Monday, August 11, 2014

Isabel Taylor commemorates turning 100 with book donations - By Michelle Libby

Isabel Taylor is a very private person. To mark her centennial birthday she didn’t want a big fuss, and presents were really unnecessary, according to her daughter Elaine Libby. So instead the family decided to collect money for the Windham Public Library’s children’s room. 

“I bought 60 books,” said children’s librarian Laurel Parker. “I’ve never had a donation like this before for the children’s room. A donation in honor of one single person.” 

“She has always been interested in kids and reading. She used to tutor reading in the summer for kids,” said Elaine. 

Isabel taught school for 30 years in Windham, spending time at both the former Arlington School and at Manchester School. She still lives in Windham near her daughter Elaine and her husband Dick, and her son John Taylor and his wife Carol. She has two more daughters who live in Massachusetts, Barbara Taylor and Alberta Peavey.

For her birthday party, which was held mid-July, Mike Timmons, one of her former fifth grade students, spoke. 

“She still tells stories about students…good and bad…like Buzzy Cooper, the Olsen’s and Mike Timmons,” said Carol, her daughter-in-law.

Elaine said that Isabel has been a great mother. She loved reading to her children when they were small. “She enjoys reading and doing crossword puzzles and she always read all the time,” Elaine said. Now she reads more by listening to audiobooks. 

“She enjoys sitting on her porch watching the birds and enjoying those,” said Carol. 

Parker, at the library, purchased hardcover books that she already had on her list. She found a list of books from Global Voices at the State Library that named books from other countries that were brought to the United States. 

“It’s so important to expand their minds,” said Parker. Each book will have a special plaque inside to commemorate Isabel. Parker delivered the books to Isabel to show her what the library purchased with her birthday money. She read Isabel every title. Isabel was especially interested in the books about ecology and birds. Parker left the books there for the family to enjoy before they were returned to the library on Wednesday. 

The donations were done mostly by word of mouth by the family, but anyone who would like to donate in honor of Isabel Taylor’s 100th birthday, can send a check made out to Friends of the Windham Public Library, 217 Windham Center Road, Windham, Maine 04062.

"You're the one that I want..." Review of "Grease" by Michelle Libby

Grease premiered last weekend at the Windham Town Hall as the summer show of Windham Center Stage Theater. The upbeat musical keeps your toes tapping from the opening song to the final number. 

The ensemble cast is incredibly talented and no one person stole the show, although Kenickie played by Anthony DeRice doing backflips was pretty awesome. 

The show Grease is the story of young love set in the backdrop of Rydell High in the 1950s. It answers the question if summer love can survive through the school year. 

The cast of 25 consists of students in junior high to adults from Windham, Gorham, Portland and Raymond. Giovan Corsetti plays Danny Zuko, Allison Sample plays Sandy Dumbrowski (which was not her last name in the movie.) Other cast members were Patrick Martin as Doody, Nathan Bachner as Sonny and Andrew Shepard as Roger. The pink ladies were Rizzo played by Molly Olsen, Shelbi Wassick as Frenchy, who had more wardrobe changes then a 6-year-old playing dress up, Dimitra Corsetti as Marty and Alexandra Gordan as Jan. Patty Simcox was Casey Hutchinson. “This is one of the most fun roles I’ve ever had to play,” she said. Eugene was played by Morgan Brann. The casting was amazing and from the acting could remember who the character was from the movie, but the actors made each person come alive on the stage in their own personal way.  

The show is directed by Laurie Shepard, no stranger to theater in the area.

“The show is classic Grease. We do the show justice,” she said.  The cast began rehearsals in June and have put in hundreds of hours of work, according to Shepard. 

Shepard has been helped by her team of producer Mnemosyne Heileman, musical director Robert Chabora, choreographer Abigail Worthing, property mistress Patrice Foley-Olsen, set builder Ed Haibon, lighting designer Michaela Denoncourt and costume designer Pat Hutchinson. 

“This is my dream show,” said Shepard, who wrote a 50-page paper on the play while in school.
Small updates have taken place from boys being in the beauty school to tweaks in the script to make room for the ensemble cast. “Everyone has their moment,” Laurie said. 

“Laurie brings humor to (directing). She’ll show you how to do it if you’re doing it wrong,” said Julia Hills from Windham. 

