Friday, January 12, 2018

Indoor Beach Party full of fun and prizes by Lorraine Glowczak

Lilly Steel having fun
Although the sub-zero temperatures kept most people home on Saturday evening, January 6, it didn’t prevent the 50 or so individuals who joined in on the fun at the Indoor Beach Party at the Windham Middle School for this year’s Winterfest 2018.
The event, hosted collaboratively by the Windham Parks and Recreation Department and the Windham PTA, consisted of free beach grub as well as enjoyable entertainment provided by Flamin’ Raymin’ and Sizzlin’ Suzzin’.

The evening also consisted of a multitude of giveaways. The following is a list of individuals and the gifts they won from the participating organizations:

2 One-Day Passes to Evo Rock & Fitness
Mary Jane Goodell
2 Tickets to a Windham Center Stage
Theater Production
Heidi (last name not given)
Picnic Basket of Local Gift Cards
Dominic Cataldi
$25 Gift Card to Subway Restaurants
Brian Butler, Hayleigh Moody
$50 Gift Card to Buck’s Naked BBQ
Liza Libby
2 Tickets to a Maine Red Claws game
Ronan Mace
2 One Hour Jump Passes to Get Air
Brock York, Bella (last name not given)
2 Day Passes to
Kahuna Laguna Indoor Water Park
Gavin (last name not given)
2 Day/Night Passes to Shawnee Peak
Matt (last name not given)
$120 towards an exam at
Moore Chiropractic & Wellness Center
Heidi (last name not given)
2 Free Race Passes at
Maine Indoor Karting
Cassie Fleek
Professional Take Home Whitening Kit from
Armstrong Advanced Dental
Megan York
2 Public Skating Punch Cards from
Family Ice Center
Bria Mills
Small Angle Grinder from Lowe’s
Waylon McDonald
$50 Gift Card to Rustler’s Steak House
Brayden Bean
2 Free Admissions to
Happy Wheels Skate Center
Corey McDonald, Lilly Steel,
Abby Patenaude

The evening also included a Winterfest Photo Contest that officially opened on Saturday evening. Entries are accepted through Wednesday, January 31. for the photos: They should be taken from January 2017 until the current day, they must be originals, and they must have been taken in Maine. The Parks and Recreation Department is looking for photos that capture the fun and beauty of winter in Maine, which could include photos of friends and family, children or pets frolicking in the snow, or stunning scenery. There is no fee to enter, and prizes will be awarded to the top photographs as chosen by our judges. Prizes include passes for snow tubing and cross-country skiing, tickets to a WCST production, and other activities that will help families enjoy these winter months.

Information regarding contest guidelines and how to enter can be found on the Parks and Recreation website at

Raymond Arts Alliance presents first musical event of 2018 by Sheila Bourque

David Young
The Raymond Art Alliance (RAA) will provide an evening of musical talent on Saturday, January 20 at 7 p.m. hosted at the Raymond Village Community Church located at located at 27 Main Street in Raymond. The cost of the event is on a donation basis.
RAA’s mission is to reach out to the community to bring residents together, through opportunities for enjoyment and enlightenment. There are many different programs that will be offered to the community and our first is the appreciation of music. 

RAA is pleased to present three different musical groups to kick off this year’s events. Young is a vocalist/acoustic guitarist and native of Raymond. He has performed extensively in local venues including last summer's “Everybody Loves Raymond” and the Great Falls Balloon Festival in Lewiston. His covers of folk classics, the music of Bob Dylan and original singer/songwriter tunes, combined with his easy-going stage presence, are always a big hit.  
The group, Top Brahmen, led by guitarist Thomas Brown, features singer Katie Oberholtzer, who is a vocal jazz major at the University of Southern Maine School of Music. The group plays smooth, groove based modern R&B/soul music in the Portland Area and their blend of contemporary and traditional styling has become an audience favorite. For more about the band, please visit

The musical team, Canoso y Otros, consist of Gary Wittner (guitar/vocals) and Rafael Freyre (bass/vocals) who have been performing Latin music together for over a decade. Freyre (a native of Raymond) is a busy freelance musician, performing with many groups throughout Northern New England. 

Canoso y Otros
Wittner’s musical career spans five decades and five continents. He lives in Raymond and has represented the USA overseas as a Kennedy Center Jazz Ambassador, a Fulbright Specialist and a U.S. Embassy Outreach Artist. This group, featuring singer/percussionist Eric Winter, will perform high energy Latin music in the son/salsa tradition.

The sanctuary of Raymond Village Community Church offers a delightful acoustical setting for music of all kinds. This will be presented in three sets and light refreshments will be available. This event is open to the community. An entrance fee is suggested but not required. There is no advanced seating and doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. show.  

Come on out of the hills and enjoy the show! The RAA is a program of the Raymond Village Library.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The twist and turns of “Building a Life”; a memoir of unexpected discoveries by Lorraine Glowczak

Memoir writing is becoming a popular way to share challenging life lessons that evoke a change in the author. As a result, it can be therapeutic not only for the writer, but for the reader as well.
Although Julie Brown never originally intended to write a memoir, once she realized that was the path she would take, she found herself on an unanticipated journey of reflection, self-discovery and validation of a life that included making difficult choices. Through the evolution of the writing process, Brown’s memoir, “Building a Life” was born.

