Friday, October 15, 2021

Surprise parade, celebration honor Windham veteran on his 90th birthday

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Walter Braley, Jr. turned 90 on
Sunday, Oct. 10 and was treated to a surprise parade outside
his home in Windham and several presentations for his 
birthday. Joining Braley following a VFW presentation are
VFW Commander Willie Goodman, right, and Jeff Cook,
VFW Post 10643 Adjutant. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE   
By Ed Pierce

The late American tennis star Arthur Ashe once described true heroism as the urge to serve others at whatever the cost. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Walter Braley, Jr. of Windham can be considered as one such individual.

On his 90th birthday on Sunday, Oct. 10, Braley’s many friends, family, and neighbors in the Cornerbook subdivision turned out in force to show their love and admiration for the Korean War veteran who admitted being surprised that others would give up their Sunday afternoon to throw him a parade and spend time with him on his special day.

“Honestly, I was shocked they did this,” Braley said. “I was told to sit down here by the road, and I did and then all of a sudden people drive by honking and there are fire trucks with sirens going off. I think it’s great to get to be 90 years old, that’s for sure.”

He was born in Somesville, Maine as the only child of the late Walter Braley Sr., and Eva (Cirard) Braley. When he was 10, his family moved to Scarborough so his parents could work in the shipyard there.

In 1947, Braley, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at the age of 17. He completed basic training at Camp Lejune in North Carolina and then was commissioned for active duty by Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith.

During his time as a Marine, Brayley was stationed at bases in Cuba, California and in Korea. While in Korea he patrolled the DMZ, the no man’s land separating South Korea from its hostile North Korea neighbor.

“I walked across the DMZ before Donald Trump ever did a few years ago when he did so with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un,” Braley said. “I did it first.”

While stationed at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, Braley was asked to pick up a fellow Marine, future county music superstar George Jones, who was just about to launch his recording career.

According to Braley, Jones would go out with his friends when they were on weekend leave and perform songs in exchange for drinks and Braley was among the group Jones came to know.

Years later when Jones was in Maine to perform a concert, he introduced the audience to Braley and asked him where he had been since he last saw him in the 1950s.

“Right here,” Braley said.

Because of an injury he sustained in Korea, Braley eventually was discharged from the Marines at the rank of Sergeant and returned to Maine.

He worked for a veterinarian in Saco and spent most of his adult life working for the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook. Since his retirement, he’s been an active participant in the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion in Windham, and he also volunteers extensively.

Windham VFW Post 10643 Commander Willie Goodman said that Braley’s work on behalf of the VFW is inspiring.

“He’s known as our unofficial recruiter and is constantly bringing new members to our organization,” Goodman said.

When Goodman suggested that the post honor him on his 90th birthday with a surprise drive-by celebration and a photo album recalling his time with the VFW post, the response was overwhelming. 

“We had no shortage of people wanting to do something nice for Walter’s birthday,” Goodman said. “Everyone loves this man.”

Among the special visitors who turned out for the birthday celebration were Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce and Cindy Beaulieu of the Quilts of Honor group.

Joyce presented Brayley with special “Challenge Coins” given to those held in special esteem for free coffee or breakfast at a local restaurant while Beaulieu presented him with a special quilt honoring his military service.

“First we honor you for your service,” Beaulieu told Braley. “Second, freedom is not free, and we thank you for your service. We hope this quilt brings comfort to you as you are forever in our thoughts and in our hearts.”

She said to date Quilts of Honor has made and presented 280,855 quilts to American veterans, including the one given to Braley.

“I just want to say thanks to everyone for coming out here today and recognizing me in this way,” Braley said. “You’ve made me feel appreciated and you can’t ask for more than that in this life. I’m deeply grateful and to all my fellow Marines, I say Semper Fi.”  <   

Raymond could donate land for site of new community middle school

If RSU 14's Board of Directors accepts a proposal from the 
town of Raymond to donate a 45-acre tract near the Windham
town line for a new middle school site, Jordan-Small Middle
School could close and Raymond students would attend a
combined middle school with Windham students when the 
new school is built and opened in 2026.
By Ed Pierce

The lingering issue for RSU 14 about where to locate the site of the new middle school could be a bit clearer following Tuesday night’s meeting of the Raymond Select Board as members voted unanimously to recommend sending students to the new school when it opens in 2026.

Raymond Town Manager Don Willard said that Raymond Select Board members also voted to recommend to the RSU 14 Board of Directors to provide up to 45 acres of town-owned property at no cost for the site of the new school near the border with Windham and on a proposed connector route.     

This gift is contingent upon and subject to a Special Town Meeting approval as a part of the next Board of Selectmen meeting on Nov. 9 and that the property naturally is to be used as the site of the new school,” Willard said.

The Maine Board of Education has greenlighted construction of a new middle school for Windham and RSU 14 is currently in the process of seeking a site to locate the new school.  

The original Windham Middle School was completed in 1977 and was built for a capacity of 483 students.  In the past year, that number has grown to 636 students, with sixth graders being housed for some classes at the adjacent Field Allen School, originally constructed in 1949.

During a Raymond Board of Selectmen meeting in September, RSU 14 Representative Mike McClellan of Raymond briefed select board members that the state has asked if Raymond would join Windham in sending students to the new school.

McClellan said that if Raymond chose not to do this, it is unlikely that the state would eventually approve new middle school construction for Raymond in the future replacing Jordan-Small Middle School, which now has 192 students total and was built in 1960.

RSU 14 Superintendent Christopher Howell also attended that meeting and told Select Board members that the idea of sending Raymond students to the new Windham Middle School was not part of an agenda to close Jordan-Small Middle School. 

Howell said the state is looking to combine smaller schools and renovations for Jordan-Small Middle School will still be included in the RSU budget, but the state will be unlikely to approve funding for any new construction.

Should Raymond residents decide to send its middle school students to the new school, the Jordan-Small Middle School building will revert to ownership of the town.

