Friday, September 22, 2017

The Amazing Chase - a fun adventure by Michelle Libby

First place went to Gorham Savings Bank’s – Banking Believers
Last Saturday, 11 teams of four raced through the Sebago Lake region as a part of The Amazing Chase organized by Sebago Lake Region Chamber of Commerce. This high tech adventure race had participants racing from Naples to Standish doing tasks, challenges and answering trivia, all loaded on Apple iPads from Smart Hunts, a Massachusetts company that runs races like this all over the country. 
The second annual race included golf pong on the Naples Green, zip lining at Camp Hinds, a trip to Songo Locks and biking and setting up tents in Standish, just to name a few of the challenges. 

First place went to Gorham Savings Bank’s – Banking Believers, made up of Katherine Damon, Kim Donnelly, Mike Voisine and Lisa Hughes; all dressed as bees complete with wings. 

“This was so much fun!  No strategy, complete chaos, and mad driving skills behind the wheel. We definitely have to defend our title next year,” said Lisa Hughes, VP Regional Business Banking Officer.

“Our biggest challenge of the day was getting in and out of the vehicle with those wings. One unexpected outcome was the public’s reaction to four people running around town dressed like bees. From honking horns, to cheers, and high fives at the country club, we put a smile on people’s faces and we really felt like a force for good,” said Damon. The team also won best costume.
Second place went to last year’s winners, Sloth Ninja’s. 

Second Place winners - The Sloth Ninja's
This race is fantastic and so much fun! I think getting a taste for winning last year certainly helped fuel us this year,” said Sandra Woznicki. “I particularly enjoyed the Sky Fall at Seacoast. But I think most of all, I loved that the teams competing are full of people not afraid to be silly and weird, and you need to be to complete a lot of the challenges. Kudos to the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, for putting on an amazing adventure and for such a great cause.”

Third place was Team Headlight, who was also an event lead sponsor. 

Teams also raised money for the chamber initiative Feed the Need, to support the 13 food pantries in the 11 towns in the region. 

“Our second annual Amazing Chase was an overwhelming success. Teams had a fun filled day and couldn’t say enough about their experience tackling challenges all around the region. As the organizer of this event we are so pleased to be showcasing not only the natural resources, scenic beauty and recreational opportunities of this region but also highlighting, in a unique way, the many businesses here,” said chamber executive director Aimee Senatore.

Parents perk up Windham Middle School bathrooms with positive affirmations by Elizabeth Richards

When students arrived back at Windham Middle School after their summer vacation, they found the one space they all use a little brighter, a little more pleasant and a little more inspiring. “This summer, a wonderful group of moms came forward and offered to do some work in both the boys and girls bathrooms to make them more positive and affirming places,” said Kim McBride, Assistant Principal at Windham Middle School. 
The school was built in 1977, McBride said, and though it’s been well maintained over the years, as any older building does, it’s starting to show its age. 

Tiffany Flibbert, who had the initial vision for the project and organized the efforts, said she has three children and she’s heard complaints about the bathrooms from all of them. The idea for the painting came, like so many things these days, from social media, she said. After seeing a post by a teacher who had done something similar, she decided to take action. 

Flibbert knows the power of positive words. She belongs to a group, Brave Girls Club, which is all about helping women meet their dreams and pursue their goals, primarily through uplifting words. “Young girls need inspiration. They need to feel good about themselves. There are so many things out there working against them,” Flibbert said. “And boys need it too,” she added.

Once the idea had formed, Flibbert spread the word about the project and a group of parents came together to get it done, she said. 

McBride said the many hours of volunteer work the group put in were very much appreciated by the school. “Anytime we can give more positive messages to students, we want to do it. The bathrooms are an often overlooked place that everyone visits every day,” she said. “It was a wonderful surprise for the students when they came in, and they really appreciated the creativity and the time and attention that went into it.”

Friday, September 15, 2017

St. Ann’s hosts Community Day to welcome new and old friends to church by Michelle Libby

St. Ann’s Episcopal Church at the corner of River Road and Windham Center Road held its third annual Community Day last Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, the community at large and the church community were invited to enjoy games, music, visits from firemen and Sparks Ark. 

