at the Windham Public Library

I’ve been a fan of Jenny Offill since reading “Dept. Of Speculation” which I think is an amazing feat of flash fiction. Her debut novel, “Last Things”, was recently re-released and I’m now equally enamored with the novel as I am with the flash fiction.

This novel is told from the tender and precocious point of view of eight-year-old Grace, whose mother is at once fantastic and unpredictable, joyful and full of despair, loving and disappointed. Her father is certainly steadier than her mother, but he, too, is imperfect. What I love about Offill’s writing is how she renders her characters as fully human—dark and light, good and bad.

We follow Grace through a strange road trip with her mother and her father’s acceptance of the role of Mr. Science on TV. Through her, we meet her odd cousins, her in-love-with-her-mother boy-genius babysitter. We get facts peppered in from her scientist father and ornithologist mother’s take on the world. There’s no way not to adore Grace.

Offill is funny and, I can’t say this enough, kind to her characters. She has heart. And, she uses an incredible amount of restraint in her work which, for me, makes the work clear, precise, and un-put-downable.

Continuing human ingenuity and compassion during the recent pandemic

By Briana Bizier

From school shutdowns to toilet paper shortages, this had been one of the strangest and most stressful months many of us can remember. The COVID-19 virus that has spread around the world, prompting the United Nations to declare a global pandemic and Governor Mills to announce a civil state of emergency in Maine, has brought much of our daily life to a standstill in these past two weeks.

These are difficult times. In the face of a frightening new virus, and especially when we are told to stay home alone in order to practice social distancing, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However, these are also the times when communities depend upon one another, and when one person’s actions might literally save lives. Historic challenges have always been met by human ingenuity and compassion.

The COVID-19 pandemic is no different. are some of the many things you can do today to help support your friends and neighbors during this outbreak:

Check the Center for Disease Control’s website - found at - and follow their recommendations. As of press time, the CDC is advising Americans to stay home as much as possible. The COVID-19 virus is extremely contagious, and it’s possible to spread the virus before
you start to feel sick.

Even while you are staying home, it’s still possible to make a huge difference in someone’s life. Call, text, or email your friends and neighbors, especially members of at-risk communities like the elderly, individuals with compromised immune systems, and families with special needs members. See if there is anything you can do for them in the coming weeks, such as picking up groceries or medication. For example, Cathy Clements commented on the Windham Eagle’s Facebook page to say she’s offered to grocery shop for residents of a senior housing unit.

Remember that it’s possible to help run errands while still practicing social distancing; you can always leave a box of essentials on the front porch! Speaking of those essentials, if you have plenty of staples, like toilet paper and hand soap, consider sharing with people who might be running low until the stores are re-stocked.

Be sure to reach out to your friends and family who live outside of your community as well. Even if you can’t deliver a box of toilet paper and hand sanitizer to a relative in Boston or Seattle, you can still call, FaceTime, or even send an old-fashioned letter. Many of us are suddenly finding ourselves at home with a surplus of time on our hands. Use some of that time to reach out and strengthen your real-life social network.

Now is also the time to make a plan! Especially if you live alone, you should have a clear plan in place in case you become ill. Who will help you with groceries, errands, and visits to the doctor? Even if you don’t live alone, it’s a good idea to partner up with another family who could lend a hand if you need help. While you’re reaching out to your friends and neighbors, ask them about their plans in case of illness.

Think of the people you know who work in the healthcare field. Things are about to get very busy for everyone from surgeons to the janitorial staff. Reach out now to see how you can support them, even if it’s virtually.

Finally, be aware of the huge economic toll this pandemic will take on our community. Many local businesses, from restaurants to hotels to hairdressers, are already suffering from decreased business and revenue. Choosing to buy local products at the grocery store, or to buy groceries and other essentials at a local store, will make a huge difference to members of your own community. Even if you’re practicing social distancing, you can still purchase gift cards and place orders online.

As an example, this coming Sunday is traditionally Maine Maple Sunday. Although events have been canceled or rescheduled, many of our local sugar houses are still willing to accept orders online or over the phone. Your maple syrup, gifts, or other local products can be packaged and set outside for you to pick up.

This is also an important time to donate to your local food pantry. In Raymond, the food pantry is located at Lake Region Baptist Church, and Windham’s food pantry is found at 377 Gray Road. This is going to be a very difficult month for many of our friends and neighbors, and your generous donations will make a tremendous difference.

Yes, these are very difficult times. We haven’t faced a pandemic on this scale in recent memory. The school closures and litany of canceled events are anxiety-provoking, and we would all be forgiven for occasionally looking up to see if the sky is, in fact, falling.

Take heart. There are many things we can do right now to get through this pandemic as a community. Show kindness when people are scared, be willing to lend a hand where you can, and do your best to stay positive. Human beings are incredibly resilient. We will emerge from this crisis… together.

