Friday, September 13, 2019

Raymond Elementary School dedicates new playground

Ribbon Cutting ceremony on the first day of school
By Briana Bizier

The first day of school is always exciting, but last week students at Raymond Elementary School and Jordan Small Middle School had an especially memorable event to mark the beginning of their academic year. As the bright September sun glittered off Panther Pond and Sebago Lake in the distance, students left their classrooms and walked to a new fenced field behind Raymond Elementary School.

Randy Crockett, the principal of Raymond Elementary School, welcomed students from both the
elementary and the middle school. After offering his heartfelt thanks to the community, parents, and local businesses whose generous donations helped with fundraising events such as last summer’s ice cream social and the annual holiday pie sale, Crockett described the elementary school’s new playground and play field.

We’ve installed a new balance apparatus,” he told the assembled crowd of teachers, students, parents, and community members, “as well as a climbing Webscape and two new sandboxes.” towering blue Webscape, which immediately drew the interest of many of the children walking past the new playground, has an especially touching story. The entire structure was made possible by a generous gift from Raymond Elementary School kindergarten teacher Stephen Seymour, his wife Karen, and their family. This journalist can confirm that both the balance apparatus and the climbing Webscape appear to be much more fun than anything found on school playgrounds when I was
growing up.

The elementary school’s new sandboxes were built as an Eagle Scout project by Alex Brooks, who was once a student of Raymond Elementary School and now attends Windham High School. A second Eagle Scout project is planned to replace the playground’s storage shed that holds jump ropes, sporting equipment, and sleds.

Principal Crockett also took time to generously thank the Maine National Guard. Members of the 262nd Engineer Company (Horizontal), which is based in Westbrook, did the original earth work to clear the new play field, hauled in over 500 loads of gravel, and turned what had previously been a steep, forested slope into a grassy, level field.

It’s always great to give back to the community that supports us,” Major Kerry Boese of the Maine National Guard said at the opening ceremony.
Alissa Messer, a parent volunteer who was instrumental in overseeing the playground’s construction, emphasized gratitude as she spoke to the students. “This playground is a labor of love,” she said. “Today, we are grateful for what we’ve been given.”

As the crowd applauded enthusiastically, the speakers held out their scissors and cut a wide, red ribbon, officially opening Raymond Elementary School’s new playground. The air filled with cheers as the students followed their teachers for tours of the playground equipment.

If you’d like to view Raymond Elementary School’s new playground and play field for yourself, it is open to the public after school hours and on weekends.

Senator Bill Diamond helps to pass law to keep hands on the wheel

Pat Moody of AAA, Sen. Diamond and Rep. Mark Bryant.
Can you tell the difference if the driver of this car
was intoxicated or intexticated
By Matt Pascarella

Distracted driving is unsafe and has been a problem for a while. And it’s only getting worse. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA) website, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates distracted driving kills an average of nine people and injures 1,000 every day.

Recently, Senator Bill Diamond introduced and passed LD 165, a bill “To Prohibit the Use of Handheld Phones and Devices While Driving.” This bill will go into effect on September 19, 2019.
The bill was created out of a similar law that Senator Diamond sponsored in 2011, that made texting while driving illegal. However, while it was illegal to text and drive, it was not illegal to use your phone or have it in your hand.“We talked with law enforcement and the biggest problem is texting while driving; the crashes, the injuries are just exponentially increasing,” stated Senator Diamond. “What this says is you cannot have your phone or device in your hand. Everything in this bill is all about hands-free. You look down for two seconds, often times it’s three or four seconds – and in that short amount of time a lot can happen. And that’s a problem. This fixes it.”

This bill allows law enforcement to stop an individual if they are holding a phone in their hand, no matter what they’re doing. Diamond reminds the reader that you can attach your phone to your dash with a clip and if a call comes in, tap the button and talk or talk through Bluetooth.

We use the phone for so much more than calling people, and the temptation is there to use it. Senator Diamond goes on to say, “Just like we did with seatbelts; when we passed the seatbelt law people said, ‘you can’t make people put on a seatbelt.’ With public awareness and education, we did. It’s to the point now where, if you’re in a car without a seatbelt, most of us feel weird, and secondly, we got kids in the car who say, ‘hey dad, you don’t have your seatbelt on.’” Like the seatbelt law, this hands-free device while driving law is a cultural change.

What happens if you still do it? The first time is a $50 fine and every time after that is a $250 fine.
 “All Law Enforcement is going at this full speed; they’ve all become frustrated with the needless accidents because someone was distracted; and most of that distraction was with a phone,” added Senator Diamond. “It’s going to be very aggressive, and people need to know this. If they can break this culture, break this habit, they’re going to literally save lives.”

Pat Moody, Manager of Public Affairs for AAA of Northern New England has met with Senator Diamond and AAA has a campaign centered around not driving ‘intexticated’.

