Two weeks before Toby’s motorcycle accident that led to his death, he and Don Swander, the coordinator of the “Toby’s Dream” project and a veteran himself, stood at the start of the Veterans Memorial Drive discussing the paving plan.
“We need to pave right here,” Toby told Swander. “If we pave it they will come,” Toby said.
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“While president of the Windham Veterans Association from June of 2012 until his death in September 2014, “Toby’s Dream” plan was to pave the Windham Veteran Center parking lot and access road to connect with the parking lot pavement behind the Windham Mall as a way to move the Windham Veterans Center ‘into a better position’,” said Swander.
Paving the road and parking lot would help the Veterans’ Hall be self-sustaining. At present, the Veteran’s hall is supported by hall rentals and by generous donations from veterans throughout the year, said Swander. Pennels and Swander agree that the hall rentals must pay the bills. In order to get the rentals, they parking lot needs to be paved. Having wedding receptions and showers at the hall is no fun when it’s raining and the parking lot is muddy. Former state senator Gary Plummer just got married at the Veterans’ Center and reiterated how much this project is needed.
Taylor Pennels spoke first after telling her mother, Brenda, that she would not be speaking. “Thanks for being here. Every time I’m in this building, I feel my dad,” she said, encouraging people to donate to the project. And, they did. Brenda Pennels started the donations off with a $1,000 check, followed by Deb Pennels, Toby’s mother.
“It’s overwhelming,” Deb said about the outpouring of support for her son, who she described as a shy child.
The event raised $6,620 from private citizens, businesses and veteran organizations.
“Toby talked about this all the time,” Brenda said. “I can’t get enough of Toby’s projects.”
John from Shelterman donated $500 and challenged any other business owners in Windham to match or do what they can to support the project. Ron Perrault challenged his brothers and sisters in the Vet Association to contribute at least $50.
“Help us to prove that Toby’s plan was right,” Swander said.
When the project is completed, the road will be renamed Toby Pennels Veterans Memorial Drive in his honor.
“We miss Toby in a huge way,” said Swander. Donations can be sent to WVA PO Box 1776, Windham, Maine, 04062, made out to WVA PAVING and in the notation line write “Toby’s Dream”. Anyone donating $1,000 or more will be given a 20 percent discount on all future rentals of the hall for the next 20 years.
The press conference held Monday was planned for the entrance to Veterans Memorial Drive, but was moved inside thanks to the blustering wind and cold.