Over the two nights of the public hearings, there were roughly 30 individuals from the public who attended.  A majority of those who spoke at the meetings were in favor of keeping JSMS open,” Howell said. “The two straw polls that were taken also supported the idea of keeping the building open.”

According to Howell, the Raymond Select Board’s vote is one step in this process and will be considered by the RSU 14 board as they make this decision.

“I anticipate a decision by the RSU board in early November,” Howell said.

The discussion about the fate of Jordan-Small Middle School comes on the heels of the 2020 referendum in the town of Raymond to withdraw from RSU 14. In that vote, Raymond residents rejected withdrawing from RSU 14 to form its own school district with 2,047 voters saying no to the proposal and 1,018 voting to withdraw. It was the second time in five years that Raymond voters formally rejected a measure to withdraw from RSU 14 with the other rejection taking place in 2015.

“Throughout the public hearings, families shared that they liked being part of the RSU.  Additionally, many shared that they liked the small school feel of Jordan-Small,” Howell said. “Throughout that process, the RSU reiterated that there were not any plans to close the building as part of any district restructuring.  The question facing the town of Raymond is about whether they should be part of this opportunity that has been given to the district.  I feel that I can move forward with a decision that is made in either direction.”

He said that if a decision is made by the RSU 14 Board of Directors board to consolidate, the project’s architects will begin the process of programming for a larger school.

“If the decision is made to keep the building open, we will keep moving forward with the plan to complete the revolving renovation upgrades to Jordan-Small Middle School,” Howell said. “Windham Middle School will continue moving forward as a single-town middle school.” <

Friday, October 8, 2021

Second season of ‘Hearts of New England’ series to premiere in Windham

By Ed Pierce

The second-season premiere of the television series 'Hearts of
New England' will debut at Smitty's Theater in Windham at
6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27. Much of the show is filmed in
and around Windham and the Lakes Region.

Creativity has been the calling card of Justin Fortin since he first chose to become an actor and his dream of creating a television drama filmed in Maine using an all-New England cast became a reality in 2018 with the premiere of the first season “Hearts of New England.” Now Fortin is ready to unveil a second season of the show filmed locally and it will debut at a special event at Smitty’s Theater at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27 in Windham.

The series airs on Great Falls TV, which can be found when subscribing to Maine Event Films on You Tube. The first season of “Hearts of New England” drew reviews from critics all over the world for its authenticity and Fortin is aiming to sell the series to a major network once he completes five seasons of filming.

“This series has awesome talent from throughout New England,” Fortin said. “People who watch the second season are going to recognize local businesses and many of their friends and neighbors in the background of scenes.”

A lot of the filming for the second season of “Hearts of New England” was shot at locations around Sebago Lake, including at a number of beaches in both Windham and Raymond, and a scene was also completed at the Windham Barber Shop on Roosevelt Trail.

“Hearts of New England” is created, written, and directed by Fortin and tells the story of a soldier returning home to Maine from serving in a war, only to become embroiled in a war at home as he learns that his father is connected to the mob.

Using local talent, Fortin’s cast has grown from a total of six in the show’s first season to now numbering about 20 to 25 speaking roles for the second season.

Gathering the cast for filming again after the end of the first season proved to a significant challenge for Fortin.

“It’s very hard to film a series because you have to get actors to come back,” he said. “For a feature film or a short film completed in a few weeks that's one thing but getting everyone back for a series is much harder.”

Fortin, who owns Maine Event Films, said a lot of the series cast and production crew was found through local theater groups.

“Many of the actors are people who’ve done theater and community plays before,” he said. “But in filming year-round as we do for this series, a lot of people have jobs and it’s tough to get them during the week. We try to film whenever we can and accommodate their schedules.”

According to Fortin, the second season of “Hearts of New England” is much improved over the first one, which featured 10 installment episodes and last aired original episodes in July 2020.

“This second season is so much better because the cast is in sync having worked with each other for a while now and really knowing their characters,” he said. “The performances for this new season are 10 times better.”

He also said viewers of the second season of the show are in for a major surprise this year.

“We’ll throw a curveball at people and a big finish that people won’t be expecting,” Fortin said. “They won’t expect to see this coming.”

Married and the father of five children, Fortin was born Lewiston and attended high school in Poland. He started acting professionally in 2016 after auditioning and landing a role in the film “Paper City Burnout.”

He works as a manager at Walmart in Windham and films “Hearts of New England” when he can fit it into his busy schedule.

Whatever he’s doing with the show is working. It has been honored as a selection for film and television festivals in 50 different countries and in five different states, including in Reno, Nevada, where the first season of the show was awarded “Best Relationship Drama.”

Fortin and the cast have recently gotten back together and are now filming a third season of the series at locations in Windham and other sites in the Lakes Region.

“The project is 100 percent funded and investment is pretty good,” he said.    

The public is cordially invited to attend the local premiere at Smitty’s on Oct. 27 and many of the actors in the cast from both season one and season two are planning to attend the red-carpet event. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at Event Bright.

“It’s going to be a really good time,” Fortin said. “We’re hoping that many people will come out and support local talent. We feature many people from the area in our filming. There are not many premieres in Maine, so this one is going to be special.” <     

Adopt-A-Family lifts holiday spirits for families in need at Christmas

Volunteers gather prior to the pick-up of gifts for recipient 
families of the 2020 Adopt-A-Family holiday program last
December. Volunteers included Keith Mank, Kaila Mank,
Kelly Mank, Aaron Pieper, Nicole Lewis, Meghan Bisson,
Monica Lewis and Kim MacKaye. This year's Adopt-A-
Family program launches Sunday, Oct. 10. FILE PHOTO  
By Ed Pierce

For the third consecutive year, The Windham Eagle newspaper and the Windham Maine Community Board on Facebook are teaming up to adopt families this holiday season by collecting gifts and bringing smiles on Christmas morning for community members struggling to make ends meet during a difficult time.