“AAA is an advocate for traffic safety. We do a lot of research on distraction in all facets of driver safety, we survey our members, then we also do research through the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety to better understand those aspects of driver safety. Specifically, we’ve done some work on distracted driving...the one big thing that comes out of this is that cognitive distraction is real. With this specific law it’s going to get that device out of their hands, so people are less likely to do things like Snapchat, check Facebook, send a text message – all those things that take your eyes off the road.”

The essence of AAA’s slogan; ‘Don’t drive intoxicated, don’t drive intexticated’ is both these driving behaviors end up with the same result. “A lot of people would never think of drinking and driving; dropping the kids to school and taking a sip of beer but they don’t think twice about sending a text,” added Moody. Texting and driving have become a habit, and come September 19th, people are going to have to think twice when they’re in their vehicle. driver and 16 year old junior at Windham High, Hayleigh Moody stated, “You will be hard pressed to find a teen without a cellphone these days. When your phone “pings” and you know you have a text, it is really temping to take a quick peek and check it. Unfortunately, it only takes a glance away from the road for really bad things to happen. I think parents are key; the more they demonstrate that texting while driving isn’t appropriate then their kids will be more likely to follow their example. My dad uses the “do not disturb while driving” feature of his cell phone so it temporarily holds text messages until he is parked. The new “hands free” law...will help change behavior of adult drivers and when a teen sees that their parents are less distracted by their phones while driving, hopefully they will follow their example.”

“This is one of the most important bills I’ve ever passed because of the result of saving lives and injuries. I’m proud of this because I think it’s one of those things where an immediate difference can be made,” concluded Senator Diamond.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Book launch and toy drive to raise funds and awareness for pediatric illnesses

Image courtesy of Courtney PostvanderBurg
at Tailwind Portraits
By Lorraine Glowczak

St. Ann’s Episcopal Church will host its annual Welcome Back Weekend beginning this Saturday, September 7th from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and continuing into Sunday, September 8th. The purpose of the annual event is to welcome back and invite the community, parishioners and non-parishioners alike, to enjoy each other’s company and welcome everyone back after the beautiful summer vacation.

The weekend will be filled with many fun activities on both days. On Sunday – in addition to a BBQ after the 10 a.m. service, there will also be an opportunity to donate toy’s to Libby’s Ouchie Box and Make-A-Wish foundation as well as attend a book launch from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The book, “One Child, One Million Prayers: Driving through Hell in a Minivan,” by Windham author, Norma Fitts was recently published in July. It’s the heartwarming and, often heart wrenching true story with touches of humor about a mother and an adopted daughter – who are both liver transplant recipients. But this story is not any ordinary transplant recipient story (as if there is an ordinary in such circumstances) – the tale includes the “coincidence” of how it all occurred and how it affected the mother and daughter as well as all who loved them.

Norma, at the age of six, was diagnosed with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha 1), an inherited condition that raises the risk of liver and lung disease. Some with the Alpha 1 gene live with very few issues and have a healthy life, but in Norma’s case, she required a liver transplant. all the medical difficulties, she receives a new liver, grows into a beautiful young woman and marries the man of her dreams. Alpha 1 is only inherited if both sets of parents carry the gene. But this was of no concern as Norma was told she wouldn’t be able to have children. A miracle occurred and she and her husband, Adam, had their first child, a girl named Chloe. All is perfect – until they discover that Adam carries the Alpha 1 gene, too – and thus, so does Chloe.

To prevent the possibility of having additional children who might inherit the same need for a liver or lung transplant, they decide against having any more biological children, but to adopt instead. Norma prayed that she would get a child who most needed her. “I prayed for a child whose needs I could meet and be mothered best by me,” Norma explained in the book.  

Maya was that daughter. Born prematurely, Maya is eventually diagnosed with liver cancer – and required a liver transplant at a very young age.

Norma takes the reader back and forth in time, comparing her experience and that of Maya’s. Sharing the “hell” that all families experience in such circumstances – Norma is candid. Honest about the fact that she, as a child was always in the spotlight (and news media attention), leaving older sister, Jess, feeling dismissed, alone and unseen as parents and others concentrate on Norma’s health and survival.
As a result, Norma shows appreciation to her sister - now the aunt to Chloe, Maya and adopted son, Lonnie. “Having Jess take care of Chloe and Lonnie was wonderful because she knew what it was like to be a sister of a sick child – she knew their needs and was able to advocate for them,” Norma stated in a phone interview. “She was a blessing.”

Learn more about Norma’s experience this Sunday. There will be snacks and beverages available and donations for Make-A-Wish Maine will be accepted at the snack table.

Norma has donated fifty books to Camp Sunshine as well as providing two signed copies that were a part of a Make-A-Wish Maine fundraiser – her two books raised $1600.

As for the donation of toys, they will be go towards Libby's Ouchie Box Toy Drive that was created by the Rulman family. Libby Rulman, a survivor of childhood cancer, collects toys for the Ouchie Box, located at Maine Children's Cancer Program (MCCP). 