Mason Marquis from Brunswick
“It’s a nice community church. We’ve been to activities here. We’re so impressed with the church participation,” said Jim Kelley, who lives in Windham, but attends another church. 

“It’s a combination of reaching out to the community and welcoming people back to the church community,” said Rector Fr. Tim Higgins. “We do this as a free offering of grace to the community.” 

Sunday was Welcome Back Sunday and registration for Sunday School. The church held a family breakfast and a barbeque for the congregation after the two services. 

“We’ve seen a lot of new folks from the community, today,” said faith formation director Kate Tompkins. Fr. Higgins called the number of participants “outstanding”. 

The event was planned by Michael Dionne and his committee. “My thought is go big or go home,” he said of the planning. “It’s important. It’s not just a church in the community, but a church for the community.” 

Rye Carpenter from Windham
St. Ann’s opened “Ladybug Playground” to the community once it was built, and it gets a fair amount of use, said Dionne. So many know where the church is. 

The event was not about religion, but about having fun, Dionne said. There was a performance by The Pond Lilies made up of Polly Lawson, Kristin Goodall, Leanne Cooper, Jodee Davidson and Jeanne DiSciullo-Carpenter; also a presentation by Josh Sparks, owner of Sparks Ark, a bounce house, cotton candy, plenty of games and a visit from the ice cream truck. 

Windham Fire and Rescue brought a fire truck and an ambulance for children to explore, as well.
 “It’s a great time to spend time with the St. Ann’s community and the community in general,” said Dionne.

American Legion Auxiliary hosts Naturalization Ceremony funded by grant in honor of National Day of Service and Remembrance by Lorraine Glowczak

*Due to technical layout difficulties, the print version was published in error. This is the correct version. We apologize for the error.

American Legion Auxiliary Unit 148 in Windham, received a $1,000 grant through the American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters and funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service to establish a remembrance celebration to commemorate 9/11. 
In alignment with and observance of the National Day of Service and Remembrance (established in 2009), the Auxiliary hosted a Naturalization Ceremony on Monday, September 11 at 10 a.m. at Windham High School. The ceremony was attended by many members of the community and high school and middle school students, who witnessed 37 immigrants from 22 countries, become American citizens. 

Also in attendance were public figures that included but not limited to, Senator Bill Diamond, Town Manager, Tony Plante and the National Auxiliary President, Diane Duscheck from Wisconsin. 

The success of Monday’s ceremonial event was the result of innovative and creative thinking by members of the Auxiliary and the grant writing abilities of Windham Auxiliary President, Pam Whynot and Vice President, Michelle Libby. 

Anna McGuckin from Russia
The grant was recognized by the National Auxiliary as unique, due to the inclusion of many community members, to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The requirements were to remember 9/11 in a unique way, have a teaching component and have the event during the week of 9/11. 

“Our grant was very unique out of the other grants,” explained Whynot. “The Naturalization Ceremony was a unique idea from us [because] it involved many groups of the community and we had lots of people volunteering their time and service to us. We fit all their [the National Auxiliary’s] requirements into this idea.”

The Naturalization Ceremony not only included many volunteer members of the community but  special guests speakers were selected to share their memories and experiences of that fateful day 16 years ago. The speakers included Steve Hall, a Portland and Windham firefighter, as well as retired Lieutenant Colonel, Wally Clark originally from Calais, but now resides in Windham.

Hall, who lost many of his firefighting friends in the fallen World Trade Center, was called to New York a week after the tragedy. “I was asked to attend the funerals of my fellow firefighters,” Hall began, choking back tears. “I was asked to attend because the NYC firefighters who were still alive were working the pile. Sometimes I attended three or four funerals in a day. After a month, I lost count of how many funerals I attended.”

Clark was starting his second day working at the Pentagon away from his office near Arlington Cemetery, when he was notified of the attacks. “During the morning session, we were called out of a briefing and told that the pentagon had been hit and we were on lock down,” Clark said. “We were finally released to go home late in the afternoon. As I drove home, I could see smoking coming out of the Pentagon. It was a mess.”