The 2021 Adopt-A-Family Program officially launches Sunday, Oct. 10 with applications available for families seeking help this Christmas and those who would like to contribute running through Nov. 12. Adopt-A-Family organizers say they hope to have all families matched by Nov. 14.

“We’re starting a little earlier this year because of shipping times and supply and demand,” said Aaron Pieper of the Windham Maine Community Board. “We’re hoping to do something a little different this year by purchasing wrapping paper for the families so they can wrap their own gifts. Saving some time spent wrapping these gifts means we will be able to help even more families than we have done in the past.”

Pieper said that last Christmas, the Adopt-A-Family Program helped almost 50 local families in need of assistance, and he is expecting to nearly double that figure in 2021.

“We’ve seen significant growth in the few years we’ve done this and each year it seems to double or quadruple,” Pieper said. “This year we hope to brighten the holidays for even more families. There’s certainly more awareness out there about this program in the newspaper, on social media and through word of mouth. We don’t judge anyone. We simply want to be of help to those who need it this year.”

Kelly Mank, publisher of The Windham Eagle, supports the mission of Adopt-A-Family for the community and said she wants to do all she can the make this year’s program a resounding success. 

“Windham and Raymond are positive, kind and caring communities and we are very fortunate to be able to team up with the Windham Maine Community Board on Facebook again this year to match families who wish to help with those families in need this Christmas,” Mank said. “We’re committed to helping in any way we can.”

One of the Adopt-A-Family organizers, Kim MacKaye of Windham, has watched the program grow from 14 families who were assisted during the program’s first year to more than 45 just a year ago.

The most surprising thing for me is how many people want to help. There is always this nervousness about making sure we can complete every application from submission into their homes for the holiday,” MacKaye said. “And every year we have neighbors and businesses excited to make this happen.”

MacKaye said applicants for help are taken in good faith and the program is open to anyone in Windham and Raymond.

“Everybody has a different level of need, and everyone has a different opinion on what that looks like. Finding the balance in this program has been and will continue to be key,” she said. “The one thing I have heard the most from the community about this program is that many people want to see more collaborations like this. People are excited to find ways to give back in untraditional ways.”

According to Pieper, the outpouring of support from the community is not limited to individuals. He said that many local businesses he’s spoken with remain enthusiastic about doing their part to assist with the community initiative.

“Businesses have been very helpful,” he said. “Thanks to their generosity, we hope to be able to give every single family in need brand new haircuts and toothbrushes from dental practices. Local restaurants have also stepped up and have donated gift cards for meals over the holidays. The businesses I’ve spoken with about the program so far this year have been truly excited to help.”

As in years past, Mank said she has volunteered the newspaper offices at 588 Roosevelt Trail to serve as a collection point for gifts and donations.

“We’re happy to join and be a part of such a significant effort in our community,” Mank said. “We’re hoping everyone who is able to help will do so too.” 

Drop-off and pick-up dates for the program have not been set yet but launching the program early will give families wishing to contribute plenty of time to obtain gifts in time for distribution in December, MacKaye said. 

Electronic forms for those seeking assistance this Christmas and for anyone interested in contributing or volunteering to help with the program will be available this Sunday in an announcement on the Windham Maine Community Board on Facebook.

“We are grateful for the community’s help,” Pieper said. “The need is great, and every little bit helps.”

Gift cards and donations for the program may be dropped off at the offices of The Windham Eagle, 588 Roosevelt Trail in Windham, during regular business hours. If contributing a donation by check, make checks payable to The Windham Eagle with “Adopt-A-Family” on the memo line. <

Friday, October 1, 2021

State approves new WMS construction

Large parcels of land for sale, like this location off Hall Road
in Windham may be considered by RSU 14 as potential sites 
for the State Board of Education to purchase for construction
of the new Windham Middle School. RSU 14 hopes to have a
site identified by October 2022 with the new school building
finished by the fall of 2026. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE 

By Ed Pierce

After a careful review of an architectural study of Windham Middle School, the State Board of Education has chosen to move ahead with construction of a new middle school and a search has been launched to identify potential sites for the new educational facility.

RSU 14 is now actively looking for 40-acre parcels of land that are available for purchase and them would recommend to the State Board of Education which one it would prefer to locate the new school. Because it is a state-funded project, the school district will work with the state to negotiate the project fees and a total cost associated with the construction.

The new school is expected to be ready by the start of the 2026-2027 school year, said Christopher Howell, RSU 14 superintendent of schools.

“The district is looking to narrow down potential sites by the end of this year,” Howell said. “The target would give the district ample opportunity to conduct environmental studies on a location. The final straw poll vote on a potential site is tentatively scheduled for October 2022.”

The original Windham Middle School was completed in 1977 and was built for a capacity of 483 students.  In the past year, that number has grown to 636 students, with sixth graders being housed for some classes at the adjacent Field Allen School, originally constructed in 1949. 

In June, the RSU 14 Board of Directors voted 8-0 to approve hiring the Lavallee Brensinger Company of Portland to serve as architects for the project.  

“Lavallee Brensinger, our architect, is completing a review of existing engineering studies that have been completed for the old middle school building,” Howell said. “There appears to be enough documentation at this time to support a new building for the district.”

In choosing a site for the new school, Howell said the school district, in consultation with the civil engineers on the project, will complete a matrix on all potential sites. 

“The matrix will include elements such as traffic, availability of utilities (three-phase power, public water, sewer), environmental impact, proximity to population density, and purchase price of the property,” he said. “Once a site is determined, a public meeting will be held for a straw poll vote. The RSU 14 board will use the recommendation to make a final vote that will be recommended to the State Board of Education. The state will reimburse the district for the property.  The reimbursement will be based on the average of two appraisals on the property.”  

According to Howell, both the architect and the RSU 14’s civil engineer will help the district with the decision matrix, which will be presented to the public for a straw poll. The results of that poll will be reviewed by the RSU 14 board for a final recommendation to the Department of Education.