It’s true that writing a memoir was not always on Brown’s bucket list but that’s how the twist and turns of unexpected discoveries began.

It all started as an average, typical day performing routine life activities. While preparing a meal for the evening, Brown received a phone call. It was her adult daughter. The news her daughter shared collapsed any notion of a routine, ordinary day. “Mom, I have a brain tumor.” 

Although those six words took Brown’s breath away and paralyzed her temporarily, she moved forward in an unexpected way and wrote a memoir as part of her healing process.
Yet, the memoir is not where the healing began., Brown intended to write a children’s book about the experience. “About six years ago I had the idea to write a children’s book about dealing with a loved one who is sick in an effort to help my grandchildren cope with their mother’s illness,” Brown said. 

“As I researched further, I was finding it difficult to put together,” Brown continued. “I met two writers while participating in “Head to the Hill” in Washington D.C. This is organized by the National Brain Tumor Society ( and advocates for research funding and support for families of brain tumor patients. Both of these writers had self-published and I looked into it. One of them had recommended their co-writer, Angel Logan. When she and I met, we hit it off and things moved along easily.”

Once she discovered it was a memoir that she would write, it wasn’t long until she made another discovery. “I thought I wanted the book to be more about my daughter’s diagnosis and treatment [but] then I realized I had a lot of my own ‘stuff” to work through, so I decided she has her own story to tell,” Brown explained.

In “Building a Life”, co-written with Angel Logan, Brown shares her story of becoming a mother, giving birth at age 16 and the beautiful, yet challenging journey of raising children at such a young age.

While writing her manuscript, she noticed some additional things about herself. “I still held onto ideas and beliefs that I needed to let go of.  I also validated, for myself, the hard work it takes to be a wife and mother.” Brown explained that the unfolding of events in the book evolved through the use of old letters and journals. Her memoir involves members of her family, including her mother and father. “My parents were very supportive through the process," Brown said. “They read and re-read drafts of the manuscript. My daughter also read through the manuscript before it went to print and made some suggestions that were helpful in the editing process.”

Brown decided to self-publish her book. After doing her research, she discovered Balboa Press was easy to work with. She stated that the entire self-publishing endeavor took about a year.

If one is interested in publishing a memoir (self-published or otherwise), Brown gives the following advice; “A memoir is very personal. I believe I am a pretty private person and, yet I have a book revealing a lot of details of my life. My advice to others would be that they need to be ok with that.” 

The author lives in Windham and has copies of her book at Sherman’s Bookstore in Portland and will be donating a copy to the Windham Public Library when they begin accepting donations again after their construction project is completed. 

For more information regarding Brown’s book, one can peruse her website at

Raymond Elementary Class wins second place in national contest by Briana Bizier

Dr. Bizier helping the second-graders set up their crystals
A second-grade class at Raymond Elementary School started the new year with some exciting news.
On December 21, Mrs. Aileen Pelletier’s second-grade class won second place in the United States Crystal Growing Competition! Open to U.S. students of all ages, this competition is a STEM Outreach Program designed to encourage scientific literacy for students in kindergarten through high school. Now in its fourth year, the contest is organized by Dr. Jason Benedict at the University of Buffalo.

Mrs. Pelletier’s class began growing their crystal on October 23, when Dr. Bizier, the Honors and AP chemistry teacher at Windham High School, visited Raymond Elementary to help the second-graders set up their own crystal growing experiment.

Many common household items, like sugar and the cleaning solution Borax, will grow crystals under the right conditions. For the United States Crystal Growing Competition, all competitors are required to grow a crystal using alum, a common pickling salt found in most grocery stores.

To grow their crystal, the second-graders first heated water and dissolved the alum. Then they suspended a tiny “seed crystal” from fishing line, and hung it in the alum and water solution to serve as a nucleation site. If the alum solution is left undisturbed at a consistent temperature, the dissolved alum in the water begins to grow a crystal around the nucleation site.

Crystal making, day one
“Think of crystal growing like stacking Legos,” explained Dr. Bizier. 

If the water is heated too quickly, or the solution is disturbed, the alum will fall out of the solution
like a handful of Legos thrown on the floor. Under ideal conditions, however, the alum molecules dissolved in the water will slowly stack together to form a beautiful crystal.

Leaving a solution undisturbed was a challenge for a class full of second graders. 

Same crystal, 26 days later
The students were very careful as they eagerly tracked the growth of their crystal. Mrs. Pelletier added daily photos to the class website so parents were able to follow the experiment as well.

Despite losing power for three days after the late October wind storm, the crystal continued to grow, especially once the class heated the solution again to re-dissolve the alum.

After 26 days in Mrs. Pelletier’s classroom, the crystal was mailed to Buffalo, New York to be judged against crystals from classrooms across the country. The crystals are evaluated for size and quality by a team of experts who judge factors like intact edges, well-formed faces, and clarity.