Another week at home with the kids? Try making a science journal

By Briana Bizier

Congratulations to all the parents and caregivers in Windham and Raymond who are just now finishing their first week without school. This has been a challenging week for many of us, and I’m sure I’m not the only parent who has a new-found admiration and respect for elementary school teachers!

Ian and Sage Bizier record their observations
If you’re looking for an activity that’s both education and will keep your children busy for the next week, why not start a science journal? At its heart, science is based on careful observations of the natural world and a willingness to challenge our assumptions. Practicing social distancing and managing children during a school closure are both challenging, but this time at home also offers us a rare chance to watch natural processes unfold without distractions from the larger world.

This week, my two little scientists began observing the vernal pools in the woods behind our house. Vernal pools form in New England woodlands when the snow and ice retreat, and they typically dry up by the end of summer. These pools are essential breeding grounds for frogs and salamanders. For years, I’ve wanted to watch the pools and determine when the frogs begin to lay their eggs, but we’ve always been too busy to trek into the woods every day.

Well, we are no longer busy. So, on Monday, my children’s first day without classes at Raymond Elementary School, the entire family headed into the woods with a measuring tape, a yardstick, and a few notebooks. Over the next few days, we watched two vernal pools shrink in the sunlight, grow in the rain, and ice over after particularly cold nights.

Before we go into the woods for our “science walks,” I ask my fourth grader and my kindergartner to make a hypothesis about what we’ll find. They record their hypothesis and the reasons behind it (the kindergartener draws a picture). Then, we test their hypotheses by observing the pools. By the end of the week, we plan to create graphs comparing the sizes of the two pools over the past five days. We haven’t found any frogs or salamanders yet, but we have at least another week of careful observation to go.

Those of us who live in Windham and Raymond are especially lucky to have access to such rich natural environments. However, even if you don’t have woods in your backyard, you could hike the same trail every day and record your observations.

Or, if you are staying at home, this is the perfect time of year to begin observing plant growth. Do you have daffodils sprouting in your yard? Why not measure them every morning, or have younger children draw pictures of them? These science journals could easily be incorporated into your annual vegetable garden, too.

“We are going to plant seeds and observe them germinate and grow,” Jeanine Skillings of Raymond told me.

Bird watching is another excellent subject for a nature notebook. This time of year, many birds are returning to their summer ranges in Maine, and it’s always exciting to spot a new species. Older children could chart the number or species of birds at a feeder over a week while younger children could draw pictures of the birds.

Creating a science journal has another benefit as well, and one that will help the parents and caregivers who have found themselves suddenly thrust into the unexpected role of teacher. At times when it seems like the world is coming apart, going into nature can be deeply reassuring. Our social calendars have been completely upended, but the daffodils are still coming up. The orioles will return. And the spring peepers will once again lay their eggs in the vernal pools tucked away in our woods and, someday very soon, they will begin to sing.

Seniors not acting their age at Raymond Community Forest

By Ron Chase

Land trusts have positively impacted my life for many years.  Yet I’ve lacked a clear understanding of the important role they play in Maine and the breadth of benefits they provide.  A recent accidental encounter has changed that.
Jon Evans at Raymond Community Forest

Last fall, while hiking on Pleasant Mountain near Bridgton, I met Jon Evans who was busy on a trail maintenance project.  After learning he was Stewardship Manager for Loon Echo Land Trust, a very stimulating conversation about the land trust, its history and relationship with Pleasant Mountain followed.  While familiar with Loon Echo as a result of their trailhead information kiosks, I didn’t realize the expanse of their mountain preservation holdings or the extent of the work required to maintain the ten-mile trail network.

In December, I visited Jon at Loon Echo’s headquarters on Depot Street in Bridgton and also met their Executive Director, Matt Markot.  What ensued was for me a very informative conversation.  The cookies were great, too!

Contrary to what many suspect, us old dogs can still learn new tricks. I now know that Loon Echo conserves numerous properties in the Northern Sebago Lake region that total almost 7,000 acres.  Besides preserving the land and maintaining trail systems that I regularly use, they also protect water resources, wildlife habitats, and working farms and forests.  Mistakenly if, as a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization they didn’t pay real estate taxes, just the opposite is true. They remit them on a significant majority of their properties including a consequential annual tax payment for the Pleasant Mountain lands.

Recently, Jon invited me to join him for a walk on their Raymond Community Forest preserve near Crescent Lake in Raymond. Always interested in exploring new hiking trails, I enthusiastically accepted.

We met at the preserve parking area on the Conesca Road east of Crescent Lake on a pleasant, partly sunny winter day.  Noting there were about four miles of trails, Jon asked what interested me.  The answer was easy, all of it.  An inspection indicated the trail surface was hard packed snow and ice so micro spikes were the footgear of choice.  The trail system is on both sides of the road but access to all begins at a kiosk adjacent the parking area.

