Friday, November 27, 2020

Unity Center for Spiritual Growth hosts online retreat with internationally known author

By Lorraine Glowczak

“Done right, even a six-hour Zoom webinar can be energizing,” a friend who is now a professional at online meetings said to me. She was referring to the retreat I was about to attend with speaker and award-winning author, Mirabai Starr this past Saturday, Nov. 21. I wasn’t quite sure she would be correct in her assumption – after all, it was a rare fall sunny moment in Maine and sitting at the computer all day didn’t sound enticing.

It turns out my friend was correct. About 120 individuals across the state and beyond participated in an uplifting online retreat from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Originally, the all-day gathering was set for this past spring and was to be held in person on the campus of Saint Joseph’s College of Maine.

“This [retreat] took many months to plan with many changes required, including the date,” said Rev. Patricia Bessey of Unity Center for Spiritual Growth located at 54 River Road in Windham. But the pandemic, as it has with everything since its arrival, shifted the plans for the in-person gathering.

About 120 individuals from across the state and
beyond participated in an uplifting all-day virtual
conference with award-winning author Mirabai
Starr hosted by the Unity Center for Spiritual 
Growth of Windham last Saturday. 
However, the online alternative did not prevent men and women from joining in or detour from their positive experiences. Participants learned about past and present feminine mystics and the healing and balance they offer in a predominantly masculine society. Starr shared poems and prayers across all sacred traditions and the spiritual spectrum and incorporated the use of Zoom breakout rooms. Everyone had opportunities to journal write on specific subjects.

“I found the retreat to be very energizing,” Ellie Rolnick of Biddeford said. “Compared to other seminars and retreats I have attended where you sit all day, Mirabai was very respectful of our time. She pulled off this online gathering really well and I loved how she started each segment with a poem and a prayer. At the end of the day, I was not exhausted at all. In fact, as a fledgling composer, I am inspired to apply what I’ve learned to my creative pursuits.”

With frequent breaks including a 1 hour 15-minute lunch break, participants had time to step away from the computer, go for walks, eat, spend time with family and have a moment of reflection if needed. But perhaps what may have been important to many of the retreat attendees, is the way they were able to participate in their own learning through personal journal writing.

 “Mirabai’s style was very matter of fact,” Carla McDonnell of Portland said. “I was taught things, but I learned by doing. Rather than teaching by talking at us, we learned by participating in our own growth.”

The activities suggested by Starr to be discussed in break out rooms pushed through some individual vulnerabilities.

“I would have never done sharing like this [in an in-person environment] but I discovered that by sharing our writings with each other, it became a shared strength,” McDonnell said. “Even Mirabai shared her own vulnerabilities. I felt hopeful.”

It was in this hopeful spirit that both McDonnell and Rolnick were able to take away what they learned in this six-hour retreat and incorporate it into their everyday life.

“I recently started making meditation a daily ritual and I experienced how important it is to combine journaling with it,” Rolnick said. “I think meditation and journaling are ways to connect to my inner self and inner knowing. My attendance at the retreat was an affirmation of the path I’m already taking.”

“I learned that it is important to start where you are,” McDonnell said. “I believe we are living in a time of great shift in humanity – and perhaps it is accelerating. I’m learning that it is not my business to be thinking about this shift. Mirabia made it simple – find what your purpose is to relieve suffering. You do this by finding what brings you joy. What we are all doing may seem ordinary on the surface – but it serves a purpose. During the retreat I felt a quiet inner conviction and assurance that whatever I am doing is enough – in a given day that is my purpose.”

McDonnell also summarized the intention of the retreat and how the feminine plays a role in balancing the masculine in western society.

“The feminine is found in poetry, in music, in nature,” she said, paraphrasing Starr. “There is courage, fierceness and determination in the feminine – and at the same time, there is compassion and inclusiveness.”

Mirabai Starr is the author of creative non-fiction and contemporary translations of sacred literature. She taught Philosophy and World Religions at the University of New Mexico-Taos for 20 years and now teaches and speaks internationally on contemplative practice and inter-spiritual dialog.