Jaydie Allen plays Chacha and this is the tenth production she has been cast. “It was the role I wanted. I’ve been a competitive dancer since I was three,” she said. “I’m really thrilled to be in this show.”

Destiney Starkey is in the ensemble. This is her first show. She was inspired to try out for the show when she saw Footloose three years ago. “I love Grease,” she added. 

Windham Center Stage Theater does not own their own theater, so they use the one at the Windham Town Hall, but are directly affected by the town’s schedule, so the show is only running two weeks total. 

Andrew Shepard plays Roger, one of the T-birds. His favorite part of the play has been all of the down time with the cast. “Who doesn’t love Grease,” he added. 

DeRice (Kinickie) said, “I have always loved the movie. This whole time era of the show is awesome. Older folks, even the young kids will enjoy it. It’s fun. It’s a classic.” 

One of the most controversial parts of the play, that might make it more of a PG rating, would be the fake smoking and swearing on stage. It was the time, according to Shepard, who wanted to make sure the show was as authentic as possible. Each actor who has a cigarette has permission from a parent or guardian to use the prop. If a child has seen the movie, they’re fine to see this play.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Local woman plans year service trip to Uruguay - By Michelle Libby

Most college graduates being the arduous task of finding a job in their selected field after graduating, but Kirsten Lowell, 24, of Windham gave up her good paying job in Pennsylvania for the opportunity to travel to a foreign land and learn the culture and language. 
“It kind of landed in my lap. I’d been talking about doing a year of service,” Lowell said. “I’d love to learn a new language and live in another country.” 

In February, Lowell was approached by Jane Hartwell, an employee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, asking if she’d ever considered service work abroad. Hartwell sent Lowell the information about Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) even though the deadline had passed. 

“I went to New York for an interview and discernment. It sort of all tumbled into place. It was a God moment,” said Lowell. 

When asked during her discernment where she would like to go, was connected to or interested in, she said, “Anywhere.”

In March YASC told her she’d be a good fit for Uruguay, but she didn’t hear officially until May.
“I always wanted to work in the legal field or with a non-profit, but clearly that’s not what I’m doing,” she said with a chuckle. 

Once she heard about her placement, she told her family, friends, drafted a support letter, set up her blog and spoke with Rev. Tim Higgins at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Windham, which would be her sponsor for the trip. Lowell was baptized and confirmed at St. Ann’s and she is still very involved in the church and the Episcopal diocese, including organizing youth events that she once attended. 

“YASC is the Peace Corps for one year through the Episcopal Church,” Lowell said. 

Lowell has to raise $10,000 to fund her year stay. After she raises the first $5,000, YASC will buy her plane ticket to Uruguay, which is in South America, and then she will be given a leave date. She’s excited for that to happen. She said she has sent out some support letters asking for money from her family, friends, friend’s families and through church. She has raised approximately $3,000 to date. 

“I still have quite a ways to go,” she said. YASC will provide the housing for Lowell, who knows she’ll be staying in a condo in Montevideo, the capital city. The hardest part will be adjusting from rural Maine to city life, she said. There are 1.5 million people in the capital city alone. She will be working with the Anglican Diocese of Uruguay doing administrative projects, organizing their archive room, creating a newsletter and doing outreach. She plans to spend three months traveling to the interior visiting local parishes. She will be the first YASC volunteer to travel to Uruguay, she said. 

She will be given $500 a month to live on while she’s there. That money will be used for travel, food and everyday expenses, she said. 

When asked if she was nervous, she shook her head. “I don’t have any fears. It feels so right that this is what I’m called to do. Once I’m down there, I’ll be afraid of things, but I can’t worry about that now,” she said. 

Lowell spent two weeks in New York, the headquarters for YASC, with 15 other volunteers doing orientation. She made friends and plans to meet with the woman staying in Brazil since they will be only nine hours apart. 

Lowell took a few years of high school and college Spanish, but she’s not too concerned. “Once I’m immersed in the culture and language, I’ll be fine,” she said. She will enroll in a language school once she is there. “I want to learn how to surf, tango, do traditional dances and learn about their music,” Lowell said. 

She expects that living in Uruguay will change her in some ways. “It’s about forming relationships. I have to express my emotions and gratitude in another language, to do that in our native language is hard sometimes.”  