After a clinic visit at MCCP, which may include anything from chemotherapy to a check-up, patients are allowed to choose a prize from the box. The Ouchie Box gives pediatric cancer patients something to look forward to on their clinic day. It often brings smiles after tears.

The Rulman family will be on-site collecting donations for Libby's Ouchie Box Toy Drive. They accept toys for children of all ages: newborns to teens. Gift cards and cash donations are also welcome to help families affected by pediatric cancer.

Friday, August 30, 2019

RAA to host inaugural artist scholarship fundraiser

Devon and David Young
By Lorraine Glowczak

The Raymond Arts Alliance (RAA) is hosting its inaugural artist scholarship fundraising concert on Saturday, September 7 at 1 p.m. at 163 Raymond Hill Road. The purpose of the concert is to raise funds to support local artists in need.

The concept was inspired by the aspirations of David Young, a local singer/songwriter, Raymond resident and 2017 graduate of Windham High School (WHS). David has performed in clubs for several years and has developed a strong local following. He studied guitar for a year at the University of Southern Maine and now will be moving to Nashville in the first week of November. 
The RAA hopes to donate part of the proceeds raised from this event to help with his move and start his new life, while also seeding a fund to assist others in the future.  David, along with his brother, Devon - a drummer who is a 2019 WHS graduate, is also moving to Nashville and will be performing with David.

Mary-Therese Duffy, RAA Chair, stated that the scholarship program is in the early stages and that the organization hopes to collect enough funds to support all artist and ages.

“For some, perhaps many, it is very challenging to claim the word artist for one’s self, particularly in the beginning. There are numerous cultural barriers to artists fully immersing into their ideas and vision, from simply being recognized in youth to being supported in explorations as young adults,” Duffy said. “Art is not considered a serious contribution to society and to that way of thinking, not a valued pursuit.  Many artists internalize this and believe they shouldn’t or can’t pursue what they truly love; and often, artists don’t know what that is even.  That is only because of the nature of artistic expression itself:  it is a calling, amorphous, often intuitive, looking nothing like a chosen path, never mind a clear one.  This can lead to self-doubt, second guessing, and always putting one’s
artistic process on the back burner.  Connecting to successful artists, having a mentor and the freedom to explore is critical to artistic development.  Few things adequately reflect and express the soul (if you will) of a culture than the arts, and they need to be supported at as many levels as possible.  They are an oxygen, a mirror, a compass and sometimes prophetic; a very needed element within our human collective, indeed.”

David recorded his first song at the age of 14 entitled, “Assassination #16”, a song about Lincoln’s death. He also recorded an album with Devon in 2017. Although music has played a large role in his life, he didn’t always know that music would be the direction he would take. “I didn’t know music was what I wanted to do FOR SURE until maybe a year and a half ago. Dev and I decided about a year ago that we would chase our dreams,” David said.

When asked if he had advice for other aspiring musicians, he admitted that he is still very young himself and does not have much advice to give, but does offer this suggestion: “I will say that if you know what you want to do, chase it! For me, I’d rather struggle to achieve something that I love to do than do something I hate just for the money.”

Other performers for the inaugural scholarship concert will include special guests, Jani Cummings, Dos Canosos (Raul Freyre and Gary Wittner), and The Disclaimers.  The location is. This is an outdoor event, so please bring a folding chair. There is no cover charge, but since this is a benefit, donations are greatly appreciated.

Service Dog Strong organization to provide relief for those with RR-PTSD anxiety

Simone Emmons
By Lorraine Glowczak

Known as a person’s best friend, dogs offer companionship and unconditional love. This, in and of itself, provides more health benefits than we can possibly know. But there is more. Dogs can be trained to guide the blind, assist the deaf or hard of hearing, offer a warning to an individual with epilepsy and can calm PTSD related anxiety.

Service Dog Strong, a local nonprofit, is just months and a few dollars away from obtaining their mission to provide trained service dogs free of charge to individuals who experience PTSD related anxiety as a result of sexual trauma, otherwise known as Rape Related PTSD (RR-PTSD)
The brainchild of Simone Emmons of Windham, Service Dog Strong came into being on March 21, 2019. She, along with co-founder Kristen Stacy intend to help others who are dealing with the dramatic effects resulting from sexual assault. “I started this organization because I simply wanted to help other people who have been through what I have,” Emmons said, whose service dog Gunner has eased the angst of many anxiety attacks.

Emmons and Stacy publicly share their stories so others will know they are not alone – and to come forward for help.

After graduating from Windham High School, Emmons joined the armed forces in 2006 with the intention of making it her life’s career. Shortly after basic training, she was violently raped by another officer. “What added insult to injury is that he told others about the rape and they all laughed and joked about it,” Emmons began. “My complaints were dismissed and downplayed by those whose rank was above my own. When I tried to stand up for myself, I was told that I had it coming to me.” 
The assault also caused a brain injury.
The reaction from her superiors and counterparts fed into her own feelings of worthlessness. Her anxiety and self-loathing grew until it became unbearable. She started using drugs and alcohol to suffocate and hide the emotional pain. “That one traumatic experienced traumatized my life,” she said. “I was able to maintain employment, but it was low wage and it was very hard to make a living.

