Friday, December 2, 2016

Katahdin School opens - By Michelle Libby

Last week, the Katahdin School at Camp William Hinds in Raymond, opened its doors for family and friends at its first open house. 

The Katahdin School is an off shoot of the REAL School on Mackworth Island. The district  brought the 21 students from Windham and Raymond who were attending the REAL School to the newly created Katahdin School.

The new location is a partnership with the Boy Scouts of the Pine Tree Council and RSU14. The school is located in the finished walkout basement of the new dining hall on Plains Road in Raymond. The dining hall is due to open this summer. Everything the REAL School improves on will be shared, like its hoop house or proposed bike trails, and everything the Scouts have, like the ropes course and kayaks, will be used by the students.

“We’re really lucky to offer something like this to our students,” said principal Rich Meserve.
“To have young people use this as a school really completes the benefit and investment. It also makes our donors especially happy,” said Scout executive Eric Tarbox. “This isn’t just a business relationship. It’s outdoor experiential learning and helping kids become more, and be more,” which is the same mission as Scouts. 

The school opened on September 1, but in the old dining hall on Panther Pond, with no heat. Once it got too cold, they bounced around, all the while having experiences like fishing on the first day of school, where one student caught an 18 inch bass. They also went white water rafting, mountain climbing and ziplining. All of the unsettled moving around was considered “building character,” said Meserve. “We feel right at home in this space,” he added. 

“It’s a beautiful area,” said Marie Reidman, who teaches English.  The opportunities are endless. “They can swim, canoe or fish if it’s not going well in the classroom.”

Four students addressed the crowd. Julia, a junior, struggled with depression and anxiety. “I’m very thankful for having this opportunity from the teachers to the students to the van drivers.”
Ellen rarely attended school before the Katahdin School. “I’ve been every day. There are a lot of opportunities,” she said. 
Melinda has an anger problem. The school has helped her in school and outside of school. “I get enough attention from the teachers,” she said. “There is a lot of encouragement to go outside of our comfort zones.” 

Tyla was expelled from school as a freshman. Now as a senior, she will be the first person in her family to graduate from high school. “Thank you for making this a possibility,” she said. 

The school is based on a relationship model with experiential learning a key focus. Rod Nadeau holds 14 licenses and certifications in outdoor activities. He mixes his teachings with other educational standards. Paul Field is the STEM teacher, where students experience some science and math through the use of a 3D printer and a 3D pen. 
Ben Woodman was one of the first graduates from the REAL School in 1988. As an employee for Lowe’s he was able to help negotiate a great deal for the materials including providing the paint and drywall as well as the crew. “(The REAL School) was the best thing that could ever happen,” Woodman said. 

Work on the dining hall was primarily done by the military and the IRT program. Camp ranger Scott Martin over saw the completion of the interior work by his crew.  

Both Meserve and Tarbox hope that this will be a joint venture far into the future, which will be mutually beneficial.

Christmas tree lighting celebration in Raymond - Walter Lunt

Raymond kicked off the 2016 Christmas season Sunday with its 18th annual tree lighting ceremony at Raymond Public Library. The event was sponsored by the Raymond Lions Club. Spokesman Robert Fey was quick to point out they had a lot of help.

“It’s a small hometown affair, but a very significant one that happens in this community every year.” He said help and participation came from many segments of the community. The tree is donated each year by Bob Paine, who runs a Christmas tree farm on Raymond Hill Road; a volunteer drove a Central Maine Power bucket truck to deliver, install and string lights on the tree; the Raymond Elementary School Chorus under the direction of Patti Gordan performed songs of the season; the Raymond Public Library trustees and staff hosted the event, including the reading of favorite children’s stories prior to the lighting ceremony; and Santa arrived aboard a Raymond fire truck.

“Ho, Ho, Ho! Oh my, we have quite a turnout here tonight, don’t we,” bellowed Santa as the first of many young revelers climbed onto his knee. Ayla Harris, 6, of Naples told the merry, plump man she was hoping for “a stuffed animal unicorn” for Christmas.

The early evening event was topped off with hot chocolate and cookies for all.

Windham celebrates annual tree lighting ceremony - By Stephen Signor

Last Sunday droves of citizens made their way to the Windham Public Safety Building where for the second year Windham held its second annual tree lighting ceremony. According to the stretch of vehicles parked along both sides of Gray Road, it was evident that this year surpassed the previous attendance. 
The activities began at 5 p.m. with caroling, compliments of Windham Primary School music teacher Nancy Cash-Cobb, who led the third grade chorus in numerous popular Christmas carols much to the crowd’s approval, while they waited for that magical moment when the tree would come to life.
“Cash-Cobb has been teaching at the Primary School many, many years. Some of these adults probably had her as a teacher from what I understand,” said parks and recreation director Linda Brooks. 