Unity Center for Spiritual Growth was joined in sponsorship of this retreat by the following organizations: Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, The Bertha Crosley Ball Center for Compassion at the University of Southern Maine, Pax Christi Maine, CHIME: Chaplaincy Institute of Maine and Abbey of HOPE. <





Friday, November 20, 2020

The Old Grocery, with its history of tailors, cobblers, merchants and gardeners is today a keeper of the historical record

By Walter Lunt

For as long as anyone can remember it was known as Windham’s Old Grocery. For the last 20 years it has served as a museum, a replica of its earlier time, featuring displays of the services and products it brought to the community. It will continue to do so in its new location on the grounds of the Windham Historical Society’s Village Green history park. The wood-framed building’s 182-year span at the old Windham Center address saw just five owners – the longest, three generations of the Hawkes family from 1845 to 1954. It is probably Windham’s oldest commercial structure.

The earliest historical record reveals the building was relocated from somewhere on Windham Center Road (possibly near the intersection with Nash Road) to a leased lot at the corner of Gray Road (Route 202) and Windham Center Road in 1838 by William Goold and used as a tailor shop. Around 1840, Goold purchased wood carvings of oak tree branches adorned with leaves and acorns from the original St. Paul’s Church in Portland, which was being torn down. He affixed them to his (Old Grocery) shop’s fa├žade. The ornate carvings were believed to be created in England some time before 1802. Goold was also an author and historian, and later wrote in his book Portland in the Past, “The beauty of Old St. Paul’s was its interior. The most elaborate ornamentation was in the chancel (which) I have preserved. The oak symbolized the English parentage of the church.” The carvings remain on the building to this day – some restoration will be needed to bring the features back to their former luster.

Believed to be one of two general
stores at Windham Center about 1880.
Ad on the wall over the seated
gentleman promotes the use of
Adamson's Botanic Cough Balsam,
a cold and cough concoction sold
as a remedy for childhood coughs and
colds. One ingredient proved to be
heroin hydrochloride, later banned.
Alley Hawkes purchased the building in 1845 and established a cobbler shop. Later, he partnered with Thomas Hawkes, selling grain and groceries in the front of the store and shoemaking in the rear.  When shoemaking was no longer  profitable, the business expanded into a grocery and general store. A post office was added with Alley acting as postmaster. The store was, for decades, a 19th century version of the local mom and pop store. Windham historian Samuel Dole described Alley, at the time of his death in 1890, as the “best known trader in town.”

Opening almost simultaneously across the street from Alley’s Hawkes’ store in the early 1850s, Stephen Staples opened a similar establishment. The two stores were in competition, and in what must have been a very partisan time, Democrats patronized the Staple’s store while Republicans supported Alley Hawkes’ store.

Years later when Staples closed his store, Fred S. Hawkes, son of Alley Hawkes, opened a grocery store on the site. All told, three generations of Hawkes family members were storekeepers at Windham Center corner for over 100 years.

A typical general store of the 19th and early 20th century was generally warm and welcoming. Patrons and proprietors usually knew each other and were on a first name basis. Customer contact often lingered beyond the financial transaction as visitors sought to catch up on local news and community gossip – or maybe engage in a game of checkers near the pot-bellied coal or wood stove. Store interiors tended to be dark as there were usually few side windows. Shelving, stocked high and jammed with all manner of goods lined all the walls; boxes, barrels and bins took up most of the floor space. Next to the scales for weighing merchandise was the limited counter area reserved for point of purchase. Customers could buy just about anything: locally produced perishables, flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, cigars & tobacco, tools, crockery and dry goods, patent medicines and elixirs. Molasses was a big seller – often more than a hogshead (about 60 gallons) would be sold in a single day. Vinegar cider, crackers and cheese were a favorite for the road. Cleanliness was not a priority; dirt and even animal waste was dragged in from the street – soot from the stove settled on the merchandise. On occasion, a proprietor would extend credit or barter with trustworthy patrons.

The mid-1950s saw the end of Hawkes general stores at Windham Center. The ‘Old Grocery’ closed in 1954; two years later, the building was deeded over to a local garden club that used it as a meeting place for many years. Following declining membership, the club turned the building over to Windham Center Stage Theater, which was unable to raise funds to make necessary repairs to the aging structure. Finally, ownership was transferred to the Windham Historical Society.