This employment difficulty was a result of the discharge the army gave me, I was left with no assistance or educational benefits. They just gave me a discharge abruptly. It was not dishonorable but uncharacterized.”

According to an online academic article written in the Psychiatric Times, “Rape and other forms of sexual assault have broad-reaching effects on many levels, including basic needs, functional impairment, physical health and mental health. Although chronic psychopathology does not develop in most rape or sexual assault victims, these forms of traumatic victimization are associated with a higher prevalence of PTSD than are other types of traumatic event. For example, the National Women's Study, an epidemiological survey of 4008 women, found the lifetime prevalence of PTSD resulting from rape and sexual assault to be 32% and 30.8%, respectively, compared with a prevalence of 9.4% caused by non-crime-related trauma (eg, motor vehicle accident).”

Kristen Stacy
Emmons started attending the Veterans Center in Portland and discovered that she could get emotional support and help free of charge. She began therapy – and it was here she learned that the rape was not her fault. She stopped using drugs and alcohol, turning to more holistic methods to calm her RR-PTSD. Emmons also discovered that she qualified for a service dog trained specifically for anxiety. It has changed her life.

Stacy’s story began one evening in her college dorm. “I was doing what a lot of young students do - I was underage drinking and I passed out in my bed,” she began. “The next thing I know, I am waking up in the morning with a man I only knew slightly lying next to me and I was in a pool of blood.”

Much like Emmons’ experience, Stacy’s incident was also downplayed by her rapist and her female roommates. “They would say things like, ‘I’m sure it’s not what it seems.’ So, I just kept everything to myself and I didn’t tell anyone.”

Keeping her rape a secret and having her own feelings of worthlessness took its toll. She later tried to commit suicide, but it was the text she wrote to a friend just prior to her attempt that saved her life when he called the police. (According to, suicide is common among rape victims. Emmons stated that suicide attempts after sexual assault are actually higher than with combat related PTSD.)

Upon completing her bachelor’s degree at USM and her master’s in social work at UNE (University of New England), Stacy continued to keep her rape a secret. It wasn’t until Stacy discovered through a friend that Emmons was creating Service Dog Strong, that she revealed her story. “I knew this was it for me – I knew speaking up and helping others would free me from my past. The biggest blessing this has been for me is I now know I’m not alone.” Stacy said.

Already, in just five months after Service Dog Strong began, there is a list of people waiting for trained service dogs. However, the organization is still trying to raise the funds needed to meet the demand. “For six people, it costs $21,000,” explained Emmons, who – along with Stacy- will not receive any financial reimbursement for their work. “The cost will go toward adoption fees, spaying/neutering, 18 weeks of training as well as the vest and color all service dogs wear.”

Emmons continued, “When I thought of creating Service Dog Strong, it never occurred to me the financial aspect that would be required, I simply want to help other rape survivors. That’s all.”

Help Emmons and Stacy help others. Donations can be made through the Service Dog Strong Facebook page, or a check/money order can be sent to: Kristen Stacy, 10 Stacy’s Way, Denmark, ME 04022.

If you have been raped, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE. It does not matter whether the rape happened recently or long ago.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Monthly Speak Out by Patrick Corey highlights Windham Age Friendly Community Survey

By Lorraine Glowczak

On Thursday, August 15, Rep. Patrick Corey’s Speak Out topic for the evening consisted of age
friendly awareness. He interviewed both Jane Margesson, the Communications Director for AARP-Maine and Deb McAfee, Chair of the Human Advisory Committee for the Windham Town Council.

The first half of the hour, Corey spoke to Margesson about the many scams that inundate us, and ways one can prevent from being taken advantage of. (To learn more and keep aware, go to or contact Margesson at with any questions or concerns. Also, be sure to read the AARP Scam Alerts that are printed weekly in The Windham Eagle.)

The second half of Speak Out focused on the work that McAfee, the advisory committee and other interested Windham residents who are addressing the topic of an Age Friendly Community initiative.“The Human Advisory Committee is appointed by the Town Council,” McAfee explained. “The purpose of this committee is to determine the level and type of human service needs experienced by
the residents of the town and then, once determined, provide recommendations to the Council of appropriate actions to meet identified needs.”

McAfee explained that a survey was completed in 2015 to help establish what needs were important to the community. “On that survey, the fourth important subject was senior community gathering space and assistance.”

Following the success of Raymond’s Age Friendly Community initiative, which is now officially in place, the committee decided to begin the process to officially make Windham a part of the AARP network of age friendly communities.

Briefly and according to AARP, becoming age friendly “advances efforts to help people live easily and comfortably in their homes and communities as they age. AARP’s presence encourages older adults to take a more active role in their communities and have their voices heard. Initiatives focus on areas such as housing, caregiving, community engagement, volunteering, social inclusion and
combating isolation among older citizens.”