In addition to the decision matrix, the district will take into consideration the long and short-term costs of siting a building on a location,” Howell said. “This would include costs associated with student transportation, utilities, as well as possible road and infrastructure upgrades that would be required for the project.”

Other determining factors would weigh the impact to the environment, availability of space for athletic fields/parking and in a location near an existing road that can handle the traffic of a large school.

Howell said the most interesting aspect of working on this project so has been the opportunity to work with the state on a building project. 

“The process has allowed us the opportunity to look at programming across the district to ensure that we are covering all aspects of this project,” he said. “The opportunity to visit other recently completed buildings across the state has reinforced how fortunate we are to have this opportunity.”

After several years of being ranked at Number 5 overall among state-approved and subsidized construction projects, RSU 14 learned in March that the project was moving forward.

RSU 14 first applied for the Maine Department of Education’s Major Capital Construction Program in 2016 for funding for construction and was ranked as the fifth-highest priority among 74 proposed school construction projects statewide each year before gaining approval.

“The program is highly competitive as a positive rating in the process can lead to a significant financial savings for school districts,” Howell said. “A majority of construction costs for school projects selected through this program will be covered by the state.”

Once the school district starts to narrow in on potential sites, it will begin work with the architect on the conceptual design of the building.

“This process will include revisiting some visioning work that has been already completed with middle level staff,” Howell said.

The site selection process will be discussed at the Oct. 6 meeting of the RSU 14 Board of Directors and Howell said in the meantime, the public can forward any potential site locations to him at <

Windham High School joins Dempsey Challenge cancer initiative

Actor Patrick Dempsey, the creator of the 'Dempsey
Challenge,' hosted a Zoom meeting on Sept. 24 with 
Windham High School juniors to thank them for
raising the most money of any class for the initiative 
during homecoming week activities at the school. All
told, WHS students raised $1,715 for the program, which
assists cancer patients across the state and virtually.
By Ed Pierce

When done right, a school helps shape the character and the future of students by motivating them to show respect and to care for others. This premise was at the heart of Windham High School’s homecoming initiative in which students aimed to improve the lives of local cancer patients by raising money for the Dempsey Challenge.

Last week, the WHS freshmen, sophomore, junior and senior classes staged a competition to see which one could raise the most to support the annual fundraiser created by Maine native and actor Patrick Dempsey, who tragically lost his mother Amanda to cancer in 2014 and created treatment centers to help others overcome the disease.

According to Philip Rossetti, WHS Assistant Principal, the school chose to participate in the Dempsey Challenge as a homecoming activity to connect with the community.

“In the past we have done a food drive or change wars to support local food pantries. We have several staff and students that have been impacted by cancer and the Dempsey Center has been a great support to many in the RSU community,” Rossetti said. “Rod Nadeau, a counselor in the Katahdin Program, approached us about the opportunity to participate as a school in the Dempsey Challenge. Administration reached out to Pete Small, teacher and coach at WHS, who also helps coordinate homecoming activities to see if this would be a great fit for our school.”

He said that both Nadeau and Small have been active participants for several years in the Dempsey Challenge, which is traditionally held on the last weekend in September and features a separate run and a bike run for participants.

“When looking at the proposed timeline this meshed well with our homecoming events and is an organization that has and continues to support so many within the RSU,” Rossetti said.

Across the state, more than 2,000 individuals took part in the 2021 Dempsey Challenge event which raised a new record of $1.3 million to support cancer centers in Lewiston and South Portland.

That total includes $1,715 raised by Windham High students with the junior class raising $560, the sophomores $475, the freshmen $355, and the seniors $325.

For their winning efforts, members of the WHS junior class participated in surprise Zoom call with Dempsey himself on Friday, Sept. 24.

Dempsey said he was grateful Windham High students agreed to help with the challenge and said he plans on visiting the school soon and thanking the students personally for their efforts to help others. He praised the junior class for raising the most money overall.

“I certainly can’t thank you enough,” Dempsey said. “You’ve set the tone now in the school and it’s such a remarkable thing to want to help those impacted by cancer by saying we support you.”

Students in the junior class told Dempsey that their parents also got involved in the fundraising effort and that boosted them to collecting the most for the Dempsey Challenge during the week of homecoming activities at the school.

“We’re grateful you did that,” Dempsey said. “I’m just part of a very small team at the Dempsey Center and actions like this create stronger vibrations for everybody associated with what we do.”

He said that the Dempsey Center makes life better for people managing the impact of cancer with locations in Lewiston, South Portland, and through a new third virtual location called Dempsey Connects. Dempsey said all services are provided at no cost and include treatment, counseling, consultations, support groups, grief and bereavement sessions, specialized service for youth, massage, reiki and acupuncture.

“As soon as I can work it into my schedule, I’ll be at Windham High School to thank everyone,” Dempsey said. “Doing something like this is the most satisfying thing in the world and we are grateful for the help.” <  

Friday, September 24, 2021

Accomplished children's author from Windham shares her inspirational story

Renowned author Christy Webster is a 2000 graduate graduate
of Windham High School and has published more than 90
children's books. Her recent tale of Waffles + Mochi begins with
a forward by former First Lady Michelle Obama. 
By Lorraine Glowczak

For the many preschool-age children who have been relishing the Netflix show, “Waffles + Mochi,” a popular series about two puppets who travel the world to learn about the culinary arts and stars Michelle Obama, can now welcome the two food passionate characters into their homes with the recent publication of the children’s book, “Follow That Food! (Waffles + Mochi).”

The picture book continues the show’s theme of culture, food and its relationship to people by following the puppets as they go on their adventures, investigating ingredients and making new friends. But what makes this particular children’s book so special is that it is written by Windham High School 2000 graduate, Christy Webster. Webster has published over 90 children’s books and her recent tale of Waffles + Mochi begins with a foreword written by the former First Lady herself.