Out of 160 entries, Mrs. Pelletier’s class won second place! prize comes with a $100 award and the crystal from Raymond Elementary School will be added to the permanent Winner’s Display at the University of Buffalo. If your travels ever bring you to Buffalo, New York, be sure to stop by the University to view Raymond’s prize-winning crystal.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Student homelessness in our own backyard by Lorraine Glowczak

The story goes something like this: “You look tired today, are you doing okay?”, the elementary school teacher asked her student. Not yet having learned the shame of homelessness, the young child answered honestly, “We slept in our car at the Walmart parking lot last night and I didn’t sleep very well.” The teacher discovers that the student’s family had lost their home and had no place to stay.

This conversation happened recently. It did not occur, however, in some far-off place in a large inner-city school. It took place in our own back yard - right here at RSU14.

Homelessness is not an issue reserved for other, larger communities; it is something that the
Windham/Raymond communities experience and must rise to defeat.

The Maine Department of Education and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act defines student homelessness as an individual who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, including children and youth:
  • Sharing housing due to loss of housing or economic hardship
  • Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate housing
  • Living in emergency or transitional housing
  • Abandoned in hospitals
  • Having a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, regular sleeping accommodations
  • Living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations
Although the rate of homelessness is a deep concern in the Windham and Raymond areas, Doug Daigle, Social Worker at Windham High School and the homeless liaison for the school district, points out that it is not as bad as other communities. However, stigmas still exist about this often misunderstood and unfortunate experience. 

“There is a lot of misconceptions of teenage homelessness,” said Daigle. “This is not necessarily a choice on their part. They often face a variety of issues that is beyond their control. Issues such as abuse from family members or substance abuse that persists in their home, not to mention domestic abuse. In some cases, one parent has to leave the situation and the child is left behind.”

Differing beliefs and values also play a role between parents and their teenage children regarding sexual orientation. “There are circumstances when a teenager comes out about their sexual orientation, and the parent who disagrees, will not allow them to live in the family home any longer,” Daigle explained.

Whatever the circumstance, teenage homelessness includes couch surfing as well as other nonstable conditions. This puts the student in survival mode. “Students who are faced with such circumstances do not know how long they will stay in one place,” said Daigle. “They are in survival mode - wondering when they will get their next meal and how they will pay for it.”

When one is in survival mode, the act of taking care of the basic day-to-day needs such as sleeping and eating becomes an urgent issue. This lends little time and attention to school and homework, let alone normal creative outlets and teenage adventures that prepares a student for a successful adult life.

As a result, the school district works diligently to provide the care the student desperately needs. “Our goal is to maintain stability in their lives,” Daigle explained. “Sometimes, we are their only support system.”

RSU14 does have one advantage that some districts may not have. As is the custom of our small-town communities, efforts to help those in such circumstances are being met with generous, kind, and outstanding local citizens who have mastered the art of dedication to provide relief for those who face difficulties.

“We live in a great community,” began Daigle. “Community members have organized a number of ways to provide stability and hope among the students who need it most.”

Daigle shared many stories where the community has come together to provide supplies, food, support and a gateway to a future filled with hope. “With the help of the community and the district, one student who persevered through her circumstances was able to go to college,” Daigle reports. “She was also able to study abroad and was offered a job in Europe.”

In another story, one student had a choral audition in an out-of-state college but had no way to get there. “A group of individuals purchased a bus ticket for that student,” Daigle explained. “That student was accepted into the program and is still in college.”

There are many other stories where both the community and the district provide the support system to our youth. Students can shower and wash clothes at school, toiletries are available in the student services office as well as a district clothing closet. 

There is also a Feeding Frenzy event with the intent of collecting soups, cereals, can goods, pastas, etc. For donations or more information, contact Marlene Bicknell, Food Frenzy organizer at

The Backpack Program and the Village Funds that ensure that the insecure children and teenagers of Windham and Raymond are nourished and well fed are still taking donations. To donate, contact Samantha Cowens-Gasbarro at or Marge Govoni at Cowens-Gasbarro can be reached by phone at 892-1800, ext. 2029 and Govoni at 892-7192.

There are many ways one can contribute to the success of the RSU14 students who face homelessness. For more information or to contribute, contact Daigle at 207-892-1810.
Daigle stated it best that may offer hope to those who may presently find themselves in a situation such as this; “We are a very supportive community who deeply care about our kids and our families.”

Stories from the after-school Typing Titans by Walter Lunt

The Typing Titans show display their stories
Why would kids choose to stay after school and add another hour of schoolwork? At Manchester School in Windham the answer is: to join the Writing Club. Its members call themselves the Typing Titans. And their teacher, Joan Flagg-Williams, who created the class and volunteers her services, says devoting time exclusively to writing, “enhances their identity as young writers by giving them the time and opportunity to create.”
Flagg-Williams, an associate professor of education at Saint Joseph’s College, said the Writing Club is designed to be more than just free-writing time. The seven fifth graders who participated were encouraged to explore and develop their story ideas, confer with others and work through a creative writing process to strengthen and improve their work.