Windham’s aging population is increasing. “In the 2010 census, the number of people who were 50 and older was at 32.5 percent,” McAfee said. “In 2015, the percentage increased to 34 percent. It is expected that by 2020, Windham’s population of individuals, 50 and older will increase to 39 percent.”

To gain information about the current needs and wishes of the community, a survey will be distributed in a number of ways to Windham residents. The survey can be found in the center of in today’s print edition of The Windham Eagle, can be found online at: and will also be distributed (with drop off boxes) at the following locations: Hall of Windham   
Windham Public Library            
Windham/Raymond Adult Education   
United State Post Office (north and south locations)
Mercy at the rotary     
Avesta Housing- Unity Gardens, Lower Falls and New Marblehead

Deadline for the survey will be September 13, 2019. Once the results are in and tabulated, there will be a public forum to discuss the outcome and to receive further feedback on October 21 at  Windham High School at 7 p.m. 

McAfee expressed the many benefits for becoming an official AARP Age Friendly Community and some of those benefits include:

Access to a global network of participating communities, as well as aging and civic society experts.
Access to key information about the program, such as the latest news and information about best
practices, events, results, challenges and new initiatives.
Opportunities for partnerships with other cities, both domestic and international.
Mentoring and peer-review evaluation by member cities.
Public recognition of the community’s commitment to become more age-friendly.
Speaking engagements at conferences and events hosted by AARP and promotion through AARP’s media channels.
At the present time, there are approximately 11 people on the taskforce working to make this become a reality. If you wish to participate and actively work toward making Windham a livable place for
people of all ages, or you would like further information, contact McAfee at

But more importantly, let you voice be heard and fill out the survey today.

Former Town Clerk Rita Bernier retires at the age of 81 after a total 44 years of service to Windham

Rita Bernier with her husband, Dick.
By Lorraine Glowczak

The two friendly rottweilers, Apollo and Rugar, greeted me on the steps as I knock on the door. The aroma of freshly canned zucchini relish stopped me in my tracks. “I’ll be right there – I’m coming,” Rita Bernier said from the other side of the door.

As a five-year resident of Windham, I had not yet met Bernier, a well-known and respected contributing member of the greater Windham community who recently retired after 44 years of service to the Windham community. Although I knew I was interviewing a former town clerk, all I really grasped, as I placed my feet at her doorstep, was that I was in for a treat and an adventure at meeting her.

The door opened and I was greeted by a friendly woman who didn’t shame me for being ten minutes late to our interview. In fact, she offered me her first warm batch of zucchini relish fresh off the stove as well as a cloth hand-made coin purse – which gave me a clue about the amazing Rita Bernier and her dedication to her life’s work. invites me to sit down at the kitchen table after giving me a taste of the relish. Then, with much ease, the interview began. “I was born on what is known as the Sawyer Farm located in Gorham – right next to the covered bridge [located in Windham],” Rita began. “I lived there the first 17 years of my life. We didn’t have running water or electricity. I was a part of a family of eight children during the depression. We had no money, but we ate the most wonderfully fresh foods from the garden, and
we were a fun, close knit family. I had no clue we were poor.”

Fast forward to adulthood. She eventually married her husband, Dick. Together, they had four children – all girls. The Bernier family has grown and now includes 27 grandchildren and 42 great grandchildren. The richness of her life continues as it has for the past 81 years life (soon to be 82).

For fourteen years, many will remember that she was a bus driver for the Windham school district, beginning in the early 1970s - the first woman bus driver ever hired. Her role as a bus driver provided a sense of passion and purpose in her life. “I never left a child at a home if the family wasn’t there and the house was empty,” she began. “I would bring those children home with me and they’d stay until their parents came home from work. The parents would come by – one by one – to pick up their son or daughter. I loved and cared for those children as if they were my own.”

Bernier had a passion for all of life, and she put it forth in action. Whether her role was that of a cook/creator at home, a mother, a bus driver – or eventually that of a town clerk, Rita has lived her life with intention and purpose.

So exactly how did this small-town woman become Windham’s Town Clerk? “I worked for an oil company as an office manager,” Rita said. “It was a fun job that I loved with no plans to leave any time soon.”
One day, the Windham Town Clerk at the time, Barbara Strout, had decided to run for state legislature and asked Rita if she’d be interested in being the next elected official for the town clerk. Rita accepted Barbara’s proposal.

I was elected immediately,” Bernier began. “I was elected on a Friday and went to the town office the following Monday. I must admit. It was a difficult learning experience.”

It was 1987 and Rita said she had the best help available to assist in her transition to her new role. “At that time, there were no computers. Everything - the ledgers, statistics, etc. was done by hand. I was blessed with the help of those in the town office and I don’t know how many times Gary Plummer [Windham Town Council, Cumberland County Commissioner and State Senator] provided guidance for me. I’m so grateful”

cstlouis@spurwink.orgDuring her time in office, she attended a three-year educational program at the Municipal Clerks Institute at Salve Regina in Rhode Island, offering training and instruction as a Town Clerk. Prior to
that, at the age of 42, she graduated from Adult Education where she received her GED.