“We had a great time and were honored to be asked back again. The students looked forward to the opportunity and were very excited. I am proud of the way they sang and their stage presence. The Windham recreation department and library did a fabulous job with crafts, goodies, hot chocolate and, of course, Santa,” commented Cash-Cobb.

Meanwhile, inside the safety building people had also gathered to enjoy refreshments and for a bit of warmth complete with plenty of conversation, much of which took place in the long line of children waiting to visit with Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus. 

Outside, the holiday music continued to play via a sound system following the lighting of the tree. In the background, a decorated fire truck attracted all ages. But while every year these fire trucks are decked out with wreaths, donated by Staples Farm, this year introduced the presence of the South Windham Fire Department Emergency Response Truck. Its arrival was timely and difficult to miss, as department members had cleverly decorated it with colorful lights to mimic what appeared to be a sleigh and was carrying the Claus family. 

Amy Carter, wife of Windham fire rescue captain Alfred Carter was also there helping out and shared, “This is much more successful than last year. Approximately 300 showed up then and we didn’t expect that, so we didn’t know what to expect. So this year we prepared and planned a little bit more. This year there is more decorations, more food and crafts for the kids.” One of the crafts and most popular was a marshmallow challenge where the object was to build the tallest free standing tower. The food pantry was also there taking donations for families in town. “It’s awesome! It’s been great,” continued Carter. 

The hope was for this year’s annual lighting was to make this a bigger and better event. It came to fruition as an estimated 400 to 500 people attended and next year promises to be even more successful.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Do your holiday traditions feel more like obligations? - By Elizabeth Richards

Thanksgiving is upon us, and it’s time to pull out all the old traditions. Or is it? Most people can identify traditions that have been sustained by their families for years around specific holidays. Many of these traditions are beloved, but sometimes, it’s time to take a look at what you do and make some changes. If a tradition has become stressful or you simply aren’t enjoying it any longer, don’t be afraid to say so!

 Thanksgiving is often all about the food. You probably have certain things that just must be on the table, or it simply doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving. Many of these are probably great – but are there some you could do without? 

For me, it was the “green stuff” that showed up on every holiday table. My mother had been making it for years, sending it to extended family gatherings, and every Thanksgiving, there it was. This whipped Jell-O salad with canned fruit was never something I enjoyed. But for years, it was there, and somehow kept ending up on my plate. When I finally had the courage to say “No, thank you,” something funny happened – no one cared! 

When I told my mom I just didn’t care for it, she asked my siblings how they felt. As it turned out, they felt the same way. We haven’t seen the green stuff since. It can be hard to speak up – fear of offending someone, fear of family revolt if you decide not to make your famous sweet potatoes. But just like in my house, the roof won’t cave in if you change the menu up a bit, and just maybe everyone will enjoy a change of pace. 

Maybe your traditions have nothing to do with food. One of the trickiest negotiations is where a holiday will be celebrated. Perhaps you have been going to grandma’s house your entire life, and can’t imagine saying you will be spending the day somewhere else. But when we grow up and start families of our own, suddenly it’s not so simple. It can become a mad dash from one dinner to the next, a crazy juggling act of trying to keep everyone happy. Perhaps it’s time to take a deep breath and ask yourself – tradition aside, where do I want to be?
Once you figure out where and with whom you will celebrate, what does the day look like? Does everyone sit around watching the parade or football? Do you gather around the table to play a board game after dinner? These can be the best traditions of all – the part of the day where you really spend quality time with the ones you love. But what if all that sitting around isn’t what you prefer? Speak up – suggest something new. 

With all the food we eat on Thanksgiving, physical activity is becoming a more important part of the day. Maybe it’s time to start a tradition around getting yourself – and your family – moving. One Westbrook family puts on a 5K on Thanksgiving morning to raise money for high school scholarships. This has grown from a small family event to a large community affair, and is one of my favorite new Thanksgiving traditions. And, it alleviates the guilt of that extra slice of pie! If running isn’t your thing, consider a walk in the woods, a friendly game of kickball or football, or a dance party. 

Whatever your traditions are, take the time to be sure they really work for you. Eliminating the stress of participating in something that just doesn’t work for you is a surefire way to truly enjoy your holidays!