After hundreds of hours of fund raising and volunteer work, the Society completed badly needed repairs and renovations and opened the building as the Old Grocery Museum in 2000. Items once sold in its past life were returned as historical displays. But lack of parking and pedestrian safety concerns hampered the development of programs.

On Oct. 30, the Old Grocery was lifted off its ancient stone foundation and rolled up Windham Center Road to join a number of other historic buildings that combine as the Windham Living History Park, keeper of the historical record. <

Friday, November 13, 2020

Senior Santa Program to brighten holidays for elderly in area

By Ed Pierce

Christmas wishes can come true, no matter how old you are, and an annual program sponsored by Home Instead of Gorham intends to bring cheer and a smile to older local residents this holiday season in Windham and Raymond.

Relying on volunteers and the generous support of the community, the Senior Santa Program has set up “Be A Santa To A Senior” trees at participating locations which runs from now through Dec. 7. Trees are decorated with ornaments featuring seniors’ first names and gift suggestions. Holiday shoppers choose an ornament, purchase the requested presents and return them unwrapped in a holiday gift bag to the tree location with the ornament tag attached.

'Be a Santa to a Senior' trees are now available
for the public to participate in the annual
Senior Santa Program which runs through
Dec. 7. Local locations includes Chute's Family
Restaurant and Blue Seal Feeds in Windham where
community members can choose a tag from
the trees and buy a gift to be delivered to a
deserving area senior this Christmas.
Local tree locations include Chute’s Family Restaurant, 686 Roosevelt Trail in Windham and at Blue Seal Feeds, 43 Main St. in Windham.

According to Kathy Damon, a home care consultant for Home Instead, the program served more than 600 seniors in Cumberland County last year and works with 20 different nonprofits and senior agencies in developing a list of deserving seniors to be given gifts.

Volunteers pair up with police officers to deliver the gifts and that experience is very moving, Damon said.

“For me, the best part of doing this comes in delivering the gifts,” Damon said. “To hear the appreciation is just wonderful.”

This year the Senior Santa Program is even more vital to the wellbeing of area elderly because of the pandemic.

“Seniors are especially at risk for the feelings of isolation that we’ve all felt at some point during the pandemic, and a simple gift can show them that they have been thought of, which is more important this year than ever,” said Bill Jenks, owner of the Gorham Home Instead office.

Joanne Gerritty of Windham works for Home Instead and said she is happy to participate in such a worthwhile program.

“Most of these elderly people have no family or are financially strapped,” she said. “Usually what the elderly person ranges in needs from food to a warm pair of socks to winter coat and boots. At Home Instead we make sure all requests are fulfilled.”

Each year after the gifts have been delivered, Home Instead receives thank you notes from recipients and senior caregivers who are grateful for the gifts.

“I’m blown away each year at the generosity and incredible work you put into this project. The thoughtfulness and heart that goes into buying gifts for our residents is unreal and we are forever grateful,” wrote Sarah Nute, Director of Life Enrichment at Portland’s Barron Center last year. “One of our residents cried after opening his gifts, he was so surprised someone would think of him. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Gift items typically run from magnifying glasses to hand-held grabbers, warm socks, winter coats and boots, large Christmas bags and tissue paper, Christmas treats, lap blankets, puzzles of different strengths, large-print puzzle books, reading glasses, stamps, to gift cards from Hannaford, Bull Moose, Walmart and other stores, Damon said.

The program is open to all seniors in Cumberland County, although they need to be referred through an agency such as Windham’s Ledgewood Manor.

“I have pulled three tags to fill, also during the year I will buy different items that I know we usually run short of, I put in many hours delivery the tags, going through the list to make sure right sizes and items are in the bags and to make sure that there are treats in the bag from candy or cookies,” Gerritty said.

Damon said the logistics of matching the right gifts to the right seniors can be challenging every year, but the Senior Santa Program connects some isolated community members with those who want to help.

“I think everyone should take away from this and realize that there are seniors who can be overlooked at this time of year,” she said. “It can be very lonely for people. This program sends the message that there are people in the community who care about them and want to make their holidays brighter.”

For more information about the program, visit or call 207-839-0441. <

Thursday, November 12, 2020

A heartfelt tribute to heroes


Veterans Day gathering honors sacrifices of local military members  

Moments after placing a commemorative wreath on a monument honoring the contributions of Windham and Raymond veterans, VFW Post 10643 Commander Willie Goodman, Jerry Black of the VFW and Bob Christie of American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 salute those who have served during a Veterans Day observance at the Windham Veterans Center on Wednesday.

