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Fire Fighters “Light Up” Christmas for Four Families - By Michelle Libby

After many hours of behind the scenes work, Windham firefighters and their families pulled out of the East Windham Fire Station with three decorated fire trucks and more emergency vehicles following behind on their way, with Santa, to drop off presents for four families, including six children.

The event was organized by Lieutenant Chip Jones, who has been doing this for the last four years. Each November he goes to local businesses to gather gas cards, gifts, food, cleaning supplies, gift cards, haircuts, money and anything else families might need. The members of the

fire department also donated to the cause. This year they were able to provide Christmas for four families.

“It was outstanding that we got so many gifts,” said Jones. “Next year we’ll go a little bigger.”

Some stores were not able to donate, but the managers pulled money out of their pocket to help the cause. Waitresses at Bucks Naked BBQ bought gifts with their own money and according to Jones, “They went way over board. There was an overwhelming response from Windham.”

On the way to visit the first family, the trucks stopped to pick up homemade cookies and treats. Then, the caravan of emergency vehicles paused to pick up two more trucks at the Windham Public Safety building before continuing on to visit the first single mother and her three children.

Each family was pre-qualified by the Windham Food Pantry. Many families can only afford to buy one gift for their children. This year these kids are going to get 15 to 20 gifts each, Jones said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

With the lights going and the sirens calling out, Santa and the fire truck procession arrived at the first house.

“The kids are going to be happy,” said mom Amanda Perrin. “It’s nice to know there are good people out there.”

“The house is full of hundreds of presents!” exclaimed Jacob, age 7.

At the second house, the mother and daughter came out to greet Santa and say thank you while the gifts were taken inside.

“I wasn’t expecting all of this at all,” said the mother, who asked not to be identified.

The third family was Stephanie Smith and her 41/2-year-old daughter, Arley, who didn’t have tree, but were assured that they would have one by Monday.

“I can’t believe we don’t even have a tree. We’ve never really sought help at Christmas. It was just really tight this year,” Smith said. 

“We got her everything on her list,” said volunteer Melissa Wing. “We get just as excited about it as they do.”

The fourth family came to meet the fire truck and volunteers at the end of their driveway. “This is more than I expected,” said mom Nicole Adams. “It’s pretty awesome. It’s not something that happens to you every day. I’ve seen other people get gifts, but nothing like this…a bunch of firefighters come to bring you gifts. It’s a real big help to me with the gifts.”

The final stop for the lighted trucks was to the home of Lisa Duncanson, whose husband worked for the fire department before his passing three years ago. Santa made a special trip to see Duncanson’s grandsons.

The Windham Fire Department would like to thank the following businesses for their donations:

Masa Sub & Grill, Gorham Windham Professional Firefighters Association Local 4095, South Windham Firehouse, North Windham Firehouse, Cyclone Hose Company, East Windham Firehouse, Latin Honor Society at Windham High School, The Nail Spa, Lee’s Auto, Benny’s Barber Shop, Molly’s Cupcakes, Buck’s Naked BBQ, Payless Shoes, Marshall’s, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Friendly’s, Hannaford, Shaw’s, Walmart, Windham Jewelers, Innovations Salon & Spa, Dena’s Lobster House and Tavern, Lowes, Applebee’s, Danielle’s Sebago Diner, Smitty’s, Heaven & Earth Day Spa, anonymous donors and family members of the Windham Fire Department.

Windham Middle School Celebrates 12 Days of Giving - By Michelle Libby

Windham Middle School’s student council organized a fun way to gather donations to help the Windham Food Pantry and Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital with their 12 days of giving drive.

The idea came from a brainstorming session with the council. “We thought about things we’ve done in primary and Manchester,” said sixth-grader Riley Parker, who came up with the name based on the 12 Days of Christmas. They wanted to use the word “giving” because some don’t celebrate Christmas, they said.

“The idea totally came from the kids,” said student council advisor Shelly Cook. “The kids really do good things.”

Each day the council asked students to bring in an item, from toiletries and baby items to animal needs and books. On the first and last day, students, who are not allowed to wear hats in school, were able to pay $1 to wear a hat. They raised almost $200, which will go to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital.

The sixth grade donated the most items and the top two classrooms were Mrs. Cook with 231 items and then Mrs. Brown at 220 items. The top team will be awarded their choice of a pizza party, ice cream sundae party or hot chocolate party. As of press time, the class had not decided which they wanted.