Two trails located on the west side of the road, Grape Expectations and Spiller Homestead Loop, are easy walks ideal for seniors.  Both are multi-use trails open to hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and mountain biking.  Hunting is permitted throughout the preserve during the appropriate seasons. 
Beginning our outing on the relatively flat 1.1-mile Grape Expectations, numerous mountain bike friendly wooden bridges were encountered in a new growth forest that supports an abundant variety of wildlife.  Grape Expectations connects with the 1.1-mile Spiller Homestead Loop, which meanders through the old Spiller farm property where some of the original building foundations were observed.
After crossing Conesca Road, we began ascending one-mile Pismire Bluff Trail.  Trails on the east side of the road are limited to pedestrian traffic.  Navigating below the west facing Pismire Cliffs, Jon described the extensive complicated trail work required to construct a path that facilitated hiking while minimizing environmental impact. 
Reaching the junction with Highlands Loop, we dropped to Pismire Bluff Overlook.  The precipice offered a phenomenal view of Crescent Lake and Rattlesnake Mountain beyond.  Mounts Washington and Adams were visible in the distance. The inept cameraman, that would be me, bungled a photo of Mount Washington.  Practice doesn’t always make perfect. We finished our trek completing the .7-mile Highland Loop and then backtracking on Pismire Bluff Trail. After crossing Conesca Road, a short segment of Spiller Homestead Loop led to the parking area. 

Raymond Community Forest is an excellent example of how Loon Echo Land Trust efforts have expanded recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts while protecting 356 acres for wildlife habitation. Simultaneously, their accomplishment helps maintain the rural character of the region.  A mere five years ago, the preserve was non-existent.  While a handful of hunters occasionally used the lands, a large development was anticipated.  Instead, with the contributions of many under the auspices of Loon Echo Land Trust, the property was purchased from Hancock Land Company, who gifted approximately $109,000 in land value. The preserve now benefits the public for perpetuity. 
My hike with Jon was thoroughly enjoyable and inspirational.  He is the quintessential ambassador for Loon Echo and land trusts in general.  Engaged in conversation throughout, we even solved the pressing political problems of our time.  To learn more about Loon Echo visit their website at:

Author of “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England,” Ron Chase resides in Topsham. Visit his website at or he can be reached at 

Friday, March 13, 2020

“'My Son Pinocchio Jr' has got no strings"

By Emma Bennett 

“Absolutely stringless!”
“Fun exploded on a stage.”

Sixty-four students, ranging from first to eighth grade, turned an idea months ago into a production of “My Son Pinocchio Jr.” at Windham Center Stage. gathered for a group hug moments before the house opened. Friends grasped hands and patted shoulders as they all brought it in. “This is it! Who’s excited?” The director stood in the midst of the excitement. “Do what you’ve been doing these past few months: having fun singing and dancing. I’m so proud of all of you.” Everyone put their hands in and, on three, screamed with all their might, “OPENING NIGHT!”

Concessions buzzed busily as people rolled in and got situated. Everything was a dollar, and everything was carnival themed. They had a cute little cupcake Ferris wheel, Pinocchio noses which were little sticks of pretzels dipped in chocolate, topped with sprinkles, mini magic wands, and many more sweets. The room filled with a mouth-watering popcorn aroma.

They also had mini music boxes on sale, the same as Geppetto’s in the show. The actors and production staff wanted to share a part of the show with the audience to take with them. The stage teemed with sparkly costumes, bubbles, and a colorful atmosphere that couldn’t stay still behind these curtains. Of course, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Laurie Shepard’s first time directing a children’s show at Windham Center Stage turned into a success. She’s enjoyed using her prior knowledge in education and instilling her earlier teachings into the next generation. “I think the biggest focus,” expressed Shepard, “has been on education, the theater experience, and giving everyone a moment to be a star onstage. The show is amazing, but it’s the growth of the actors and the kids in the show that’s really the important piece.”

Once they’d finished the audition and casting process, they had “master classes”. A student from Hampshire College came down and helped the kids work on character development: Theater 101.
“We’re hoping that this will give them a foundation for later performances as they go into middle school, high school, and beyond,” Shepard added. This certainly came through in last Friday’s performance.

Learning to become a character and stay in character is not easy, especially for young people. The look, the feel, and the ability to embody the character is part of what ties up the whole package. This is exactly what costume designer, Jessica Farrin, strives for after many years of experience.“Not only do I want them to look just like their characters, it’s important to me that everyone feels comfortable with the type of fabric and what they look like,” she added. “I take that into consideration a lot, that they like their costumes also.” There are fairies, there are marionettes, there are toys, there are animals - a whole palette of costumes. She’s enjoyed bringing them to life.