Assessing the class, now in its third year, Flagg-Williams and other volunteers in the program, observed that, in addition to the creativeness and excitement about writing, “…they were persistent – always wanting to get to their writing, to keep writing and not stop.”

The 10 after-school sessions culminated recently in a celebration where the young authors shared their final drafts with families, friends and relatives at the Manchester School library. “Most of the stories shared a common theme,” Flagg-Williams observed, “action adventure.”

Stuart, in an untitled piece, created a tale of no escape when a gigantic tsunami strikes a subway system with all-consuming waves of water.

Monica and Lyssi co-authored a lengthy story titled “Bus Attack.” In it, two young girls were having an ordinary day when a school bus accident sent them off on an incredible adventure to Washington D.C. and back again.

Riley, who wrote about “The Lost Explorer,” detailed the life and times of an intrepid adventurer whose exploits include a fall into the Grand Canyon and a close encounter with an unusual school.
Jordyn, in “The Castle on the Beach,” imagined a family winning the lottery and buying a castle. Her rich detail included a description of its stained-glass windows: “pastel purple and blue with neon green and yellow flower designs.”’s fantastical tale of “The Weird Stuffed Animal” told about an inventor who created an amazing stuffed bear. Later in the piece came a strange happening and then a surprise ending. 

Sophie composed a touching tribute to “My Baby Sister.”  “When I got to hold her I knew right from my heart that I loved her.” The non-fiction narrative detailed the life of her little sister from birth to her recent second birthday.

Asked what they thought of their membership in Writing Club, the young authors commented freely, in writing:

“Amazing, cool and thrilling.” (Monica and Lyssi)

“Writing is of one the only ways I can talk and express my wild imagination.” (Stuart)
“(Writing) makes me feel powerful and adventurous because I can write whatever my mind believes in doing.” (Jordyn)

“Writing is kinda like breathing.” (Riley)

The Typing Titans used their school laptop computers to compose their works, making changes and corrections as they wrote. Classes began with mini-lessons, according to Flagg-Williams; lead sentences, paragraph structure, word choice and dialogue. Additional volunteers made the student/teacher ratio nearly one-on-one. Five education majors from the college and retired teacher Jeane Rhein offered advice and assistance to the writers.

Flagg-Williams, who lives in Windham, said teaching Writing Club gives her a chance to give back to the community, adding, “…and also encourage young people to have fun with writing and involve my (college) students.”

She plans to offer a summer session of Writing Club in 2018. 

Windham Town Council declares December 25, 2017 as #Fightlikeacyr Day by Lorraine Glowczak

Nolan Cyr getting ready for school
The Windham Town Council met on Tuesday, December 19 in the town council chambers for its usual town council meeting. Agenda items included (but were not limited to) issues such as the Town Manager’s report, committee reports as well as the adoption of the Surface Water Protection Ordinance.

However, one agenda item was added at the end of the council meeting. Councilor Tim Nangle asked
for an additional item to be added to the agenda; to proclaim and designate December 25, 2017 to be #Fightlikeacyr Day in Windham. Cyr is an eleven-year-old Windham resident who has battled osteosarcoma, a form of cancer that affects the bones. He was diagnosed in April 2017. Cyr’s personal battle against this disease engaged the entire community, locally and beyond that included a police escort on his return trip home upon the conclusion of his final cancer treatment on December 14.

The official proclamation states, “Nolan Cyr’s being home with his family and cancer free is the best Christmas gift Nolan’s family, friends and the entire community could ask for.”
The Council approved the Proclamation unanimously.

Welcome home Nolan Cyr.

For details about this or other town council meetings, please refer to the Town of Windham website at or contact the Town Manager’s office at 892-1907. The meetings are also available on Facebook Live.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Local resident makes successful trek from Africa to Windham by Elizabeth Richards

Nyabore Luak left everything familiar behind when she emigrated from Ethiopia to the United States in April 1995 with her husband and three step-children. She arrived in Portland knowing nothing about the language, the food, or the area. With a lot of hard work and determination, she and her family learned what was necessary to thrive, and last year, they bought a house in Windham.
Luak and her family had first moved from Sudan to Ethiopia, then left Africa altogether because of
ongoing war. People were running from forest to forest, she said, with no place to stay comfortably.

So, when they got the chance to move to the United States, they took it. “It’s okay for us now, and it’s okay for our kids,” Luak said; adding that they don’t have to worry like they used to. Their children can go to school, they have enough food, and the community is safe for them. “You don’t worry about war,” she said. of the biggest challenges when they first arrived were communicating with others, learning how to get around, and adjusting to the much colder climate, Luak said. She was pregnant when they arrived in Maine, and had her first baby in June of 1995. She recalled a time early on when her infant was having trouble breathing, and she was alone at home while her husband worked.  She didn’t know how to drive or ask anyone for help, so she put her son in a heavy car seat and carried him from Cumberland Street in Portland to Maine Medical Center.  