“It feels really good giving back,” said seventh-grader Ashley Riley. The most successful days were collecting food, toiletries and animal items, Riley said.

“I feel all of it was important. They are things people need,” said seventh-grader Katelyn Smith. “Every year we do something to give back.”

The 12 days of giving gave the students a chance to think about others. The lesson was “It’s better to give than to receive,” said Cook.

One sixth grader and her parents made it a family project, and went shopping every day for what was next on the giving list. The mother told her daughter that “We have enough that we can give to other families,” said Cook.

The items were picked up from the middle school on Tuesday for distribution.

Fundraising Initiative To Keep Windham Family Mobile - By Elizabeth Richards

During this holiday season a Windham family has been chosen by HARK, Inc. to be the recipients of a handicapped accessible van through a fundraising initiative dubbed “Hopemobile for PALS”.

Donna York lost her father to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease), a progressive disease that attacks the nervous system, but does not impact intellectual capabilities. She started HARK in memory of her father.

Living with ALS is devastating in many ways, not the least of which is financial, York said. She started HARK to help patients and their families with the financial issues that can arise. Though vans are quite expensive, many families stretch to buy them because they don’t want to be prisoners in their homes, she said. But, they can’t recoup the costs when the van is no longer needed.

She envisioned a program where HARK would buy a van for a family, and when that family no longer needs it, the van will return to HARK to go to another family. “Everybody is different. You never know how long you have,” she said. “A van could go to four or five families over the course of ten years.”

She connected with Anthony Carbajal, a young man with ALS who has become a prominent advocate. Together, they decided to organize the fundraising campaign, with a goal of raising $30,000 for a gently used van. The campaign began on Giving Tuesday and is scheduled to end on New Year’s Day. The intent is that the “Hopemobile for pALS” initiative will be an annual event.

John and Linda Gregoire of Windham were married in 1981. After 26 years of “normal” family life, including raising two sons and all the youth activities, camping, fishing and backpacking trips that go along with that, their world was turned upside down. The Gregoires received devastating news when John was diagnosed with ALS in 2007.

An expert told John he would live a year to 18 months from the time of the diagnosis, but the family refused to accept that prognosis. John has long outlived the doctor’s expectations. “We lived like we didn’t believe him, and that has helped,” said John’s wife, Linda.

After the diagnosis, the family went to work. They have spent countless hours on advocacy and raising awareness for ALS, including starting a foundation called the Hope-JG Foundation (www.hope-jg.org). A visit to the Steve Sailing ALS/MS Residence in Chelsea, MA inspired a vision of establishing a similar residence here in Maine, so that people with advanced ALS won’t need to leave the state to get the care they require.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Officers take time out to shop for Christmas - By Michelle Libby

Five police vehicles pulled up to the front of Walmart Wednesday morning, but it wasn’t for some nefarious reason. They were there to shop for Christmas presents for children this holiday season. Armed with ages and either boy or girl, the officers set off in groups to two to shop, each group expected to spend approximately $450. 
 
Officer Gene Gallant had an early game plan. “My mindset was that the new Star Wars movie was coming out, get Star Wars stuff.” 

The officers kept track of how much they spent while getting great gifts for the children. From Legos to dress up items, camping gear to electronics, the baskets were filled with Christmas cheer.
“It’s for the kids,” said union president Jason Burke. “It’s nice when people compliment you. It’s not something we hear every day.” 

As officer Gallant wandered around Walmart, people stopped him and gave donations for a few dollars to a $100 bill. “It’s nice to give back to the community. And for those kids who won’t get anything for Christmas. On a personal level, it’s fun for us. It’s a blast. It’s really neat when people walk up to you to give you a donation,” Gallant said. Donations totally almost $200 during the time they were in the store.
One woman said that “Other people were doing it, so I said, ‘What the heck? It’s for toys. It’s the Windham Police Department.’” 

The money was raised during a yearbook fundraiser the police department does each year, where they sell ads in the book that focuses on a theme within the police department. Last year it was specialties within the department, according to Officer Jim Cook. They also receive regular donations throughout the year. 

The union also spends money on Special Olympics, DARE and occasionally a sports team that made it to play offs out of state. 

The officer who shopped were Burke, Josh Katuzny, Gallant, Ray Williams, Brandon Ladd, Matt Cyr, Cook and Sue Rogers, the administrative assistant to the police department.