Young children in the audience were not only entranced by the costumes and the story, they had fun listening to the music - tapping a toe now and then. First-time music director Mylo Brann loved working with the kids onstage.

In addition, a great deal of high school student participation was encouraged. Producers, Bryanne Green and Lucy Hatch; dance captain, Emma Chasse; Matt Chasse in charge of lighting and others volunteered tirelessly to stir a desire for theater in the young actors. Shepard described that it was a thrill to mentor these high school students and watch them grow into that leadership role.

As stage manager, Morgan Wing, a nineth grader at Windham High School, shared, “I’ve grown out of the program. I can’t be in the show, so I just wanted to be here to help out. This is a big part of my childhood, so I just think it’s important.”

The show was a “celebration of community”, expressed Charles Lomonte, an audience member and principal of Wiscasset Middle School. Not only were the kids in the show able to socialize and unite, it was a way for friends and family in the audience to associate themselves with each other.

As we’re walked through Pinocchio’s journey between right and wrong and the value of honesty, we also see the heart-warming relationship between father and son and the beauty of unconditional love. The audience is able to relate to that; it gives them something to talk about.

The night closed to deafening applause. “They were an amazing cast and I loved everybody in it. It was really fun working with them, all of the smaller children, and all my friends so that was great,” commented Kaitlyn Dickson, the Blue Fairy. Erica Lin, who played the fairy, Rosa, stated, “They’re all amazing human beings. It was really fun, and I hope I get to see them again.” The star of cast A, Jacoby Burton as Pinocchio, added that “It was fun. I made a lot of new friends.”

Stop by to see one of the shows! You won’t regret seeing these young people start out on their way to theater life.


Before the memory fades: Of hobos and train jumpers – tomfoolery in the ‘20s

By Walter Lunt

Frequently we hear the question, “How did we ever survive our childhood?” It usually refers to the stupid things we did as kids: jumping off bridges, railroad trestles or dams; climbing way too high in a tree; playing war with bee-bee guns in the woods, or later, as teen drivers, drag racing  or using the break down lane to pass the slow-going car in front of you.

In the 1920s, Maine Central Railroad trains passed through South Windham with stops at Depot Street, and farther north at the Gambo Road crossing. The trains hauled freight as well as paying and nonpaying passengers. By nonpaying passengers, we mean hobos. all hobos were of the ‘shiftless drifter’ variety. Many were skilled tradesman who had lost their jobs, others performed odd jobs as they traveled the rails. Most could be trusted, even around children. A good thing, because that’s exactly what was going on at the Gambo station.

Gambo Road crosses River Road at Newhall corner near Duck Pond Variety Store (formerly Thayer’s). Traveling west, it leads to the Windham soccer fields, the remains of the old gunpowder mills and the Mountain Division and Presumpscot Land Trust walking trails. The train tracks that cross Gambo Road are now exempt, but one hundred years ago it was the site of a water tower and a railroad passenger stop.

Just off the tracks at Gambo there was a small ‘hobo city.’ Kids in the area, ages 8 and up, were attracted to the settlement and would hang out listening to stories the offbeat rail drifters would tell. And that is probably how the game got started: a contest called train jumping. Here’s how it was played: When the train stopped at Gambo station, several kids sneaked aboard and climbed the attached steel ladder to the top of a freight car. As the train pulled away and picked up speed, the kids would jump to the ground. The last one off would be the winner. Crazy and dangerous!? You bet. Kids, don’t try this at a rail depot near you. quirky contest was known to have taken place in the early 1920s, so all the participating pranksters have, no doubt, passed away by now (hopefully not from train jumping). But we know about the high-jumping hijinks from a well-known Windham resident and former town councilor, Liz Wisecup.

“A long time ago, my mother confided that she was a jumper. It was her and a bunch of her friends. I guess she just wanted to keep up with the boys. I was astonished. If her parents had known what she was doing, it’s no telling what they would have done about it.”

Wisecup’s mother was Bernice Timmons, a long-time Windham elementary school teacher. She was a sixth- grade teacher to a great many Windham baby boomers. It’s a good bet that she never shared her youthful chicanery with any of her students. Doubtless they would find it to be unbelievable given her kind, low-key classroom demeanor.

Wisecup said she asked her mother if anyone had ever been hurt. She said no one ever did because if someone had been injured that would have ended the practice instantly.
“I still, to this day, find it hard to believe my mother engaged in (train jumping). It was just way out of character,” said Wisecup, who then paused and quietly observed, “I don’t know how they lived through it.”

Mrs. Bernice Timmons passed away in 2003 at the age of 94.