“I have always been a huge admirer of Michelle Obama and I am very excited that she agreed to write an introduction for Waffles + Mochi,” Webster said during a Zoom interview from her home in Queens. “I have always wanted to meet her but the book was published during the pandemic so I have not had the opportunity yet. Maybe someday.”

In the introductory letter to Webster’s young readers, Obama writes, “These two [Waffles and Mochi] know that discovering delicious new flavors brings friends and families together and that every meal is a story…”

It is with certainty that Webster has tasted her share of mouthwatering cuisines and has made new friends since moving from Windham, but it is her own story of publishing success that she humbly shares with her hometown friends.

Upon graduation from WHS, Webster left for New York to attend NYU to study English Literature, specializing in Creative Writing. She obtained her degree in 2004. Although her success wasn’t immediate, it only took less than a year of persistence before she was offered her dream job as an editorial assistant at Random House Publishing.

“I was determined to work in publishing, but it took me a while to land the job I wanted,” Webster said. “I waited tables and worked temp jobs to pay the bills. It was an anxiety producing time. I have to admit, now that I look back, I enjoyed that year.”

Webster quickly rose up the ranks to become an editor of children’s literature over the next 11 years. From there she was offered a senior editor job at Scholastic, Inc. During years as an editor, her own writing was succeeding and in 2018, she left Scholastic to become a freelance writer and editor.

Webster, who was a member of the Windham Chamber Singers, has not let her success elevate her ego, staying true to her unassuming Windham roots.

“When I think of Christy Webster, the first words that come to mind are humble, happy and balanced,” said Dr. Richard Nickerson, Chamber Singers Director. “Christy never seemed to let anything get to her. She was a leader and very goal oriented.”

Dr. Nickerson and Webster stayed in touched. He shared that several years ago, he and his wife were in New York City and had checked-in on social media that they were eating breakfast at a diner.

“Christy reached out immediately and said that her office was in the same building and that we should visit her,” Nickerson said. “When we arrived on her floor, she showed us around the [Random House] publishing company, including a very special wall that had drawings and signatures from many well-known children's illustrators. It was evident that Christy held a very prominent position in the company. Nevertheless, it was the same Christy who showed up to my class with a smile on her face ready to take on the day.”

Nickerson continued, saying that Webster took the time to show him and his wife a book that was in the final stages of the editing process. 

“Imagine my excitement several weeks later when I saw the book on sale at the Windham Hannaford! There's a very special form of pride that teachers feel when our former students are living out their dreams. On that day, I felt that pride.

For the WHS students who hope to make a career out of writing and publishing, Webster offers some advice.

“Becoming an intern at a publishing company, whether it is remote or in person, is one way to gain experience and get to know people in the industry,” she said. “Also, research to discover where your writing best fits in when you are ready to submit your work.”

Webster explained that finding an agent to represent your work is an important step—and thoughtful feedback from fellow writers can help your work grow.

The final sentence in Obama’s introductory letter in Webster’s book, the former First Lady offers her own set of wisdom to the young readers, “I hope you’ll set off on your own food adventures, just like Waffles and Mochi!”

For those students who may wish to follow in Webster’s footsteps, she wishes them the best and hopes they will set out on their own adventures, living their own publishing dreams. <

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Raymond looks to future with Comprehensive Plan

By Briana Bizier

What do you want your town to look like in five years, or 10 years, or even 20 years? Right now, Raymond residents have a rare chance to answer that very question as the town looks for volunteers to help write a new Comprehensive Plan.

The town’s previous Comprehensive Plan was written in 2004. That document, which is available on the Town of Raymond’s website, was truly comprehensive; it covers topics ranging from descriptions of Raymond’s historical properties and archaeological sites to designating growth areas for new developments and protecting Raymond’s many beautiful lakes and ponds.

Raymond is actively seeking volunteers to
help the town develop a new Comprehensive 
Plan for addressing future growth and
development and protecting the town's
natural resources. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE  
“It’s a pretty encompassing document,” said Rolf Olsen, a current member of Raymond’s Select Board. “It touches on a lot of different areas. Essentially, it looks at demographics, land use, future planning, and future needs.”

While the proposed future Comprehensive Plan won’t change any current zoning regulations in Raymond, it will serve as a guide for the town’s future development. The new Comprehensive Plan, as Olsen explained, will serve as a backbone for new ordinances and development.

One set of decisions that has been guided by the current Comprehensive Plan are Raymond’s zoning regulations. “The last Comprehensive Plan really helped establish the two- and five-acre minimum lot sizes,” Olsen said. “There’s three zones in town. Rural and rural residential have different lot sizes. And then there was the village residential, where we didn’t have to define lot size because it was all full anyway.”

The 2004 Comprehensive Plan’s influence can also be seen all summer long in Raymond’s pristine lakes. Many lakes and ponds in Maine struggle with algae blooms that can make their waters green, turning away swimmers and tourists alike. The 2004 Comprehensive Plan suggested several measures to help prevent algae bloom, like regular septic tank inspections as well as the preservation of any wetlands over two acres in size.

Septic tank inspections and zoning decisions might sound like theoretical discussions with little real-world impact, but recommendations like this help to guide new construction and protect current resources. Ultimately, these decisions shape the future of the town.

For Olsen, the future of Raymond is best placed in the hands of today’s Raymond residents.

“We’re looking for a real cross-section of the population to serve on this committee,” Olsen said. “We don’t want to exclude people from any group - you’ve got the senior population, you’ve got the younger population, you’ve got people on the waterfront, you’ve got people not on the waterfront, people with kids in school - really, there’s no bad person for the committee. The driving thing is people who want to see Raymond survive and go forward in a positive manner.”

The people who do sign up for this committee should be prepared to be part of an extensive process. “There’ll be a lot of work to get done,” Olsen said. “It’s not one of those that will be just one or two meetings.”