Stories from Wreaths Across America touch Windham - By Michelle Libby

Monday morning five vehicles from Wreaths Across America were parked in front of Chute’s Bakery on Route 302 and it drew a lot of attention. The five drivers were on their way back to Columbia Falls to drop off the cars after a trip to Washington D.C. to place wreaths on the graves of soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. 
 
Lil Charron, an employee of Wreaths Across America, was originally from Windham and her parents are buried in Chase Cemetery, was finishing up her eighth convoy. Every year she stops on the way back from Washington to place a wreath that rode on her car on their graves. This tradition is what brought the five of them to Windham. 

Jim Johnston is formally from Raymond and now lives in Saco. The Army Veteran was asked to drive Gold Star Parents (parents who lost a child) and Blue Star Parents (who have a child serving presently) down to Washington. He agreed. 

“There’s no “nos” in Wreaths Across America,” said Charron. 

When Johnston retired from the Army, he said, “I’ve got to do something with Wreaths Across America. I was selected as a driver. It was the trip of a lifetime.” He drove four gold star parents. “Just listening to their stories is fantastic,” he added. 

Ruth Stonesifer from Ocala, Florida, a Gold Star Mother, lost her son 39 days after 9/11. Her son’s marker is at Arlington and she is a board member for Wreaths Across America.
Doug Brown from Westbrook was excited about completing his first trip with Wreaths Across America. “It was my first year, but I hope it’s not my last. It was humbling to ride with a gold star mom and aunt,” said Brown. 

Most of the Veterans and the gold and blue star families rode down on a bus. However, Chevy donated four Suburbans, three pickup trucks and one Camaro. It was the first time they had a corporate sponsor said Charron, who was tasked with finding the drivers. “That’s when I called in the troops,” she said. 

The wreaths, all from Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, were loaded into 63 semi-trucks and shipped in convoy to Washington D.C. Truck drivers came from all over the country to drive. The lead driver was from Maine. Scott and Lorna Harris from Patton are gold star parents. The truck Scott drove was wrapped for Wreaths Across America and in his mirrors he could see a picture of his son on the side of the truck. Drivers also deliver wreaths to 1,000 other sites across the country, according to Charron. Nine hundred thousand wreaths are made and shipped. 

On December 12, 240,000 wreaths were laid at Arlington National Cemetery at each headstone where it was appropriate.

“It’s an experience with everyone going every which way. They wait a good amount of time to get a wreath or two,” said Stonesifer. “It’s wonderful energy, chaos.” 

Within three hours the entire cemetery was covered with wreaths. Seventy thousand people had volunteered to place wreaths and honor those who fought for our freedom. 

“It’s easy to pick out people associated with Wreaths Across America. While they’re placing their wreaths they are teaching their small children, reading to them. People are encouraged to spend time with each one,” said Johnston. People go home and learn about the Veteran they honored. Volunteers are also encouraged to say their Veteran’s name. 

Johnston quoted Karen Worcester, “She would talk to us every morning. ‘Every individual dies twice. Once when his heart stops beating and again when a person says your name for the very last time’.”
The mission for this year’s program was “Remember, honor and teach.” The volunteers are reminded that “Every stone has a story.” 

Nancy Buell, from Salisbury, Massachusetts, told a story about a girl who had just finished a book report on a Veteran buried at Arlington. She didn’t know the World War II Veteran, but she learned about him. “She walked right up to the stone, just walked up to it,” Buell said. They ran off to get a wreath to put on his headstone.  

“These stories happen a lot. It’s amazing,” said Buell. 

The program was started by Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine. For more, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org or visit them on Facebook.


Photo: Lil Charron, Hunter Diffin, Jim Johnston, Ruth Stonesifer, Doug Brown and Nancy Buell stop at Chute’s on Monday for breakfast on their way home from Washington D.C.
Photo by Michelle Libby

State report: Remains of old Windham fort may lie beneath River Road - By Walter Lunt

Analysis and conclusions, now being drafted by the lead archeologist of the recent dig at Parson Smith House, will likely recommend an expanded search under adjacent River Road

Leith Smith, project manager of last month’s archeological dig at the Parson Smith House, told the Eagle this week that his team is leaning toward recommending the historic Windham site be eligible for placement on the National Historic Registry, a move that would prompt the Maine Department of Transportation to support an expanded, full-scale archeological excavation beneath the roadway adjacent to the Parson Smith property at 93 River Road. The DOT is in the process of widening and reconstructing the southern end of River Road and is required to investigate any sites that may be historic.