Once there, things didn’t get any easier. She didn’t know how to describe what was wrong, so she kept saying “baby” and pointing, using body language to show that her infant was ill.  After a nurse examined him, her son was admitted. Luak still didn’t know what was going on. She couldn’t call her husband, because she only knew their home phone number, so she had to wait at the hospital, unable to communicate enough to even get something to eat, until her husband was home from work.
Luak began classes at Portland Adult Education soon after she arrived in Maine, beginning at “zero level,” because she had not attended school in her home country. She appreciated her teachers at Portland Adult Education who encouraged her to keep on trying.  

“When I came here, they tried to help me. I tried to give up because it’s hard to understand English, but they kept pushing me,” she said.  Their support helped her continue despite the difficulty of balancing work, school and caring for children. “I kept doing it until I got my high school diploma, and I saw that it’s okay. If you come from different places, it’s very difficult, but don’t give up. Keep working on it until you reach whatever you want to do. It’s very important,” said Luak.

Luak began working in 1996, cleaning offices at UNUM. She still works full time, currently in the housekeeping department at Mercy Hospital. Her husband also works, but his hours have been cut way back recently, from 40 hours to sometimes just nine hours a week, so he is seeking other employment.  

They also still have six children at home, the youngest of whom is six years old. Luak continues to take classes at Windham Adult Education in conversation, reading and writing. She still finds it challenging, especially the vocabulary, but she said she likes to learn. She has considered working towards becoming a CNA or a nurse someday.

Luak said she enjoys the quiet community in Windham. Although her children weren’t happy about the move initially because it meant leaving their friends in South Portland, she said they now like the community, the schools, and the teachers they have. coming to the US, Luak has returned to Africa twice. In 2008, she went to visit family since she had been away so long. And in 2016, she travelled back because both of her parents had passed away.  “It’s very difficult being so far,” she said. 

Luak said she tries to maintain her home language with her children, but it’s difficult because they are used to hearing English all the time. At home, she said, she speaks to them in her home language, but they reply in English. Still, she says, “I don’t want to give up. They will hear it.  It’s better than if they don’t learn anything.” Due to the high cost of travel, only one of her children has gone to Africa, as an infant.  “Maybe one day they will go,” she said.

Wreaths Across America Caravan from the eyes of a Windham volunteer by Cindy DeCosta

Wreaths Across America makes a stop in Windham
“By the dawn’s early light,” it all began. What an appropriate time to start the first portion of the Wreaths Across America (WAA) trek.

Sunday, December 10, was our first day on the road with the convoy that began in Harrington, ME as we headed toward Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Truckers carrying more than 1 million wreaths for 1,422 locations across the country were loaded and ready to roll.

Ceremony on the bridge between Calais and St. Stephen
Though Sunday was the official start date of the convoy, many of us gathered the day before, on Saturday, for a day full of events that included a dinner and sermon at Balsam Valley Chapel in Columbia Falls, ME.

Most of us involved in the WAA Caravan were meeting for the first time but camaraderie develops quickly when on a mission such as this. We began with a sunrise ceremony at Quoddy Light House in Lubec followed by breakfast at Washington County Community College in Calais.

The second ceremony took place on the bridge between Calais and St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada. It is an annual ceremony of honor, referred to as the Honoring Allies Remember Together (H.A.R.T). This is a joining of two countries to respect those who have lost loved ones while serving during wartime.

The American families are designated as Gold Star Families and the Canadian families are referred to as Silver Cross Families. These families were accompanied by the Maine Wing of the Civil Air Patrol and the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. at the halfway point of the bridge, the Gold Star Families presented wreaths to the Canadian families.

They then walked across the border into Canada to lay a wreath at the war memorial monument. For those who are not familiar with the term, the Gold Star designation is given to family members who
have lost a loved one in military service. The Canadian Silver Cross holds the same meaning.

We are traveling with hundreds of others to pay respect to our service men and women who lie at rest in Arlington National Cemetery by placing wreaths at every headstone. This is by no means a direct path there. During our seven days on the road, we will be visiting schools, veterans’ homes, town squares, and other locales to deliver the mission of Wreaths Across America- Remember, Honor and Teach.

This tradition of placing wreaths at Arlington began in 1992 when the Worcester Wreath Company had a surplus of 5,000 wreaths. When Morrill Worcester, owner of the Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington was 12 years old, he had traveled to Washington D.C. and the impression of Arlington Cemetery has always stayed with him. He decided that the extra wreaths should be placed there.

The Worcesters (left) with the Donlons
Worcester made plans with his family about taking those wreaths and placing them at Arlington. His idea grew and developed and, quickly, others got involved. The Worcesters continued to quietly place wreaths, with a small group, each year until 2005.

A picture of these wreaths adorning the cemetery hit the internet and this brought in thousands of requests from people wanting to help. And, thus, Wreaths Across America, as you know it today, began.
The Donlons speak at Windham High School
The WAA Caravan started the trek at the Narraguagus High School in Harrington on Sunday. After a hearty breakfast provided by the school staff, an escort briefing and a blessing of the fleet, we headed out.