When the last Comprehensive Plan was developed in 2004, Olsen said, the final 135-page document was the result of a lengthy process to envision Raymond’s future.

“When it was written back then, it took over a year to get it done," Olsen said. The process of approving the next Comprehensive Plan will likely involve many meetings as well as public hearings. “This plan helps guide a lot of decisions. That’s why it takes a lot of input back and forth.”

However, this is also a chance to make a lasting mark on the Town of Raymond.

“From my standpoint, it’s a chance to look at the old plan, to see what’s valid and what’s not valid, and to help set a course for the next x number of years,” Olsen said. “The people who want to see the town move forward in a positive manner - those are the people you want on there. They’re going to look at all the different things and see how we keep the character and move ahead without shutting anyone out.”

Despite the magnitude of the task, Olsen believes Raymond residents are up for the task of reimagining their town’s future.

“There’s not a lack of talent in this town,” Olsen said. “Although sometimes it’s a matter of getting them to come out.”

If you are interested in service on Raymond’s Comprehensive Plan, please fill out a volunteer application on the town website: <

Friday, September 17, 2021

Holiday lighting project seeks volunteers

PowerServe is seeking up to 60 volunteers for a project in
partnership with the Town of Windham next month to do prep 
work for lighting the trees in the 202/302 rotary in Windham
this Christmas. FILE PHOTO
By Ed Pierce

The calendar says September, but a local volunteer group is already making plans to lay the groundwork for lighting up the 202/302 rotary in Windham this Christmas.

In previous years, PowerServe, a youth volunteer event program, has partnered with businesses like Gorham Savings, Windham Rental, and many more, to help others in the town of Windham with outside projects and to be a light in the community.

“This year we have decided to focus on one project, the rotary on 202/302, and to partner with the town to help to bring more light to the trees there this Christmas and beyond,” said Samantha Patton of PowerServe.

Patton said that PowerServe is a YoungLife Sebago organized one-day event where volunteers serve Windham area organizations and individuals who need assistance with various tasks from painting, yard work, repairs, and much more.

“The first PowerServe event in 2016, originally began as a one-time occurrence in the spring of 2016 to honor a Windham High School student, Shane Donnelly, who had passed away suddenly,” she said. “After the initial volunteer effort, there were many requests for the event to happen on an ongoing basis. Through hundreds of volunteers and the sponsorship of local businesses such as Gorham Savings Bank, Windham Rental, Shaw EarthWorks, Home Depot, Sherwin Williams, and many more, it has now become an annual event.”

In 2019, PowerServe had about 230 volunteers working on 30 projects. 

According to Patton, about 60 teen and adult volunteers are needed for this year’s project which is set for Sunday, Oct. 3 at the 202/302 rotary.
“We need your help. We will be doing the prep work to be able to light up the trees in the 202/302 Rotary in Windham,” she said. “We need 60 people to help dig, rake, glue, and assemble. If you are willing to help, we can find a job for you. Our goal is to lay the groundwork for licensed electricians to provide outlets for lighting up the trees. This project is a partnership with the Town of Windham.”

She said that two three-hour volunteer shifts are available between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Oct. 3.

The goal of the project is to have an outlet at each outer ring tree of 10 and three outlets in the center of the trees in the center of the rotary which can also possibly provide a beautiful site to view during other seasons of the year, Patton said.

“PowerServe volunteers will do the ground prep work then the town’s specialists will take over from there at a later time. With the health concerns in 2020, we were not able to meet so we wanted to make sure this year we stayed mindful of everyone's health; physical and mental, and decided to choose one project that will do just that,” she said. “With everything going on, we need light and hope surrounding our community. What better way to do that than partner with the Town of Windham to upgrade the long-term electricity to the rotary off 302 and light up the trees for all to see. This project includes digging the trenches, gluing, and laying conduit, and backfilling.” 

Young Life Sebago is a Christian-based outreach to teenagers that provides four basic things to kids.

First, they provide positive adult role models to go through life with young people. Second, they provide fun and positive ways to spend time through weekly programs and a summer camp, Patton said.

“Thirdly, they guide them through finding practical everyday tools and resources that they can use as they grow and become stronger in the community and in life,” she said. “Finally, YoungLife provides the basis of the Christian faith in a way that allows students of any background to hear about faith and then make their own decisions about what to do with that information.”

For more details about this year’s PowerServe project or to sign up to volunteer or become a sponsor, visit <

Never forget: Veterans remember 9/11 victims and those who have died in Afghanistan

Veterans from American Legion Post 148 and
VFW Post 10643 gathered at the Windham
Public Safety Building on Saturday, Sept. 11
to remember those lost on 9/11 and in
Afghanistan and pay tribute to first
responders in Windham. COURTESY PHOTO 
By Collette Hayes

The late U.S. President John F. Kennedy once said, “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it.” On the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States last Saturday, veterans from American Legion Post 148 and VFW Post 10643 in Windham gathered at the Public Safety Building on Gray Road and stood in tribute to those who have paid the high price of freedom.

A contingent of veterans stood in silence for 15 minutes to reflect and to remember service members lost in the 20-year war including the 13 service members fallen in the recent events in Afghanistan and for those first responders lost in the tragic moments when the Twin Towers fell in New York City on 9/11.

On the solemn 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, veterans as well as representatives from Windham’s local police and fire departments gathered outside the Windham Public Safety Building to honor those fallen while serving to protect America’s freedom.

“American Legion stands for 100 percent Americanism and to remember all wars,” said David Tanguay, American Legion District Two Adjutant and Field-Allen Post 148 Adjutant. “We are here to honor those first responders to the 9/11 attacks who did not run from the tragic events but ran forward to save lives. Each day we should thank our first responders for their sacrifice and for protecting our communities. The cry at the time of the 9/11 event was ‘We shall never forget.’ I pray that on this 20th anniversary of the attacks, the nation will again come together and remember.”

The group recalled all first responders that lost their lives when they entered the twin towers and more than 300 others who have perished as a result of lingering health issues from that day.