Friday, March 6, 2020

The Musical “Godspell” to be part of Sunday Lenten Services at Raymond Village Community Church

In an effort to make Lent and Easter more accessible, meaningful, and memorable for everyone, Raymond Village Community Church (RVCC), 27 Main Street in Raymond will be bringing the most iconic songs and scenes from the beloved musical; “Godspell” to Sunday Lenten Services from March 8 through April 12 at 10 a.m.

“’Godspell’ is a colorful reimagining of the ministry of Jesus.  Lent is the perfect time to reflect on the compassionate community that he brought into being – something that is vividly captured in the musical.” said RVCC Pastor, Rev. Nancy Foran.  “Many churches have done full productions of “Godspell”, but we haven’t found any that have brought “Godspell” into worship and worship into “Godspell” and done so over the course of a full church season.”

The first worship on March 8 will include a pastoral reflection on the musical, followed by the Philosophers’ Prologue, the entry of John the Baptist (“Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord”), and the Baptism of Jesus, ending with the song, “God Save the People”. Each subsequent week, Pastor Foran will be commenting on the parables and songs that will be the focus of that week and incorporating elements of worship into the scenes.  

The “cast” consists of RVCC choir members and well-known area singers and musicians recruited by RVCC Music Director Patrick Martin. “I love “Godspell” and have been involved in a number of productions before,” Martin said. “When Nancy and I hit upon the idea of blending “Godspell” and worship during Lent, we both got very excited!”

The series of services will include the most memorable of “Godspell” songs: from “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord”, to “Day By Day”, to “Turn Back Oh Man”, to “All Good Gifts”” to “Side By Side”, and others.

Everyone in the region who loves “Godspell” and/or is searching to deepen their Lenten/Easter experience is cordially invited to come and be inspired by these unique worships.

RVCC: Small Church, BIG Heart!
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 who they are, or where they are on their faith journey.  For more information about RVCC, contact Rev. Nancy Foran, Pastor, at 655-7749 or

Conference moves Highland Lake residents closer to understanding the bloom

On Wednesday, February 26th, people from the Highland Lake Association (HLA) and the Highland Lake Leadership Team (HLLT) engaged with water quality experts, Dr. Karen Wilson (USM) and Jeff Dennis (Department of Environmental Protection) at the Windham Public Works Facility. 

Briefly, the HLLT is a collaborative effort between Towns of Falmouth  and Windham, the Highland Lake Association, the Department of Environmental Protection and Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District to work together to improve and maintain the water quality of Highland Lake for the benefit of the residents, the Towns, and future generations.

The meeting focused on four topics:
A review of what we know about Highland Lake. 
Phosphorus levels have gradually risen over the past 40 years.
From 2014-2017, the lake exhibited a nuisance bloom (secchi disk readings <2 meters for approximately 4 weeks).

In 2018 & 2019, the pattern of reduced secchi disk readings occurred but did not reach the level of a nuisance bloom.

The picocyanobacteria has been identified as Cyanobium (generally non-toxic, very small, single-celled strain).

Presentation of 2 new hypotheses (if verified could explain the cause of the picocyanobacteria bloom).

Hypothesis 1 – changing grazing patterns within the food chain are causing the bloom.

Hypothesis 2 – windy activity on the lake could be a driver of increased phosphorus in the water column (phosphorus fuels the bloom).

Initial identification of the water quality sampling protocol for the 2020 season to further delineate the cause(s) of the bloom.

Dr Wilson indicated the goal will be to equip volunteer water quality monitors at Highland Lake to implement an effective sampling protocol to gain more insight as to why the bloom occurs.
What residents can do now.

There is too much phosphorus in Highland Lake. The major source of phosphorus is erosion from the watershed.  It is important for residents to understand that individual efforts to reduce runoff from their property and the road in their association is imperative for a healthy lake. While the cause of the bloom is unclear, we do know that phosphorus increases the intensity of the bloom. 

In the coming months, the HLA will be working with road associations and individual residents in the ongoing effort to reduce erosion, and thereby reduce phosphorus inputs into HL.

For detailed information about the Highland Lake water quality situation and hypothesis 1&2, as well as hints for the 2020 sampling protocol, go to  

Music with a Mission features The Collins Band in concert Saturday March 14th

On Saturday, March 14th, at 7:00 PM, Music with a Mission is proud to welcome back The Collins Band for an evening of great music.  The Collins Band, based in Southern Maine, plays a mix of modern and classic blues, jazz, and Americana. 

Their repertoire includes Susan Tedeschi, Keb' Mo', Etta James, Koko Taylor, Van Morrison and all Dave Collins: vocals, acoustic and electric guitars; Crista Collins Koerber: vocals, percussion; Rudy Gabrielson: blues harmonica, keyboards and vocals; Paul Riechmann: stand-up bass and vocals; and Chuck Prinn on drums. 
the good stuff in between. The Collins Band includes

“We are looking forward to The Collins Band’s return to our Music with a Mission concert series,” said Dr. Richard Nickerson, Minister of Music for NWUC. “We featured them last year and immediately got requests to bring them back again.” Since then they’ve been busy with plenty of gigs, expanding their repertoire and expanding the band with Chuck Prinn on drums.  It’s sure to be another great show.