Leaving town, we were escorted by local fire departments and police departments from across the state. We had 12 official convoy vehicles, 2 buses, 2 vans, a spattering of personal vehicles and many tractor-trailers carrying the wreaths. It has been estimated that the convoy was 5 miles in length.

What a sight to be a part of. It is difficult to explain the wave of emotions that you feel when seeing people lining both sides of the street waving flags and signs. Many of the towns and cities on our route were lining the streets with their fire trucks while offering sirens as a form of welcome and honor.

The vehicles that my husband Tim and I have been assigned to drive are wrapped with the Wreaths Across America graphics. While this is impressive, it’s the people who are our traveling companions that truly humble me.

On Saturday we had the distinct honor of spending the day with the Grand Marshalls of the convoy, Colonel Roger and Norma Donlon from Kansas. Norma Donlon is a Gold Star wife.  Her first husband, John Irving Jr. was killed during the Vietnam War at 22 years old. Colonel Donlon served in both the Air Force and the Army. During his time in the Army he was as a member of the Special Forces Team.
Donlon was the first American to be awarded the Medal of Honor from the Vietnam War. He is a humble man who during a 5-hour heavy mortar battle in Nam Dong in the Republic of Vietnam, fought to save his men after being shot seven times himself. His story is that of a true hero. Sunday my husband and I began our journey with the Blue Star Family of John and Linda Billings. Blue Star families have a member serving during war time. The Billings’ son, John, is currently in the Maine
Army National Guard.

Our final stop on Sunday was at Windham High School. Being a graduate of Windham High, I was
excited and proud that the convoy was able to stop here. However, nothing prepared me for the sights when we approached the school. The first wave of emotions came when we approached the beautifully decorated rotary where Windham Law Enforcement waited to escort us into the school.

Then as we neared the intersection of Route 202 and School Road, there hung the American flag over the road between two ladder fire trucks. It was illuminated brightly against the black sky and provided the backdrop for the community members who were waiting there to watch us pass. I thought that I could not be more proud of my home town; but then we arrived at the school and there was a crowd welcoming us with cheers and applause. Thank you to all who came out to attend this event.

On Monday, December 11, we continued our trip toward Arlington Cemetery and when I return, I
will share that portion of our trip with you.

Meanwhile, in the spirit of Wreaths Across America, take time out during this hectic season to Remember, Honor and Teach.


Friday, December 8, 2017

Eleventh Annual MSSPA Christmas Open House grows in attendance to almost 2500 guests by Jennifer Davis

It was a beautiful day on Saturday, December 1 to welcome in the 11th Annual Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals (MSSPA) Christmas Open House. The free event occurred from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Each year there is always a challenge as so much of this event is outside that the weather can dictate
the attendance,” stated Meris Bickford, CEO of MSSPA. The weather was certainly cooperating this year and that could be seen by the line of cars, filling up the parking lots for the event.

The Christmas Open House has certainly grown and changed over the last 11 years. “During the first show in 2006,” states Bickford. “We had a cracker and cheese platter to offer visitors. This year there are donuts, coffee, and hot chocolate all donated by a local business.” 

In addition to snacks, there were also several family friendly events taking place around the property. Activities included ornament decorating, temporary tattoo station, horse-drawn wagon rides and a raffle featuring many local talents.

“The Christmas Open House is a great opportunity to have people come in and see what’s going on,” states Bickford. 

The beautiful property provides the perfect space for the majestic horses that once had been mistreated. The horses that reside at MSSPA have been seized by Maine law enforcement because they were either abused or neglected.  

MSSPA takes these animals in and nurses them back to health. Some of the horses call MSSPA their
permanent home while for others it is their temporary home before they are adopted. Currently, there are 49 horses that call MSSPA home.

Bickford, who has worked for MSSPA since 2005 said, “I celebrate the work of this animal shelter that I am so very proud to be a part of.” 

If you would like to become a part of MSSPA by making a financial contribution or becoming a volunteer, you may contact them at or by calling 207-892-3040.

First annual Festival of Trees a holiday success by Lorraine Glowczak

The Fellowship Hall at Windham Hill United Church of Christ (UCC), 140 Windham Center Road in Windham, was a winter wonderland of 18 brightly decorated Christmas trees this past weekend.

As part of their first annual Festival of Trees fundraising event, the Windham Hill UCC’s Fellowship Hall was filled with good cheer and generosity from Friday, December 1 to Sunday, December 3, as each tree presented gifts wrapped in decorations of red and green. The trees, decorations and gifts were donated by local business, organizations and individuals.“This was an amazing event to organize and be a part of,” stated Bob Turner, co-chair of the Festival of Trees. “I loved watching the kids come through the Fellowship Hall doors and see all the decorated trees with the gifts underneath. It put a big smile on their face.”

Some of those children, and their lucky families, were the winners in this event. Raffle tickets were available for 50 cents each or 10 for $5 for a chance to win one of the 18 trees. The drawing for the tickets began on Sunday at 4 p.m. and the winners received the tree itself, with its lights and ornaments, all of the gifts on the tree, and all of the gifts under the tree.