“We are honored that American Legion veterans are thinking of us on the 20-year anniversary of 9/11,” said Brent Libby, Fire and Rescue Chief for the Town of Windham. “Three Hundred Forty-Three firefighters and over 72 police officers gave their lives. These individuals should definitely be acknowledged and remembered for their sacrifice.”

Throughout the tribute, 13 veterans stood in a flag line holding United States flags in memory of the most recent fallen.

“I would like to take a moment to remember the 13 service members lost on the last days of the drawdown of troops in the protracted war in Afghanistan,” Tanguay said. “The flag line today is in place to remember their service as well as to honor all service members lost in the 20-year war as well. I ask the flag line to stand in silence for the next 15 minutes,” he said. “We would like to honor this time with prayer, reflection and remembrance for their sacrifice and also to remember their families in this time of grief.”

Navy Seal Jeff Cook, now retired after 26 years of military service, was 40 years old when he first went to Afghanistan.

“I was part of the group that was sent to build the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan which was the epicenter of the war against the Tailban and al-Queda for 20 years,” he said. “During this time, many military service young men and women tasked with this job, died. It is important that we remember them for their sacrifice.”

On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, those attending the event reflected, remembered and honored all Americans who have acknowledged that freedom isn’t free and responded to President Kennedy’s request to “Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” <

Friday, September 10, 2021

Windham resident striving to make a difference in our communities

Windham resident Chelsie Potter is a team
captain for the Out of the Darkness Greater Portland
Area Walk to promote suicide awareness on Sept.
19 in Portland. She's also heading up a bottle
drive to raise money for the American
Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
By Collette Hayes

Windham resident Chelsie Potter has been participating in charity work for most of her life. She has participated in bottle drives, food pantries, soup kitchens, a number of charity walks, fundraisers and local events to support local and national non-profit organizations and currently she is a team captain for the Out of the Darkness Greater Portland Area Walk to promote suicide awareness.

The event will be held Sept. 19 in the Fort Allen Park, Eastern Promenade in Portland. The walk is in support of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s bold goal of reducing suicide by 20 percent by 2025.

Potter is collecting donations for the event as well as sponsoring a glass bottle donation fundraiser. The deadline for making a donation to her initiative is Sept. 16 and she says that 100 percent of the money received will be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

She’s continually looking for ways to personally improve herself so she can make a positive contribution to the lives of others. A few years ago, Potter completed training to become a Personal Support Specialist, allowing her to provide in home care and companionship to a number of senior citizens.

In addition, she has participated in training and has completed several walks and fundraisers for the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Foundation as well as the Alzheimer’s Foundation and the Red Cross. Recently, Potter completed suicide prevention training from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and decided to collect donations for the foundation.

The Maine Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention focuses on innovative prevention programs, educating the public about risk factors and warning signs, raising funds for suicide research and programs and reaching out to those who have lost someone to suicide.

According to Potter, a goal of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is to teach individuals how to start a needed conversation that might be difficult.

“If you feel someone might be struggling in some way, it is important not to be afraid to ask how they are doing beyond how are you,” Potter said. “Normalizing difficult conversations provides hope to those struggling. We have to dig deeper and connect with people on a more emotional level. Being willing to be vulnerable and to have those needed conversations might save a life.”

Many times, suicide is the result of the response to a traumatic event, Potter said.

“Often times individuals have no idea how to handle a situation when something goes horribly wrong like losing a loved one, experiencing a tragic accident or when one is being left behind,” she said. “During those challenging life events, individuals need resources for coping and a strong external support system available to them.”

Everyday events such as returning to school for students this fall during the Covid-19 pandemic, can increase fear, stress and worry for many parents and students, Potter said.

Teachers can help children with the transition from home to school by promoting social and emotional learning in the classroom. With the right educational support system including well-established and consistent daily procedures and routines that support expectations, students can become part of a strong classroom community where they feel safe to learn new things and thrive.

Potter said that she is sponsoring a glass bottle donation as well as collecting donations for The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. If you are interested in donating to this cause, text her  at 207-699-6339.

To learn more about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, call Shamera Simpson at 603-318-6517. Maine provides a Crisis Hotline for those needing immediate help, 1-888-568-1112. <

Slate of candidates set for Windham town election in November

The field of declared candidates has been finalized for
Windham's town and state election to be held on Tuesday,
Nov. 2 in the Windham High School Auxiliary Gym. Voters
will fill three town council seats, two RSU 14 Board of 
Directors positions and the Windham Town Clerk position
in the election. FILE PHOTO  
By Ed Pierce

The list of candidates for public office in Windham has been finalized and includes a few incumbents seeking re-election and some new faces hoping to obtain enough votes to be elected to available positions.

After filing paperwork with the town clerk’s office by the established deadline of Sept. 3, the candidates will now embark upon their campaigns after being officially placed on the ballot by Windham Town Clerk Linda S. Morrell.

The election will be on Tuesday, Nov. 2 in the Auxiliary Gym at Windham High School. Polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Morrell said that as of Tuesday, there are 14,447 registered voters in Windham, but she’s not expecting a large turnout for this election.

“I would expect between the absentees and in-person voting at the polls about 2,500 to 3,800 votes which has been the turnout in the past,” Morrell said. “If anything brings them out, it will be Question 1 on the state ballot. I don’t think the candidate ballot will generate too much interest.”

Question 1 on the state ballot asks voters if they want to ban the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region and to require the Maine Legislature to approve all other such projects anywhere in Maine, both retroactively to 2020, and to require the legislature, retroactively to 2014, to approve by a two-thirds vote such projects using public land.

Local candidates on the November ballot include incumbent David J. Nadeau, who is running unopposed for the Windham Town Council’s At-Large seat for a three-year term.    