Eventually, when she was ready to retire as the full-time town clerk, she thought her part time assistant would do a great job. “You want to trade places with me,” she asked Linda Morrell. Morrell was elected soon after that – and – well - the rest is history. So, for the past 25 years, she has acted as the assistant to Morrell, only recently retiring a month ago in early July.

Rita admits that the townspeople are what made her job. “I’m telling you – I fell in love with the people. If there is anything I miss the most after my retirement - it is the people I came in contact with on a daily basis.”

She is still grieving her time away from the town office, but she states that her daughter reminds her, “Mom, you haven’t given yourself enough time to be away.”

Today, you can find Bernier keeping herself busy with the domestic arts – whether it is the preservation of foods or creating by hand, rag rugs. Whatever you will find her doing, you will never see her sitting still. She even teaches the art of rag rug making during the fall and winter months. 

“I’ve had students who have been with me for 16 years,” she said. And she is always up for new students. “It’s a dying art, you know.”

Although Bernier has retired in the traditional sense, she has not slowed down. “She is the energizer bunny,” Morrill said of her former co-worker and close friend. For anyone who may be interested in learning how to make rag rugs, Bernier would love to share her skill with you. For more information, call Bernier at 894-8114.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Little Sebago Lake Association promotes water safety in significant but fun and hands-on ways

Roger LeBlanc on the Water Safety Patrol Boat
By Lorraine Glowczak

According to the American Red Cross, water competency is a way of improving water safety for yourself and those around you through avoiding common dangers, developing fundamental water safety skills to make you safer in and around the water, and knowing how to prevent and respond to emergencies. The Red Cross also points out that by working together to improve water competency – which includes swimming skills, water smarts and helping others – water activities can be safer… and just as much fun. Working together to improve water safety is one of the missions of the Little Sebago Lake Association (LSLA) boards, whose motto is “Safety is no accident”.

In fact, the association has created a Water Safety Program directed by Sharon Lamontagne, a long time LSLA board member. It also includes a Patrol boat, captained and managed by Roger LeBlanc. The patrol boat motors around the 1,900 acres of crystal-clear water every Friday, Saturday and Sunday offering a friendly reminder to both residents and visitors alike, the importance of water safety.

The patrol team, which consists LeBlanc, John Bernier, Kate Martin and Cedric Harkin, cruises the lake educating and encouraging swimmers, kayakers, canoers, jet skiers, and motor boaters to adhere to safety guidelines. “We are about having fun and enjoying the water with the intent of avoiding accidents….and that we care about your safety as well as the safety of others,” stated Lamontagne, who leads  the lake association Water Safety program.
Little Sebago Lake, as most lakes in Maine, is becoming a popular spot for water activities. “Over the years it has become more and more crowded and congested,” Lamontagne said. “Many people, especially new members or renters who are not seasoned boat drivers and not are aware of the boating laws with the State of Maine - we wanted to serve as a gentle reminder to know the laws and to stay safe.”

The association’s safety patrol program began 15 years ago, by “accident”, when a member donated an old pontoon boat. “I wondered what we should do with the boat but realized we could fix it up and outfit it to serve in the manner of promoting water safety education and awareness,” Lamontagne stated.

It was from that point the LSLA developed the program. “We fixed up the boat, added signage on the side and began by volunteers patrolling on Saturdays and Sundays – increasing our presence as time went on. People loved to see the patrol boat on the lake and would slow down or show us they had their life jackets. Boaters and kayakers would even stop to talk to us.

According to the 2019 LSLA’s yearly newsletter, accidents occur on Maine lakes every year. In that newsletter, it stated that the State of Maine had a total of four boat crashes that involved more than $2,000 in damages and 10 personal injury crashes that involved the Warden Service. Little Sebago Lake was one of the lakes to be included in those statistics.

Over the years, as the lake became more popular and therefore  more crowded, the committee realized it needed actual law enforcement as well as what the patrol boat was doing to educate. For a number of years, LSLA hired the Cumberland County Sherriff’s Department to patrol the lake throughout the summer . It grew into a very successful program – but eventually the sheriff’s department became short staffed. Presently, LSLA contracts with the Maine State Warden Service to patrol the lake most weekend days.

“We are about having fun on the water – not about chastising people who may not know the  boating laws of the State of Maine,” reminded Lamontagne. “We reward people for good behavior. If they have the required number of life jackets or are driving with no wake near shoreline – we will give out gift certificates for pizza, Subway sandwiches and ice cream. This is especially good for children to see that observing the law has positive consequences. In addition, it educates them regarding water safety in a fun and engaging way.”