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. During the first six seasons, MWAM provided over $65,000 for mission support to the church and other community organizations.  The Collins Band has chosen to support Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland with the community proceeds from this concert. Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.  Over the past three decades, they’ve built 91 homes, providing hundreds of people with stable, affordable housing.

Tickets will be sold at the door and are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students and children.  They are also available online at  The box office opens at 6:00 and the doors will open at 6:30. The North Windham Union Church is located at 723 Roosevelt Trail in Windham.  For more information please call 892-6142 or email

Music with a Mission – Celebrating great music with concerts for the common good
MWAM Committee: Jim McBride, Rick & Linda Nickerson, Michael & Ruth Kepron, Allen & Dawn Sample, Peter & Dorine Ryner and Chick Marks

Well known running Olympian to speak at Windham High School

Join Be The Influence (BTI) for a night of eye-opening education on youth substance use, the developing brain and what we can do to keep our youth healthy. Whether you are a coach, parent, student or community member interested in health, you will not want to miss this event that will take place on Wednesday, March 11 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Windham High School auditorium.

The featured speaker will be John Underwood, Director/Founder of Life of an Athlete/Pure Performance-Human Performance Project. As a past Running Olympian himself, John holds three International Olympic Solidarity diplomas for coaching and has advised more than two dozen Olympians including many World and Olympic Champions. John has been a crusader for drug-free sports at all levels and is internationally recognized human performance expert, specializing in recovery, peaking training & lifestyle impact on mental & physical performance.

John’s innovative programs, “Human Performance Project” and “Life of an Athlete”, have gained international prominence. He has appeared as a guest commentator for ABC Wide World of Sports for Olympic Drug Scandals. He has also written model codes of conduct for athlete behaviors of concern.

John has worked with nearly all sport federations including the Department of Education, DEA, Department of Justice, National Federation of High School Athletics, NCAA, NHL, NFL, NBA, the U.S. Olympic Committee and much more. He has been a Human Performance Consultant with the U.S. Navy SEALS, the U.S. Air Force and other Special Military Projects. Most recently, John Underwood addressed the World Olympic body at the ASPC Elite Sport Forum in Durban South Africa.

John’s presentation will be followed by a panel of experts for testimonies and group discussion.  For more information and to RSVP, contact Laura Morris, BTI Director at Refreshments will be provided by Sebago Lake Region Rotary. The event is free and open to the public.

More information on Life of an Athlete:
Life of an Athlete Human Performance Project has been constantly looking for the most recent research in the important aspects of young people's lives like nutrition, sleep, training, recover, etc. It has created the manuals that have been constantly updated and used by many high-performance populations.

BFirst Friday Coffee House offers music and community building

By Elizabeth Richards

The South Windham Community Church and Center is working to build community through their First Friday Coffee House ministry. On the first Friday of every month, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., the church basement is transformed into a coffee house atmosphere with live music, open mic, and light refreshments. 

First Friday Coffee House organizers Sharon and Charlie Bickford initiated the event after attending a similar ministry at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Portland. After seeing how successful that event was, Sharon said, they thought they could do something similar, with some modifications, in their own neighborhood. “It is a way we can reach out to others in our community and seek to extend Christian hospitality using our hands and feet and hearts to embody the love of Jesus,” Sharon said.

The event is family friendly, with a casual relaxed atmosphere.  “We’re not preaching anything at this coffee house,” Sharon said. “We’re just inviting people to come in.”  She added that if people come with a need or concern, the church is certainly willing to try and help. And if people are looking for prayers, they simply need to ask. “We’re not pushing that as an agenda. We just want to make them feel welcome, and for us to get to know them and them to get to know us,” she said.

Charlie, who is an associate pastor at the church, said they were thrilled when one of the attendees last month said, “I feel there’s a lot of love in this room.” That is exactly what they are trying to convey, he said.

Another reason for doing the coffee house is that they believe the church should be busy all week, Charlie said.  “It is the center of that community,” he said.  “We’d like to see our church be used by the community.”

The First Friday Coffee House debuted in November, and each month has welcomed between 30-35 people. There is room for the event to grow to double the size it is now, the Bickfords said.

Each month, the Bickfords line up a few musicians willing to donate their time to play at the coffeehouse. The music can be faith based, but it doesn’t have to be.  “There’s a lot of secular music that is positive and uplifting, and we welcome that,” Sharon said. She added, “Music, I think, speaks to people’s hearts sometimes when words don’t.”