The preliminary dig in November was designed to learn whether the known historic site held early secrets that might reveal more than we now know about the culture and resources of Windham’s founding families and their struggle with a band of Wabanaki natives led by the venerable Chief Polin. For several years, many of the early settlers inhabited the so-called old Province Fort for protection. Archeologists hope to learn how they lived and survived during the period from 1744 to the 1780s.

Contacted this week at the Maine Historic Preservation Commission in Augusta, Smith outlined several points of agreement among the five archeologists who worked the November dig site: Artifacts retrieved at the site were in a good state of preservation, which is favorable for determining dating and cultural activities.


More intriguing artifacts will likely be uncovered if a more expansive dig takes place. Among the historic treasures already unearthed include a possible chimney foundation, an 18th century silver cuff link, German and English ceramics and a sliver of flint, identified as part of the firing mechanism of a flint lock rifle.

Although the defining four corners of the fortress were not located, the preliminary finds point to the southwest under the road. Smith said that if the archeological investigation continues, the search will center on locating the remains of the 50 foot square palisade fence, believed to have surrounded the fort.
Finally, Smith hopes to answer an intriguing question raised by the archeologists. Did the Windham fort house multiple structures within the fence, as opposed to the single blockhouse, pictured in a sketch from Frederick Dole’s A History of Windham, Maine. Smith maintains that most New England forts of the era supported two or three structures within a blockade fence.

Smith says he expects the Commission’s report will be submitted to the DOT in January with a final decision on the full-scale excavation by spring. If the DOT approves the expansive dig, additional work by Commission archeologists will occur next summer at the current dig site, however the excavation under the road bed would not commence until the summer of 2017 when the DOT expects to begin lowering Anderson Hill at the Parson Smith location.

Windham Veterans honored with decorated wreaths - By Walter Lunt

Dozens of local veterans, girl and boy scout volunteers fanned out across Arlington Cemetery last Saturday placing decorated Christmas wreaths at the headstones of Windham’s war veterans. The day was sunny with temperatures in the 40s, decidedly different from a year ago when the group wore winter coats and gloves, and had to wipe away snow to read names so not to forget anyone. 
 
The project, known as Everlasting Gratitude, took place on the same weekend as the Wreaths Across America caravan began its trek across Maine on the way to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Both efforts originated in Maine.

Everlasting Gratitude began weeks before when volunteers gathered at Studio Flora flower shop in North Windham to learn how to hand-tie red bows for the 850 wreaths that were placed in over 20 cemeteries across Windham. Floral designer and architect of the program, Libby Sawyer, moved easily among the volunteers delivering crisp, clear instructions on how to create the wreath bows. “Measure to your elbow, drop, make a loop and then pleat it into your hand….”

Over a two to three hour period, dozens of red-ribboned bows were dropped into a large cardboard box, later to be transported to cemeteries where they were twist-tied onto fresh circular wreaths on truck tailgates before distribution.

“It’s important to honor our vets. My dad and boyfriend were veterans, it’s the least I can do-give up a night after what they’ve done for us,” said bow maker Becky Andrews of Windham.

Diana Greenier-whose husband, Mel, is commander of American Legion Post 148 in Windham agreed, “This is a wonderful thing to do because it brings the town together and tells the vets we care.”

Everlasting Gratitude, now in its third year, is sponsored by Studio Flora, Sebago Gardens Landscaping and Little Log Cabin Montessori School, all of Windham. Supporters and volunteers this year included members of the American Legion Post 148 and Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion Auxiliary, Boy Scout Troop 805 and Girl Scout Troop 193. Other volunteers worked at Smith and Chase cemeteries on Saturday morning. Some were daughters of the Civil War and grandsons and granddaughters of Veterans who had recently died.

The cost of the wreath project, including the purchase of wreaths, was over $6,000. Donations can still be made at Studio Flora on Roosevelt Trail near the intersection with Whites Bridge Road. 

Special thanks go out to Roger Timmons of the VFW and Dick McKeen of the Legion post for coordinating the wreath efforts at Smith and Chase Cemeteries. Earlier in the week smaller bands of veterans fanned out to cover the 20 some smaller cemeteries around town with vets entombed,” said Veteran Dave Tanguay. 

Each and every cemetery was visited no matter how remote. 

“There was a sense of pride on the faces of the Boys and Girl scout volunteers as they attached the bows to the wreaths and then thoughtfully placed them on each veteran’s grave,” Tanguay added.