There were 125 pentagon staff that died that day. 

Nidhal Alshammaa from Iraq
Keynote speaker, the Honorable Charles Cragin, who served as under-secretary of the Department of Defense during the time of the attack, spoke to the celebration of citizenship, noting that when tragedy occurs the best of American social responsibility takes place; also noting the community efforts of service in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, as a result of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. 

The stories shared by these men honored firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency medical personnel, military members and veterans of the armed forces; while sharing ideals of good citizenship, peace and security to all, especially to the high school students and new citizens alike.

Upon the conclusion of the ceremony, that ended with the presentation of certificates to the new Americans, the song “God Bless the USA” sung by the Windham Chamber Singers and the closing remarks by Kurt Pelletier, Immigration Services Officer, happiness, joy and celebration filled the auditorium as the new Americans embraced their citizenship.

“I am so moved by how the new citizens want to be a citizen of America and how hard they work to make this happen,” stated Whynot. “When their families and friends come to cheer them on, you know that this is the most important day of their lives. It makes me very happy to be a part of this day for them.” 

This special and unique Naturalization Ceremony presented the bravery involved in being an American, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice 16 years ago. And as Christopher Howell, Windham High School Principal added in his welcoming remarks to the new Americans, “Everyone has a story. One day, you will share your story of bravery that it took to become an American. You too, will leave a legacy with the generations that come after you.”

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Dolby Funeral Chapel expands with acquisition of Blais & Hay Funeral Home of Westbrook by Walter Lunt

New name to be Dolby-Blais & Segee

Dolby Funeral Chapel owners, Eric and Kristin Segee, have announced the acquisition of the Blais & Hay Funeral Home of Westbrook. The purchase, which was completed on August 30, occurred less than one year after the Segee’s bought the Dolby Funeral Chapels in both Windham and Gorham through an in-house sale from long-time owner Tim Dolby. The Segee’s had been employed there for about three years.
The new institution will be named Dolby-Blais & Segee and “will reflect the continuing legacy of these family-owned and operated homes,” says Eric Segee. New signs will appear on the grounds of all three chapels by mid to late October.

Kristin Segee noted that former owners of both the Windham and Westbrook locations continue to be involved in the day-to-day operations and during various funeral services.
“They provide a level of comfort for people that know them. And it helps assure the same level of service and quality,” she said.

Blais & Hay, located at 35 Church Street off William Clark Drive, formed from a merger in 2001.

“Our families will be in good hands for many years to come, “said James Blais, commenting on the sale. “We are excited that the standard of care we have been providing for years to families in our (Westbrook) community will continue under the strong leadership of Eric and Kristin and their extremely competent and caring staff.”

Both the Blais and the Hays families had passed down their respective businesses to sons.
In an interview with the Windham Eagle in January 2017, Eric Segee observed that both the owners and patrons of funeral parlors “want to avoid acquisitions by big corporations.”

Eric projects the addition of the Westbrook chapel will increase by over 150 the number of families served by the larger institution. He said eight new part-time employees have been added as result of the Blais acquisition.
The Segee’s say minor changes are anticipated for both the Windham and Westbrook locations. New carpeting, large TV screens and an updated audio-visual system will be added to the Blais chapel. The technology improvements are designed to accommodate slide presentations and musical options for families who wish to design personalized tributes to the deceased. Eric noted that a small building addition is anticipated at the Windham chapel.

The Dolby Funeral Chapel was established in 1946 by Robert Dolby, Tim Dolby’s father, who bought the business from John Nichols. Nichols was the last of three generations dating to the 1860s. Until recently, funeral directors in Windham have been members of just two families: Nichols and Dolbys. The Windham Eagle will trace this fascinating history in the next segment of our “Then & Now” series next month.

A look into Rep. Jessica Fay's first year in the Maine State Legislature by Lorraine Glowczak

Have you ever considered running for public office and wanted to know what to expect? Are you curious about what actually occurs during the legislative session in Augusta as you read the newspapers on the latest bill being considered?

Representative Jessica Fay, a Democrat who represents parts of the towns of Raymond, Casco and
Poland shares her first year as a Maine Legislator.