There is also an open mic, so if performers want to just come and perform, they are welcome to do so, provided there is enough time, Sharon said.

The Bickfords do the organizing and set up of each First Friday Coffee House, with the help of other volunteers. They are hoping to teach others how to set up, in case they are not able to be there.  “We want it to be a ministry of the church, not our ministry,” Sharon said.

There is no admission charge to attend First Friday Coffee House. “As we share with the community, the community also shares with us,” Charlie said.  “So, we get to minister on a lot of levels. It’s a unique opportunity for us to see the community in a different light.”

“And for them to see us in a different light,” Sharon added. 

“In this day of challenges to the small, local churches we hope to provide a warm gathering place where we can get to know each other and build community,” she said.

The next First Friday Coffee House is on March 6th from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The church is located at 31 Main Street in the village of South Windham. All are welcome.  For more information, call Charlie at 207-329-3483.

Friday, February 28, 2020

2020 Sebago Lake and Cumberland County Ice Fishing Derby announce winners

Joe Donnelly
It was a beautiful weekend on the lakes of Cumberland County for the annual Ice Fishing Derby. Many people of all ages turned out to compete for the biggest catch. After two days of fishing, these were the final results:

Terrence Daigle
And the winners are

#1 Togue- Joe Donnelly pictured here. 9.42 lbs. 31 inches

#2 Togue- Cody Marean -8.62 lbs. 32.75 inches
#3 Togue- Joshua Bryant- 7.66 lbs. 29 1/8 inches

Only 1 Pike winner pictured here: Terrence Daigle 16.20 lbs. 39.5 inches

#1 Pickerel- Mike Chamberlain 3.96 lb. 24.75 inches
#2 Pickerel- Mike Chamberlain 3.78 lb. 24.75 inches
#3 Pickerel- Mike Chamberlain 3.60 lb. 23.75 inches

#1 Perch- Pat Woodbrey- 1.52 lb 14 inches
#2 Perch -Jim Hawkes-1.5 lb 13.25 inches
#3 Perch -Steve Berton 1.46 lb 13 inches

ATV Coleman 500 winner- Daniel Pratt

Tree Talk: The Emerald Ash Borer

By Robert Fogg

As you may or may not know, the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), an ash-tree-killing-insect, accidentally imported from Asia in 2002, is slowly working its way in our direction with a hunger for our ash trees. It no longer appears to be a question of if EAB will arrive, but when.  EAB has been detected in extreme southern Maine and extreme northern Maine, but more recently a single EAB was found in the Portland area.

I think it’s important to prepare people mentally for the loss of many shade trees once EAB does arrive in our area. None among us are old enough to remember the devastation brought on by the American Chestnut Blight of the early 1900s, but many people are old enough to remember the devastation the Dutch Elm Disease brought to the state in the mid to late 1960s. 

I was just a young boy at the time, but I still remember losing the very tall and very huge elm tree at the end of our driveway. The stump eventually rotted, and nothing but a small mound of soil remains, as a reminder, to this day.

When EAB arrives, our ash trees will be under attack and many, if not most, will die.  Yes, it is possible to inject individual trees with insecticide to prolong, or maybe even save their lives, and we, and others are gearing up to do just that, but it is not practical or economically feasible to protect even a small fraction of our ash trees, especially those in the forest.

This coming spring will be a good time to survey your property, identify any ash trees, and start thinking about which ones you can, or cannot bear to lose, so you can start planning your strategy.  It makes sense to remove low value ash trees before they die and become a safety hazard.  Higher value ash may be able to be saved with preemptive and ongoing insecticide applications. 

If you need help identifying your ash trees, contact a competent arborist (or forester, if it’s a woodlot) for help.  You may be surprised how many ash trees we have.

The Author is General Manager of Naples-based Q-Team Tree Service and is a Licensed Arborist. He can be contacted at 207-693-3831 or at

Book Review: “This Poison Will Remain” by Fred Vargas

Reviewed by Jennifer Dupree, Circulation Supervisor of the Windham Public Library

After I read “This Poison Will Remain” by Fred Vargas, I read a review that said no one should start with this book. I didn’t know when I started it that it was part of a series. While it might be best to start at the beginning, I did not find it confusing. For those interested in reading the books in order, the first is “Have Mercy on Us All”. All the books are translated from French.

“This Poison Will Remain” opens with Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg being recalled to Paris to work one case and then another. The first he solves quickly and rather cleverly. The second case is the main thrust of the story. Three elderly men have died from recluse spider bites and the Commissaire thinks it is murder. His team widely and vocally disagrees—it would take some forty recluse spider bites to kill a person and recluse spiders don’t bite all that much (they’re pretty reclusive, after all).