“Captain” LeBlanc stated that meeting people is what he loves best about his role on the Water Safety Pontoon. “I have met so many people on the lake, it’s been such a fun experience, “LeBlanc began. “I enjoy talking with them and sharing some safety techniques while I’m at it. If people don’t have life jackets, we have some available on the pontoon and will loan them what they need while in the water. We also carry gas cans on the boat for those who are running low on fuel. What’s so amazing to me is that people always return the life jackets and the gas cans, putting them right back in the Safety Patrol boat as it sits at the dock.”

In his fifth season as Captain, one may find LeBlanc available for children and their families for a tour around the lake. “While we are on the tour, we talk about various subjects such as the proper fitting of a life jacket and how to throw a safety ring into the water to help someone in need,” he stated. “The kids love it, but just as important – the parents learn a little bit more about water safety, too.”
Another service the Water Safety Patrol has added this year is, upon request, the Patrol boat will go to Association members’ homes to educate and inform all family members the importance of water safety awareness.

Additionally, the LSLA pays for members to take water safety classes provided by the State of Maine. “We sponsor a class every year at the Raymond Public Safety Building,” stated Lamontagne.
The Water Safety Program includes a working relationship with the Cumberland County Dispatch service center and have created six entry points onto the lake so medical personnel can easily respond to any emergency. As LeBlanc pointed out, the Water Safety Patrol Pontoon is not a first responder.

Perhaps what is just as important to the water safety component of the LSLA members and residents of the lake, is that of unity and kinship. “The Safety Patrol Program has even increased our membership and has provided a sense of community among us,” stated Lamontagne.

“We are just good Samaritans who are having fun while educating the public on ways to have fun, and yet safe experience, on the lake.”

“A pound at a time”: Local man brings awareness to the value of clean water

Michael Fitzgibbons at the 4Ocean promotion
By Lorraine Glowczak

Through the efforts of many individuals, positive changes happen in the world. Most often, the projects or endeavors are completed in small scale ways when time permits between work, school, social and family activities. This service to community and beyond is admirable – and is needed.

But occasionally, an individual comes along whose passion to create positive change is so intense, it
becomes their life’s mission – making other everyday activities secondary. One such person who is making an impact on the waters of Sebago Lake and beyond is Michael Fitzgibbons. His mission?

“I am proposing a water resource initiative to call attention to the ocean plastic situation and the value of water to the State of Maine,” stated Fitzgibbons. “And, we must start right here, in the Sebago Lakes Region. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful clean water source, but if we aren’t paying enough attention and ignore the trash in the ocean – it will eventually affect us and our water.”

Inspired by two Florida surfers, Andrew Cooper and Alex Shulz, who are co-founders of 4Ocean, Fitzgibbon is taking their mission and spreading it to Maine. Briefly, and according to“Alex and Andrew [who is also a fisherman] take a surf trip to Bali Indonesia that would inevitably change their lives and the fate of the ocean. Devastated by the amount of plastic in the ocean, they set out to find out why no one was doing anything about it. One afternoon they came across an old fishing village where fishermen were literally pushing their boat through piles of plastic that had washed up on shore. The two surfers realized that the proliferation of plastic threatened both the ocean environment and the fishermen's livelihood. Could the fishermen use their nets, they wondered, to pull the plastic from the ocean? This idea stuck with the two surfers and they knew it was time to hit the drawing board. After realizing that the demand for seafood was driving the fishermen to focus on fish instead of plastic, they knew they had to create something that could fund the desired cleanup

Their efforts have also inspired others to act. In addition to the 4Ocean U.S.A. organization, there is now a 4Ocean Bali and 4Ocean Haiti. “My goal is to create a 4Ocean Maine with the hope that it will spread to other states and countries,” Fitzgibbons said of his personal mission.

The acronym for O.C.E.A.N. stands for the following:

Optimizing Technology – with the goal to utilize the latest technology to prevent, intercept, and remove trash from the ocean and coastlines.
Creating Jobs – Currently, there are full-time captains and crews that are cleaning the ocean and coastlines 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Education and Awareness – The goal is to educate individuals, corporations, and governments on the impact that plastic has on the ocean. Hosting cleanups all over the world, both above and below the water, to raise awareness and change behavior.
New Global Economies -By giving ocean plastic a value, we are creating a new economy for the removal of trash.

“This is a lofty project,” Fitzgibbons began. “The opportunity represents a chance for the State of Maine to shine like a bright lighthouse to the world by bringing business and people together for the purpose of saying: ‘Enough, we need to clean up our plastic in the ocean’.”

Flying the 4Ocean banner in their amphibicar
Fitzgibbons is bringing about this awareness through a variety of efforts that he refers to as, “guerrilla marketing” - an unconventional form of inbound marketing, that raises brand awareness among large audiences, without interrupting them. This includes a variety of waterway adventures while spreading the word via social media production with video.  “As the journey progresses on the lakes and waterways, we will be delving into conversation with people everywhere and heightening the efforts of all the groups interested in protecting the water at home in the state of Maine.”