Fay’s interest in politics began when she was a young child. Growing up in a politically active family she witnessed her mother, Linda Krause, who began her career in the political process as an active member with the League of Women Voters of Connecticut in the 1970s. As a result of her participation in the League and what she learned from that experience, her mother was inspired to become more politically engaged. Her mother’s career included that of being a Land Use Planner and Director of the Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments as well as Mayor of the Town of Groton, CT.

“As I watched her commitment to the political process, I grew to admire her,” Fay stated. “I was able to observe her activities and the manner in which she approached her constituents; how she listened to them and worked to create a better life for others. I was really proud of her.”

Moving forward many years to 2014: “My mom had to have heart surgery and there were many complications as a result of that surgery,” Fay stated. “She couldn’t speak for herself so I became her medical advocate. I soon realized that I made important decisions about someone I loved. I did it under pressure and I did not panic. This was the impetus, a form of self-discovery. I realized I could do what I had witnessed my mother doing. It was at that this point that I decided to enter into public service.”

Whether you agree with her politics or not, Fay shares her story in a non-partisan manner for everyone; especially for those who may be considering a possible run in local government or beyond. Sharing her own experiences can also be a learning opportunity for anyone who is curious about what a first year is like in the Maine legislature.

“Layers,” Fay began. “I discovered that the political activity of a legislator is one of layers.”
She explains that the “bare minimum” requirement, or the first layer as she puts it, expected of a State Legislator includes being in the chamber to vote yes or no on legislative matters. “I am happy to say, I was in my seat for100 percent of my roll call votes,” Fay stated.

“The second layer is committee work,” Fay continued. “This is where a lot of crafting, vetting and real public policy legislation occurs. It’s at this point, once a bill is introduced and referred to a committee to ‘work the bill’, it is determined whether it will  make it into the House or Senate Floor for a vote.”

The third layer is “Constituent Services”, which means being available to those whom you represent to listen to their point of view, the issues they are facing and trying to simply answer their questions.
One way Fay provides this service is holding office hours at the Raymond Village Library, Casco Town Office and Poland Public Library which she will continue in the next legislative session.

 “I want folks to feel comfortable being involved in their government,” Fay said. “And this is one reason why I provide office hours. This makes government more responsive and accountable.”
“And then,” she began, “the layers continue on within those required three expectations. Layers upon layers.”

Due to the extreme divisive nature of the present political atmosphere, when asked about how she handled this, Fay stated that there was a workshop provided at the beginning of the session, by the University of Arizona’s Institute of Civil Discourse that legislators could volunteer to participate.

“It was a great way to start the session,” Fay began, who participated in the workshop. “It was really super helpful [to me] in various ways. For example, I learned ways to understand where someone is coming from that I might disagree with – to more clearly understand their point of view. This helped me to compromise to the best of my ability while at the same time, keeping my constituents viewpoints in mind.”

The most surprising thing Fay learned her first year is how complicated the legislative process can be. “Every day, there is a new twist and everything that seems to be really straightforward almost always never is.”

That complication often makes a straightforward and seemingly clear cut perception on a certain political issue extremely complex. This complexity is what makes it difficult to make the decisions for everyone. Worst yet, sometimes it appears as if you are not listening to your constituents.

“The most difficult part about my first year is discovering that I had to make really difficult decisions that would keep me up at night,” Fay stated. “That black and white or simple point of view isn’t what I had expected. There are various subtleties and issues that need to be considered and as a result, those subtleties can make it really hard to communicate why I voted a certain way.”

The best advice she can give to those who are considering political involvement is to listen. “Listen more than you talk,” Fay suggested.

She also advised that one should contact your representative, selectman, council member, etc. – whoever is doing what you want to do yourself. “Contact them and discover the upside and downside of that position,” Fay recommends. "If someone is interested in getting into public service or elected office, by all means spend some time with someone in the office you are interested in. Spend a day job shadowing and ask lots of questions." 

She thanks her husband for being so supportive her first year. “I can’t imagine not having support from your family, that would make the job so much more difficult,” Fay said of those involved in government.