In November 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words" To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations..."

The original concept of the observance was for a day celebrated with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month every year.

In 1938, Armistice Day was recognized by Congress as a national holiday and in 1954, Armistice Day officially became Veterans Day to honor the veterans of all wars and military service. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

Manchester School students build community and resiliency through Gratitude Pumpkin project

By Lorraine Glowczak

The idea began approximately 10 years ago by accident. The story goes something like this: artist, teacher and author, Amy Latta was looking for a way to teach her son about Thanksgiving without getting "caught up in the craziness of the holidays,” as Latta is quoted as saying. What came from that moment, is the Gratitude (or Thankfulness) Pumpkin and it has caught on like wildfire.

This simple and creative project only requires three easy tools; a pumpkin, a permanent marker – and of course, an optimistic mindset. All that is required of students is to write words of gratitude on the pumpkin to physically see the positive things that are happening in their lives.

There is scientific evidence that gratitude helps people feel more upbeat emotions, experience improved health, increased ability to deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. It is for these reasons that Manchester School Counselor, Jessica Weatherbee suggested the Gratitude Pumpkin Project as an SEL (Social/Emotional Learning) component with her school counseling program.

“I have been exploring different ways to connect students who are in the same class but attend on different days within the hybrid model,” Weatherbee said. “So, I brought the Gratitude Pumpkin idea to the teachers as it was something that my family did at home last year. Students in Cohort A [Monday/Wednesday in-person class] and Cohort B [Tuesday/Thursday in person class] are both participating and reviewing what their peers and teachers are grateful for.”

Although this was an optional activity for the teachers, many instructors chose to participate, including Meg Sparrow and Deborah Milair (both fifth grade teachers) and fourth-grade teacher, Leah Richards.

“I jumped right on board the Gratitude Pumpkin project because I think it’s so important for people to recognize the beautiful things they have in life,” Richards said. “I think sometimes, especially in times like these, it’s easy for us to feel down in the dumps and defeated. I thought this would be a great way for my students (and myself) to shift our thinking to being more positive. My hope in doing this project with my students was that I could help them to see things in a positive light and focus on all of the good things that we have.”

The students shared many things they were happy to have in their lives, some of which required real reflection on what is important.

“Honestly, at first, I thought I would get materialistic answers from students like my Xbox, a TV, cell phone, etc. because they talk about these things so much, and they’re things that kids really enjoy,” Richards said. “And while some of them did list a few of these things (I mean, who isn’t grateful for pizza?), I was so pleasantly surprised when I saw some of their answers like my family, my teachers, being able to see my friends face to face, food, and a having a place to live. The answers were deep and really showed that the kiddos recognized that they have a lot to be grateful for in life!”

Perhaps one of the brightest outcomes of this project, is a connection the students feel towards one another, even though they don’t get to see their friends every day.

“Not only are the students benefiting from practicing gratitude, but the activity is building a sense of community across the two cohorts as well,” Weatherbee said.

Richards has also witnessed the social and emotional impact this project has had among her two separate classrooms.

“I really did see a shift in my students the last two weeks we’ve been doing the pumpkin,” Richards said. “They’ve connected to one another a lot more, they’re more positive, and they’re thankful for the little things. I think it comes down to the amazing power of a positive mindset. If we can focus on the good things that we have and appreciate the little things that we have going on in our lives, then we will be happier and more appreciative.

“We all, myself included, really took for granted the little things like being able to see our friends face to face, or to learn in person, or the ability to go out to dinner. It’s really easy to focus on the things that we don’t have, or the things that we want, but how does that make us feel better? It’s a tough shift, but my kiddos did it.”

In addition to the connecting with students and friends they don’t get to see every day and the increased feelings of gratitude, the fourth- and fifth-grade students also demonstrated resiliency during times of challenge.

“I just want to say how proud I am of our RSU 14 students. Despite the crazy adventure that we’ve all been on the last couple of weeks, RSU 14 students have shown us what it means to be positive and resilient in challenging times,” Richards said. “We can certainly learn a lot from them! WAY TO GO WINDHAM EAGLES!”<