Congratulations to the following winners:

Marrae Kimball - tree donated by the Dental Office of Dr. Leslie Elston
Jennifer Drouin - tree donated by Windham Hill UCC International Tree
Lori Bailey - tree donated by Windham Hill UCC Tree
Selina Paine - tree donated by Spruce Salon
Angela Wheaton - tree donated by Aubuchon Hardware
Roger Grillo - tree donated by Windham Jewelers Twombly - tree donated by Hall Implement
Danica Potvin - tree donated by Shaw Brothers Construction
Donna Emerson - tree donated by Door Service Inc.
Michael Johnson - tree donated by Patman’s Redemption Agency & Liquor Store
Jill Mathiew - tree donated by Seavey’s Furniture & Appliance
Kelly Osborne - tree donated by C R Tandberg
Jen Moulton - tree donated by Windham Hill UCC Women’s Fellowship
Sarah McRea - tree donated by Katie Hazel & Susan Moore
Ellie McCallum - tree donated by Dolby, Blais & Segee Funeral Home
Tony Candelmo - tree donated by Bob & Bonnie Turner
Lindsay Hall - tree donated by Blue Seal Feeds
Tyler Defossa who received a gift certificate tree from the following donors:
Cabinetry Concepts; Chutes Family Restaurant; Edward Jones Financial Advisor, Pete Neelon; Mills & Company; MGM Builders/TLC Reality; NAPA Auto Parts; Rustlers Restaurant; Sullivan Tire & Auto Service

Co-chairs Bonnie and Bill Turner
Monies raised from this fundraising event will be contributed to local, national and international
missions including: Heifer International, the Root Cellar, Windham Food Pantry, the Backpack Program of the Windham Schools, H.O.M.E. Co-op in Orland, Maine, Church World Service, SERRV, and many other organizations. Funds will also benefit continued maintenance and programming for this church which hosts Food and Fellowship’s Monday Meals, Boy Scout Troop 51, Windham Lion’s Club. The Windham Hill UCC is also hosting programs of the Windham Public Library during its renovations.

Windham Hill United Church of Christ is an open and affirming church, welcoming all who attend. The church was founded in 1743 and has been central to the life of Windham throughout Windham’s history as a town. 

If you missed this year’s Festival of Trees, do not despair. “Although the exact date has yet been determined, we are already preparing for next year’s event,” stated Turner.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Community invited to join the 22nd Annual “Christmas In The Barn” event by Faith Lutheran Church by Lorraine Glowczak

Mistletoe, Santa and his reindeer, decorations of red on a green Christmas tree while chestnuts are roasting on an open fire – all bring to mind the visions of popular Christmas holiday celebrations. However, for many who follow the Christian tradition, Christmas also includes a sacred perspective that encompasses the celebration and birth of Jesus Christ.

Faith Lutheran Church of North Windham will host their 22nd annual, free community event, Christmas In The Barn celebration on Sunday, December 10 at 1 p.m. at the Hartwell Farm at 443 Sebago Lake Road in Gorham.

“It is a quiet celebration of our Christian belief in the birth of Jesus in a setting of what, under the similar circumstances, he may have been born in a barn like this one,” stated Jo Hartwell, owner of Hartwell Farm and parishioner of Faith Lutheran. technically, no animals appear at Christ’s birth in the stories of the gospels of Matthew and Luke in the Bible, but more modern traditions show cows and donkeys at the stable. The Christmas In The Barn event will not only include cows and donkeys, but Hartwell stated one can also expect to see chickens, goats and horses to make an appearance with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the angels.

The event, which will be performed "tableau style", is a Christmas pageant with scripture readings, reflections and children in costumes that will include Christmas carols, led by Faith Lutheran Music
Director, Dave Hansen.

It is also a gift to the community from Faith Lutheran Church. No monetary donation is expected, just an interest in participating in a live community event of a Christian Christmas tradition as it shares Christ’s birth in a stable.

“Christmas In The Barn is Faith Lutheran Church's gift to the Windham community,” stated Jane Field, Pastor of Faith Lutheran. “It's a tradition that's been carried on at the Hartwell farm for more than 20 years. It offers folks the chance to come together in a setting that recalls the stable in Bethlehem where Jesus was born; it's a real working barn, with hay bales, a donkey, a horse, goats, chickens, and cows. There, in that very simple and humble place, we tell the story of the first Christmas as children in costumes portray Mary, Joseph, shepherds and angels. Adults from the Faith Lutheran congregation will serve as narrators, reading scripture passages from the prophet Isaiah and the gospels of Luke and Matthew.” 

Children from Trinity Lutheran Church in Westbrook will play the roles of Mary, Joseph, the
shepherds and the angels. Three men from Faith Lutheran will play the Wise Men while three adults from Faith Lutheran will act as the narrators. “Pastor Karen Indorf [of Trinity Lutheran in Westbrook] and I will offer brief reflections and explanations after each scripture reading,” explained Pastor Field. upon past attendance, over 125 people from Windham, Raymond and the surrounding communities enjoy listening to the story of that famous birth in Bethlehem that occurred approximately 2000 years ago. Individuals enjoy the pageant while sitting on hay bales, singing to popular religious carols and sipping hot chocolate to keep warm. “Dress warm,” warns Hartwell. “There is no heat in the barn."