His investigation leads him to an orphanage, then to a group of boys called the Recluse Gang, then to an even sadder, more troubling story. It’s rare that I’m emotionally moved by a mystery, but I cried at the end of this one. The characters are incredibly well-drawn, distinct, human and relatable. The story is not exactly fast paced, but it’s twisty and well-plotted. I was pretty sure I knew where this was going, and then it went somewhere else.

Why does my pet need testing if they’re healthy?

By Andrine Belliveau DVM

A common question at the vet is why a seemingly healthy pet requires any testing. At a “routine” veterinary appointment, we will often discuss heartworm/lyme testing for dogs, leukemia/FIV testing for cats, bloodwork, and fecal testing. The honest answer is that animals instinctually try to hide their illness or discomfort from others – it is a survival tactic. Since your dog or cat is not going to be as forthcoming as you are at the doctor, testing can help us determine if your pet is sick or painful long before they let us know. 

The first and most important part of an annual visit is the exam itself. We look for dental tartar on teeth, signs of an early ear infection or eye inflammation, evaluate the joints, and listen for any arrhythmias or heart murmurs. With a thorough physical exam, we can often identify many issues before the pet “acts” sick. 

One of the most common issues would be arthritic joint changes which we can palpate on examination before the dog or cat starts limping at home. Early identification and treatment allow us to minimize further joint damage and hopefully prevent the pet from becoming lame at home.

When we perform a fecal test, we are looking for internal parasites – many of these can affect people too! With high levels of worms, dogs will often develop diarrhea – an obvious sign to look for. But early in the infection, with lower levels of worms, dogs are often asymptomatic.  With annual fecal testing we can identify the problem before the pet – or their human family – gets sick.

Bloodwork allows us to look at red cell and white cell counts, as well as evaluate kidney and liver function. We also look at electrolyte levels and blood sugar. Statistics show that one-third of cats over the age of ten will develop kidney failure – we can identify this on bloodwork months before the cat acts sick.  By changing the diet (one of the components of kidney failure treatment) before the cat is symptomatic, we can often add months or years onto their lifespan!

Wellness testing is a very important cornerstone of veterinary medicine. If you are not sure if your pet needs an exam or testing – ask us.

Veterinarians are always happy to discuss what would be recommended for your pet based on their age and lifestyle factors.

Middle Schoolers follow Windham history trail: A photo essay

Junior Historians: Delia Thomkus, Sophie Villanueva,
Liam Holivan, Braydon Bean, Ty Stahle
at Babb's Bridge
By Walter Lunt
Photos by: Brian Brigham
Several Windham school students spent part of their recent February break visiting history. All are members of Windham’s Junior Historical Society, an after-school club sponsored by the Windham Historical Society and supported by Windham Middle School.

The five junior historians were participating in the town’s photo scavenger hunt – a history challenge created by the Windham Bicentennial Committee. Called the Maine 200 Scavenger Hunt – A Windham Bicentennial Event, teams of more than two residents registered to explore and locate up to 18 historical objects and sites in the town of Windham.

Bicentennial co-chair Linda Brooks said nine teams registered for the ‘search and photograph’ challenge, which concludes today, February 28. a recent day, under cloudy and, at times, snowy conditions, the junior historians traveled several miles over three hours with their volunteer leader Paula Sparks and photographer Brian Brigham visiting historical places located mainly in the southern part of town. Stops included an early schoolhouse, the town’s first library building (the first libraries over one hundred years ago were in the homes of local residents), the grave of a Civil War soldier, Babb’s Covered Bridge, the Gambo Gunpowder Mills and two separate sections of the 19th century  Cumberland and Oxford Canal (one which still holds water – the other is dry).

Commenting on the 17th century battle site of the New Marblehead settlers and a local band of Wabanaki Natives, student Sophie Villanueva said, “I was super-surprised (to) hear about Chief Polin and where he died.”

Delia Tomkus suggested her group do further research on the sites, then create posters to hang in the middle school.

Another junior historian commented, “…(this was) a fun way to celebrate Maine’s birthday (and) I want to learn more about the covered bridge.”

Group leader Sparks applauded and thanked the Bicentennial Committee for creating the photo challenge, and observed, “The photo scavenger hunt was a fun opportunity to explore our community (and to) learn more about its rich history.”

Corner stone of Windham's Lot #1, 1735.
The rock that 'must never be moved.'
Jennifer Alvino, the other co-chair of the Committee, said the scavenger photos of the junior historians and those of the other eight teams will be displayed at a signature event on Saturday, March 14 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Little Meeting House in North Windham. The Bicentennial event will also feature photos of Windham farms and craft activities. Tea, cake and other snacks will be served.

Site of final battle between the settlers and Sebago band of Wabanaki Natives

An early schoolhouse, later the town office, currently Windham Historical Society Museum & Research library