AlliedCook Construction donates their time and provides hope for a Windham couple - By Lorraine Glowczak

John and Linda Gregoire have been counting their blessings every day. The most recent godsend came in the form of a local and well known construction company, AlliedCook Construction. This company donated a week of their time, resources and efforts in October to rebuild Gregoire’s crumbling garage floor. Not only was the garage unsafe, but it had shifted so much that the Gregoires’ “new to them” van could not be driven into their garage because it sits low to the ground. It isn’t every day a large construction company remodels a garage for free, but then, it is not every day one is diagnosed with a devastating disease that robs one of independence.  
“When you are in God’s business, he is in yours,” Linda said, referring to the way things have been going in their life the past nine years. In October, 2007 Linda’s husband, John, was diagnosed with ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. has not let the extreme challenges that go with slowly saying goodbye to walking and talking disempower him. Instead, he uses his experience to help and serve other people living with ALS (PALS). In 2014, he and Linda created the non-profit organization, The Hope-JG Foundation. The organization’s mission is two-fold, “To establish a world class ALS/MS residence in Maine and to inspire and promote innovative technologies.” ( A resource room will be a part of this residence, housing a recording studio which will use the VocaliD platform to record donor voices. This technology produces custom crafted voices for the speech impaired, making communication more human. (

John is now in a wheelchair and uses a voice activated computer to express his thoughts. He and Linda travel all over New England to meet with supporters, PALS and their families to discuss fundraising, grant writing and networking ideas. They also travel to meet with innovators - people or organizations that promote innovative technologies and thinking. Additionally, they travel to Augusta during the legislative session to advocate for issues that affect health care. This extensive travel to advocate, promote hope, and build a home that will provide a meaningful and dignified life for PALS requires a van equipped to transport John and the electric wheelchair. Unfortunately, their “new” 2010 wheel-chair accessible van could not be driven into the garage. The garage is where the lift is located and is what John uses to get in and out of his home. Parking outside the garage works well in the summer, but the pending snow and ice this winter were concerns of the Gregoire family. However, keeping thoughts positive, they decided to make the best of it. After all, money is not easily had when there are other important costs associated with the medical expenses of having ALS. This is where AlliedCook Construction came into their life.

It all began with the preparation of a fundraising event for The Hope-JG Foundation that will occur in early spring 2017. John and Linda had been communicating with Saint Joseph’s College president Jim Dlugos regarding a space provided by the school for a public viewing of the film “Hope on the Horizon.” The film is about four individuals who hike the 48 highest peaks in the White Mountains in 24 days to raise awareness and funding for ALS. During the emails back and forth about this fundraising effort, Dlugos became aware of the garage disrepair. Concerned, president Dlugos visited the Gregoires and spoke to them about having the space renovated. “You do so much for others, you also need to think about your needs and let others help you,” is what the Gregoires recalled Dlugos telling them. Soon after that conversation, Dlugos was in a meeting with Matt Cook of AlliedCook Construction discussing projects at the college. During this meeting Dlugos approached Cook, asking him if he could assess the repairs of Gregoires’ garage.

A couple days later, Cook visited John and Linda. “It was a small project that made a huge impact,” Cook stated. “There was no way I would leave without helping John and Linda.”
Cook was very impressed with the collaborative efforts of the other companies he reached out to and who also gave their resources for this project. These companies included Bob Grondin of R.J. Grondin, Inc., Jason Robinson of Dayton Sand & Gravel as well as Auburn Concrete. 

“It’s nice to give back to a community that supports you,” Cook continued, referring to the success of his Scarborough based 58-year-old company founded by his grandfather.   

It only took five days to restore the garage. During the re-construction, a big hollow hole underneath the cement where water had washed the ground away was discovered immediately following the removal of the floor. Needless to say, this made the garage a hazardous place to drive, walk or use a wheelchair. In fact, the lift itself was sitting on hollow ground.

John now has a safe and ice free way to get in and out of his vehicle and into his home. To celebrate
their labor and efforts, soup was prepared on the final day by Linda and shared with the three crew members who worked diligently all week. The crew consisted of Mark Blunden, Chris Monahan and Rick Dow. 

“This project was such a blessing to keep me safe and under cover as winter approaches. The Hope-JG Foundation work keeps us active. Being able to run out to a meeting, without navigating the crumbling garage floor to get to a cold van parked outside, is huge. We can’t thank Matt Cook, President Dlugos, and the team Matt gathered, enough,” John said, expressing his gratitude.

In a world filled with chaos, sadness and anger; the selflessness and compassion of a few individuals in a small town community is a reminder to never give up on hope. 

For more information about The Hope-JG Foundation, to make a donation, to support an innovator or to volunteer your services, please contact John and Linda at