Nadeau currently serves as the chair of the Windham Town Council and has been a town councilor for 10 years and previously spent 10 years as a member of Windham’s Planning Board. He was a recipient of the Maine Planners Association’s Citizen Award in 2020 for his long-term vision for the community, volunteerism, mentoring other volunteers and elected officials as well as going above and beyond in understanding planning initiatives and goals of Windham’s future success.

Incumbent Edward M. Ohmott is seeking a one-year term on the council for an At-Large position.

Ohmott was appointed to fill the At-Large vacancy on the council during a meeting on May 25 following the resignation of Councilor David Douglass.

He previously served on Windham’s Smith Cemetery Committee and Long-Range Planning Committee. Since his appointment to the council, Ohmott has been a member of the town’s Marijuana License Fee Committee.

He’s the former president of Champion Cordage, an industrial supplies and equipment firm in California.

No declared candidate filed paperwork for the Windham Town Council’s West District for a three-year term. The position is currently held by Timothy Nangle, but he did not file papers for re-election. Nangle has been serving as the council’s parliamentarian. 

Morrell, Windham’s longtime Town Clerk, filed paperwork seeking re-election to the position. Morrell originally spent eight years as a ballot clerk during Windham elections, then worked as a deputy clerk for the Town of Windham for seven years. She has served the last 27 years as Windham’s Town Clerk overseeing elections and the town clerk’s office at the Windham Town Hall. 

Incumbents Jennie Butler and Christina Small are seeking re-election for three-year terms as RSU 14 board directors. Two seats on the board are up for grabs with six declared candidates.

Butler taught math at the high school level for 31 years and part-time at the University of Southern Maine. She has formerly been a candidate for the Maine Legislature.

She’s known for her belief that Maine needs to provide a well-rounded education for jobs which will bring young families to Windham and says an excellent education is needed for good paying jobs which include skilled trades and for jobs that don’t exist yet.    

Small was appointed to the school board in early 2020 and is a stay-at-home mom who has lived in Windham for eight years.

Small says she believes public education is an investment and was proud to work with the board to create a responsible budget that voters approved even amid the economic uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.  Her priorities include helping to align RSU 14’s procedures with ever-changing regulatory guidelines, and continuation of the district’s Social Emotional Learning work.  

Also vying for seats on the board are Barbara Bagshaw; Jessica M.H. Bridges; Carrie S. Grant; and Michael Pasquini.

The Windham Eagle will offer an in-depth look of all declared candidates prior to the election. <

Friday, September 3, 2021

Tu Casa Childcare kids learn the power of positive thinking and taking action

Children in Guatemala react online after receiving Eugene 
and Quinton Harmon's drawings that were sent with needed
money to buy groceries for a struggling family there through
a donation program launched by Tu Casa Childcare in
By Collette Hayes

Tu Casa Childcare kids and families are now leaders in making a difference in the Raymond community and in the small town of Ciudad Vieja in Guatemala.

Through the Tu Casa Cares donation program, Tu Casa Childcare kids and parents have been invested in helping to pay off the school lunch debt at Raymond Elementary School as well as provide groceries for Guatemalan families who are having a hard time making ends meet.

Tu Casa Childcare is located in Raymond and is nestled among a natural playground environment filled with trees, boulders, vibrant plants and a well-mannered little stream. In English “tu casa” means your house. That is exactly how it feels walking down the stone path to the front door and being greeted by Grace Emery-Freyre the owner, a teacher and the creator of the Tu Casa Cares donation program. Sunlight filters in through the large windows of Tu Casa warming each interest area in the learning environment. The setting is ideal for children who want to explore, create, experiment, and pursue individual interests.

Sitting in a student size chair next to a colorful community gathering carpet, Freyre talked of her love for the outdoors, integrating art into science, the jungles of Costa Rica and the children and families of Guatemala. As she talked, she reflected about how she incorporated these interests into creating the Tu Casa Cares program.

“The main objective of the Tu Casa Cares program is to get children involved in their community and to provide the children with a sense of global awareness,” Freyre said. “Tu Casa kids are participating as pen pals by sending messages and their art work to children in Guatemala along with the funds being sent to buy groceries and needed items.”

 Tu Casa Cares is a donation program receiving donations from Tu Casa Childcare parents as well as local businesses in Raymond. Recently, half the donations were targeted to Raymond Elementary School in RSU 14 to help pay lunch debt. According to Freyre, children in RSU 14 schools will receive free lunch again this year, but in many of these schools there is still outstanding lunch debt from previous years.

The other half of the donations are aimed at Guatemalan families who are struggling to make ends meet. 

According to Freyre, Andrea del Rosario Castillo, a volunteer firefighter, paramedic student, and mother who lives in Guatemala, has agreed to receive funds wired to them on a monthly basis.

“She buys groceries, prints drawings and messages from the Tu Casa Childcare kids, packs goods in baskets purchased at the local artisan markets and distributes the goods to families that are having a difficult time making ends meet,” Freyre said. “She provides crayons and paper for the children in the Guatemalan families to send drawings back to the children at Tu Casa Childcare. She is thrilled and thankful for this opportunity to make a difference.”

Ciudad Vieja is a town and municipality in the Guatemalan department of Sacatepéquez. According to the 2018 census, Ciudad Vieja has a population of 32,802 and the municipality has a population of 33,405. It was the second site of Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala, the colonial capital of the country.

With the help of Cathy Gosselin, Deputy Chief at Raymond Fire and Rescue Department, the next phase of the Tu Casa Cares program will provide local support to members of the community.

“It is an exciting next step for us in making Tu Casa a place that provides for the community in a variety of ways while teaching the children the power of positive thinking and action,” Freyre said. “Gosselin will provide information about Raymond community members in need and Tu Casa parents, their children and other volunteers will help to meet those needs which could be anything from shoveling sidewalks, preparing meals to grocery shopping. We would like to get others in the community involved as well. The more funds we generate, the more we can do.”

If you would like to help support Tu Casa Cares, send an email to or give Grace Freyre a call at 207-396-0256. <