Whether you are a Christian or not, the mission is to bring the Windham and Raymond communities together during the holiday season. “People are invited to come and enjoy the ambience of the barn, the Christmas story and to join in with the Christmas carols,” stated Melinda Zimmer-Rankin, parishioner of Faith Lutheran. “Everyone can enjoy the simple things of drinking hot chocolate and embracing the season – whatever the holiday season means to them.”

For more information regarding the Christmas In The Barn event, contact Hartwell by phone at 671-2189 or by email at

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Superhero Addy’s family gives to other families by Michelle Libby

Addy Madsen is officially in remission
When one is a superhero there are bound to be challenges. For Addy Madsen of Raymond, her challenge was beating leukemia. 

In June of 2015, Addy was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia that usually strikes the elderly, but after two rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant from an anonymous donor, she is home and adjusting to being an adventurous first grader. In January 2016, she was officially in remission. 

Doctor’s appointments continue to be scheduled to follow her organs, because post-transplant kids can have late term effects from chemotherapy, said Jessica Madsen, Addy’s mother. 

“In the beginning it was so much to wrap your head around. You have all these ideas in your head about cancer. Since that time, we are so much more educated on cancer and survival rates. We feel really lucky. That’s what’s driving us to help other families,” Jessica said. “It’s a club you never want to be a part of. Early on we really struggled. I wanted to let people into her journey. I didn’t know what we were getting people into, but I wanted the page to give people hope.” the knowledge the family learned, and the monetary support, they were able to make the most of the treatment that Addy received in Boston at Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute. They also receive care through Maine Cancer Network.  

“We are really grateful for Addy, her doctors and her outcome. We just want that for every kid facing cancer,” said Jessica.

The Super Hero Addy Foundation set up for Addy “started when she got sick. Cancer is expensive,” said Leigh-Anne Fortin, who set up the account. “It was a way for people to help. We set up a Go Fund Me account and held a benefit two years ago. It helped Jess, Dave and Cassidhe.” The fund was a way for those who wanted to help, but didn’t know what to do, to express their support. 

Jessica left her job as a middle school dean to take care of Addy, while she lived in Boston for her treatments. The family had to do extensive cleaning, put in air filtration systems and other modification to the house. 

“It’s super expensive to do when a child has a brand new immune system,” said Jessica. When Addy was discharged she had 20 different medications. Jessica was her fulltime caregiver. “After our experience, I can’t imagine going without that support,” she said.

“We had a huge backing and we thought, we have something here,” said Fortin. “We decided let’s
keep it going. Let’s help other families with whatever we’re able to do.”

Last year, the family held a Santa fundraiser and brought in almost $14,000. With help from the Jimmy Fund, the Madsen’s were put in touch with a family from Maine whose child was undergoing a stem cell transplant. Jessica called it humbling and said it took her right back to the place she was when taking care of Addy. 

“It was hard to hear their story. We have this common bond. It’s the sense of building a community,” Jessica said. Money that the foundation raises will support pediatric oncology patients in Maine. 

This year’s fundraiser the All that Glitters is Gold black tie gala will take place on Friday, December 8 at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland, from 7 p.m. to midnight. There will be a guitarist and a DJ as well as silent auction items like airline tickets, Sunday River passes and more. There will be a photo booth and a live auction. “It’ll be a fun night out. A great bonus to know you’re helping someone,” said Leigh-Anne who helped organize it with Teresa Esposito Dalton. Their goal is to raise $25,000 at the gala. “It’s a huge help for those families,” she added. Tickets are $60 per person.

“All ticket sales go back to the foundation,” said Jessica. “It’s the positivity I like about it. Cancer is pretty terrible. It’s not fair what these kids have to go through. These kids are amazing. We’re never going to cure cancer with our foundation, but mortgages or electric bills still have to be paid.”“This way they can concentrate on what’s important,” said Fortin. Sponsors for the event are Yankee Ford/Brunswick Ford/Rockland Ford, MGM Builders, Homestead Mortgage, Spiegel Scrap Metal, Martin’s Point Healthcare, Naples Marina and Maine Elevator Specialists.

Addy is a typical first grader with an unusual story. She likes lipstick and high heels. When she talks about having cancer, she said “When I was bald.” Jessica described it like a child saying, “I broke my arm.” Addy says, “I had cancer.”

“She’s kind of moved on with life,” Jessica said. “She’s spunky, sassy and loves gymnastics. She misses her time at Boston Children’s Hospital. She thinks it was like a hotel.” 

This summer Addy met her anonymous donor, when Brad Myers flew up to Maine to spend time with the family. Addy threw out the first ball at a Sea Dogs game and Brad was the catcher. It was a great reunion. 

“Brad is such an awesome part of this story,” Jessica said.
To register for All that Glitters is Gold to help children and families facing pediatric oncology, visit