With the help of video production expert, Scott Shaffer, Fitzgibbons will trace his many journeys and awareness trips by traveling down the Lakes Region watersheds and beyond in a jet ski, paddle board, or boat while meeting people and sharing the mission and ideals of 4Ocean. On August 27, he will travel the heads of the Sebago to the Sea Trail. It water adventure will trace the Presumpscot River to the river's mouth in Falmouth.  “I will be in the hands of The Presumpscot Regional Land Trust for this trek. Weather permitting, the goal is to travel and do some filming along the trail – with the intention of bringing about awareness about the clean water we have now and ways to prevent it from being impotable.”

Another event is to be scheduled for Saturday August 24 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This will be a land event held at Hayes True Value Hardware Store in Bridgton. “Come learn how two guys are cleaning the ocean one pound at a time.”

The revenue for this 4Ocean effort is fueled with the sale of $20-dollar bracelets made of recycled plastic. The purchase of one bracelet results in hauling out a pound of plastic from the ocean. 
If you are interested in supporting 4Ocean and helping Fitzgibbons’ mission to keep our waterways and oceans clean, you can purchase a bracelet by contacting him at thank you to the following volunteers and donors:

Dingley’s Wharf/ watersport team under Wayne, Brother Flecker’s, Patti, Sam, Jake, Sue, Scott  rang it out on the mic.
Schaeffer (Audio Therapy), Sue Santoro/Seasonal Resident, Virginia Fitzgibbons, Michael Fitzgibbons (Locations Real Estate Group) The 4Ocean Pop Up Event held last weekend at the Mountainview Wood Boat and Car show was ideal. Dingley’s Wharf and Brother Flecker’s provided spaces. Jon the MC

Friday, August 9, 2019

Notes from the “Trash Girls”: Interns share results from Windham’s recycling pilot program

Fans, plastic fencing, plastic bags, water hoses,
lawn chairs are NOT recyclable items 
By Meddy Smith and Abby Constantine

For the past 10 weeks, we have been part of a pilot internship program to reduce recycling contamination. For the first two weeks of the internship, the two of us, as well as eight other interns from Scarborough, South Portland and Falmouth, had an extensive training at Ecomaine, the facility in Portland that processes most of Southern Maine’s recycling and trash.  

Every week, we attended meetings and workshops with our fellow interns and discussed ideas to reduce contamination in our communities and improve the recycling stream. Monday afternoons we went to the Silver Bullets in Windham and physically removed contamination from them. We were disappointed to find so much trash and inappropriate materials in these containers that are only for recycling. We often found items like kites, toys and books that could have been donated for someone else to use. 

During our eight weeks of curbside data collection and education, we reached over 900 households throughout the town. At each house, we evaluated the bin, indicated the contamination on the paper tag, attached the tag on the bin, and marked the tag color and type of contaminates on a spreadsheet.

This way, we could observe improvement and see the most frequent contaminates. The items we saw most often in bins were plastic bags (shopping bags, pet food bags etc), thin plastic film (like food wrap packaging) and Styrofoam. these long mornings driving “The Leaf” – Windham’s leased electric car- we received a lot of positive feedback and had great conversations with Windham residents. Many people had questions for us and were very interested in what we were doing.

A lot of people wondered why contamination in recycling is such a big deal. So, here’s what we learned.

The Problem: 
Many items that people put in their bins cannot be efficiently processed at Ecomaine. These materials, such as Styrofoam, thin plastic film and trash (clothes or toys etc.), are what make up the contamination that the facility sorts out and what is causing such turmoil in the global recycling market.

 The more contamination in the recycling, the less desirable it is to buyers and the less they will pay for it. As the contamination rate rose exponentially around the globe, the countries that used to accept our recycling closed their borders because it was so inefficient to process. This means that ecomaine struggles to find buyers and they must pay to get rid of some materials. As a nonprofit who pays dividends to the member-owner communities, towns are now having to pay high prices to continue to recycle. This has been a burden on Maine towns and some smaller towns discontinued recycling altogether. This is a tragic blow to the progress of environmental policy and action in Maine and as towns and residents we should do what we can to change this unfortunate pattern.

The Solution:
Ecomaine’s goal is to get the contamination under control and to be able to sell the recycling and pay
Interns Abby Constantine and Meddy Smith (aka The Trash Girls)
share their findings about Windham recycling
 with the Windham Town Council 
dividends back to the member communities, including Windham. The good news is that we have all the power to eliminate the contamination and make this goal happen. Windham residents can reduce their contamination and lower the financial burden on the town, keep recycling out of the landfill, and contribute to a greener system.

Recycling is a very important process for us as residents to take part in because it encourages manufacturers to use materials more than once, saves materials from the landfills and protects our finite resources.

In just the first month of the pilot project we lowered Windham’s curbside contamination rate 4%. We consistently gave out more and more green tags and less yellow tags over time, meaning that we observed less curbside contamination. We hope that our education efforts reduced the total contamination even further and that residents will continue to stay informed on local recycling and keep trying to reduce their contamination.

To learn more about what you can recycle, go to or download the ‘recyclopedia’ app where you can search to see if something can be recycled at our facility.