Despite the challenges, Fay loves her role as State Representative. Although she has learned a great deal her first year, she acknowledges there is more learning to be had. “This is a job that takes a while to learn,” Fay stated. “And I have a lot more to learn and improve upon and will continue  to do so.”

Friday, August 25, 2017

Sister Lucy Kurien to share stories of interfaith love and healing at Unity of Greater Portland by Elizabeth Richards

Sister Lucy Kurien
Sister Lucy Kurien, founder and director of Maher Ashram, an interfaith refuge for women and children headquartered in Pune, India, will be at Unity of Greater Portland in Windham this weekend to share her wisdom and philosophies.

Kurien is a Catholic nun who founded Maher after an experience she couldn’t let go. While working in the convent, a pregnant woman came to her for shelter after her husband had threatened to kill her.
The rules and regulations of the convent prevented her from immediately giving the woman the help she requested, and that same night her husband set the woman on fire. Sister Lucy was an eyewitness to the event and took the woman to a nearby hospital, but it was too late. Both the woman and the child she carried died that night. 

“After that I thought it’s time for me to do something, but I was not sure what I was going to do,” said Kurien. “Finally, with the Divine grace I was able to set up a home for women.” 

From that first home, Maher has grown to include 44 homes in three states in India. While the focus was originally on women, Kurien said, with women came children; and there are presently between 850 and 900 children staying in Maher homes. focus of Maher, she said, has always been on how to unite people. She is committed to bringing people together, regardless of their caste or religion. “All the religions are teaching us to go to the Divine,” she said. “That is what we are teaching the children.”  

Maher focuses on value based education, rather than the teachings of any specific religion. “All religions do what common sense tells you,” said Kurien. “Let us use that and be good human beings!”

The board of Maher has representatives from all faiths and the staff also comes from a broad range of religious backgrounds. “What we are trying to see is how we can get around this caste-ism, and the differences between the religions,” Kurien said. To mark Maher’s 20th anniversary, Kurien launched Maher’s Interfaith Association for Service to Humanity and Nature on February 2, 2017. 

In her talk, she will focus on:  How people can come together and work as a community, interfaith and value based teachings, and what they are doing at Maher. Because they have lived these philosophies at Maher for the past twenty years, there are many beautiful stories to share, Kurien said.

 “It’s very important that you build communities of love, peace, joy and communities of acceptance and tolerance of each other no matter where we are,” said Kurien. When people ask her religion, she said, “I will say my religion is love.”
Darcy Cunningham, owner of the Turning Light Center in North Yarmouth, is very familiar with Kurien and her work. She was asked by a colleague to write a book about replicating the Maher model. She first met Kurien in India, along the banks of the Ganga. Inspired, she returned to India to visit Maher. “All of these people had experienced such hardships, fear, abuse and despair – beyond my imagining – and yet this place was full of love, joy, generosity, playfulness,” she said. 

Cunningham felt compelled to understand how and why such healing transformations could happen.
Cunningham said she is struck by how much Maher does, with so little. There is no maximum stay – women can stay as long as they want or need to. When they are able, Cunningham said, they are given small tasks to do, such as helping to prepare a meal or watch a group of children. “It was amazing to watch a woman arrive looking like the proverbial “deer in the headlights” and see her emerge, begin to connect with people, begin to feel safe. Then on my next trip she would be laughing and happy in this loving community,” said Cunningham. “It’s an incredible model, one I believe we could learn from. We seem to think one must first be fully healed and then one can give to others – yet it’s at least in part through the giving to others like yourself that self-worth is built and healing is supported.”
Cunningham said she is inspired by Kurien’s story and background. Without college or any kind of formal training, Kurien has built communities where people, who have lived unspeakable trauma, can heal and find happiness and meaning in their lives, said Cunningham. She believes that by listening to and learning from Kurien, people can be inspired to make a difference in the world, be a part of the solution, and recognize that small steps count.

Sr. Lucy Kurien will speak at the 10 a.m. service at Unity of Greater Portland, 54 River Road in Windham, on Sunday, August 27, and hold a workshop at 12 p.m. the same day. Cost of the workshop is $20. For more information on Maher, visit