Lowell has strong faith and will rely on God’s help and support during her year abroad. She plans to bring love with her, God’s love, her love and to learn from them. “It’s not necessarily what I’m going to bring to them, but what they will bring to me,” she said. 

Lowell graduated with a degree in political science and a minor in legal studies from Eastern University in St. David’s, Penn.

“The way I changed and the relationships I formed in those two weeks, I can’t imagine what a whole year will be like,” she said. 

Lowell is still taking donations. She estimates that the $10,000 works out to be $30 per day. If someone donates $30, she will do something intentional with that person in mind on a day they select and she will check in with them. Checks can be sent to St. Ann’s Episcopal Church with Kirsten Lowell, Uruguay in the memo, 40 Windham Center Road, P.O. Box 911, Windham, Maine 04062. The other way would be at 
Lowell has launched her blog at

Hangin with Slugger...

The Windham Police Department Honor Guard presented the colors for the Portland Sea Dogs on July 22. Officers involved in the color guard were Officer Brandon Ladd (Rifleman), Officer Eugene Gallant (American Flag), Officer Jason Burke (State of Maine Flag), Officer Steven Stubbs (Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial Flag), Officer Robert Hunt (Rifleman) and Commanding Officer Sergeant Jason Andrews (rear of formation). Submitted photo.

Microtel Inn & Suites well under construction on Route 302 - By Elizabeth Richards

Construction has begun on a new Microtel Inn & Suites in Windham, with an anticipated opening date at the end of 2014. 
The project has been a long time coming. Erik Heyland, owner of Heyland Development, has owned the property since 2007. At that time he had been approved for a Microtel, but pulled back when the recession hit. Though he said they looked at alternate brands for the project, those didn’t fit the model like the Microtel does for that property. When financing was once again secured for a Microtel branded hotel, the project was up and running. “We think that this is going to serve a larger segment,” said Heyland.

In today’s market, Heyland said, guests are more savvy. They can research hotel brands online, read reviews, and have certain expectations for their stay. Because Microtel is a standards-based brand developed by the Wyndham Hotel Group, there are quality assurance scores the property must hit every year to maintain their franchise status. Customers may be more reluctant to stay in smaller, independently run motels if they can’t do their research, said Heyland. “We think in the Town of Windham this sets us apart from whoever else is in that space,” he said.

The hotel will attract a broad customer base, and span a variety of needs, including leisure traffic, visitors to Saint Joseph’s College, and business travelers, said Heyland. The hotel will also have extended stay accommodations, with small refrigerators and microwaves, for people with temporary housing needs. The building in Windham is a new prototype, which will offer an updated, fresh look in the d├ęcor, said Heyland. 

Christmas of 2014 is the targeted opening date for this first phase, which includes 58 rooms with queen sized beds, an indoor pool, fitness center, lobby area, free breakfast and a business center. The property will also offer trailer parking for those with boats or snowmobiles, and bus parking. Heyland said an expansion plan to bring the hotel to 74 rooms is already in place. He hopes to have the second phase completed within 18 months of opening.

Though the permit process was lengthy, Heyland said the Town of Windham has been very cooperative and helpful throughout the process. “They are excited about this project coming in. I’ve heard many times that this is an overdue project,” he said. 

 Tom Bartell, Executive Director of the Windham Economic Development Corporation, said that the project will fill a void in the region. There has been a lack of a branded hotel that can be part of a national reservation system, he said, and this project “fills that niche very nicely.”

Bartell said he’s heard from area businesses that when employees visit from outside of Maine, they have sent them to Portland, South Portland or Westbrook because there wasn’t a hotel of this type in Windham. He’s also heard from residents that when they have people come to visit them, there hasn’t been a place for them to stay. 

“The summer season is very full,” Bartell added. “It’s hard to get a space.” Camps and cottages fill up quickly, and in the winter, many are closed, he said. “[The Microtel] is a great asset that we are going to have,” he said. “I think it will be well received.”

Though there might be some concern from owners/operators of other accommodations, Bartell said the Microtel is really a different model, and will attract a different customer base. 

Heyland currently operates a Microtel Inn & Suites in York, Maine. Heyland said construction has been moving quickly and drawing attention. He has been receiving requests from people wishing to book rooms for next year. Reservations for the Windham Microtel can be booked now by calling the Microtel Inn & Suites in York, also managed by Heyland Development. The number for reservations is 207-363-0800.