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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Student homelessness in our own backyard by Lorraine Glowczak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is also a Feeding Frenzy event with the intent of collecting soups, cereals, can goods, pastas, etc. For donations or more information, contact Marlene Bicknell, Food Frenzy organizer at mbicknell@rsu14.org.

The Backpack Program and the Village Funds that ensure that the insecure children and teenagers of Windham and Raymond are nourished and well fed are still taking donations. To donate, contact Samantha Cowens-Gasbarro at scowens-gasbarro@rsu14.org or Marge Govoni at mgovoni@rsu14.org. Cowens-Gasbarro can be reached by phone at 892-1800, ext. 2029 and Govoni at 892-7192.

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



Stories from the after-school Typing Titans by Walter Lunt

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

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

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

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

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

Riley, who wrote about “The Lost Explorer,” detailed the life and times of an intrepid adventurer whose exploits include a fall into the Grand Canyon and a close encounter with an unusual school.
Jordyn, in “The Castle on the Beach,” imagined a family winning the lottery and buying a castle. Her rich detail included a description of its stained-glass windows: “pastel purple and blue with neon green and yellow flower designs.”

http://betheinfluencewrw.org/index.htmlRylee’s fantastical tale of “The Weird Stuffed Animal” told about an inventor who created an amazing stuffed bear. Later in the piece came a strange happening and then a surprise ending. 

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

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

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

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

“Writing is kinda like breathing.” (Riley)

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

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

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

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

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

However, one agenda item was added at the end of the council meeting. Councilor Tim Nangle asked
for an additional item to be added to the agenda; to proclaim and designate December 25, 2017 to be #Fightlikeacyr Day in Windham.

https://www.egcu.org/cashNolan Cyr is an eleven-year-old Windham resident who has battled osteosarcoma, a form of cancer that affects the bones. He was diagnosed in April 2017. Cyr’s personal battle against this disease engaged the entire community, locally and beyond that included a police escort on his return trip home upon the conclusion of his final cancer treatment on December 14.

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

Welcome home Nolan Cyr.

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

Friday, December 15, 2017

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

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

So, when they got the chance to move to the United States, they took it. “It’s okay for us now, and it’s okay for our kids,” Luak said; adding that they don’t have to worry like they used to. Their children can go to school, they have enough food, and the community is safe for them. “You don’t worry about war,” she said.

http://www.pongratzlaw.com/Some of the biggest challenges when they first arrived were communicating with others, learning how to get around, and adjusting to the much colder climate, Luak said. She was pregnant when they arrived in Maine, and had her first baby in June of 1995. She recalled a time early on when her infant was having trouble breathing, and she was alone at home while her husband worked.  She didn’t know how to drive or ask anyone for help, so she put her son in a heavy car seat and carried him from Cumberland Street in Portland to Maine Medical Center.  

Once there, things didn’t get any easier. She didn’t know how to describe what was wrong, so she kept saying “baby” and pointing, using body language to show that her infant was ill.  After a nurse examined him, her son was admitted. Luak still didn’t know what was going on. She couldn’t call her husband, because she only knew their home phone number, so she had to wait at the hospital, unable to communicate enough to even get something to eat, until her husband was home from work. 

http://www.windhampowersports.com/
Luak began classes at Portland Adult Education soon after she arrived in Maine, beginning at “zero level,” because she had not attended school in her home country. She appreciated her teachers at Portland Adult Education who encouraged her to keep on trying.  

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

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

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

Luak said she enjoys the quiet community in Windham. Although her children weren’t happy about the move initially because it meant leaving their friends in South Portland, she said they now like the community, the schools, and the teachers they have.

https://www.egcu.org/homeSince coming to the US, Luak has returned to Africa twice. In 2008, she went to visit family since she had been away so long. And in 2016, she travelled back because both of her parents had passed away.  “It’s very difficult being so far,” she said. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.armstrongadvanced.com/Meeting at the halfway point of the bridge, the Gold Star Families presented wreaths to the Canadian families.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



 


Friday, December 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First annual Festival of Trees a holiday success by Lorraine Glowczak

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

As part of their first annual Festival of Trees fundraising event, the Windham Hill UCC’s Fellowship Hall was filled with good cheer and generosity from Friday, December 1 to Sunday, December 3, as each tree presented gifts wrapped in decorations of red and green. The trees, decorations and gifts were donated by local business, organizations and individuals.

https://www.facebook.com/ArmstrongAdvancedDentalConcepts/“This was an amazing event to organize and be a part of,” stated Bob Turner, co-chair of the Festival of Trees. “I loved watching the kids come through the Fellowship Hall doors and see all the decorated trees with the gifts underneath. It put a big smile on their face.”

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

Congratulations to the following winners:

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

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

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


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

“It is a quiet celebration of our Christian belief in the birth of Jesus in a setting of what, under the similar circumstances, he may have been born in a barn like this one,” stated Jo Hartwell, owner of Hartwell Farm and parishioner of Faith Lutheran.

https://www.facebook.com/Merry-Christmas-Trees-223243327463/?ref=br_rsAlthough technically, no animals appear at Christ’s birth in the stories of the gospels of Matthew and Luke in the Bible, but more modern traditions show cows and donkeys at the stable. The Christmas In The Barn event will not only include cows and donkeys, but Hartwell stated one can also expect to see chickens, goats and horses to make an appearance with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the angels.

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

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

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

Children from Trinity Lutheran Church in Westbrook will play the roles of Mary, Joseph, the
shepherds and the angels. Three men from Faith Lutheran will play the Wise Men while three adults from Faith Lutheran will act as the narrators. “Pastor Karen Indorf [of Trinity Lutheran in Westbrook] and I will offer brief reflections and explanations after each scripture reading,” explained Pastor Field.

https://www.egcu.org/cashBased upon past attendance, over 125 people from Windham, Raymond and the surrounding communities enjoy listening to the story of that famous birth in Bethlehem that occurred approximately 2000 years ago. Individuals enjoy the pageant while sitting on hay bales, singing to popular religious carols and sipping hot chocolate to keep warm. “Dress warm,” warns Hartwell. “There is no heat in the barn."

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

“In the beginning it was so much to wrap your head around. You have all these ideas in your head about cancer. Since that time, we are so much more educated on cancer and survival rates. We feel really lucky. That’s what’s driving us to help other families,” Jessica said. “It’s a club you never want to be a part of. Early on we really struggled. I wanted to let people into her journey. I didn’t know what we were getting people into, but I wanted the page to give people hope.” 

http://windhamhillucc.org/With the knowledge the family learned, and the monetary support, they were able to make the most of the treatment that Addy received in Boston at Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute. They also receive care through Maine Cancer Network.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“All ticket sales go back to the foundation,” said Jessica. “It’s the positivity I like about it. Cancer is pretty terrible. It’s not fair what these kids have to go through. These kids are amazing. We’re never going to cure cancer with our foundation, but mortgages or electric bills still have to be paid.” 

https://jobs.spectrum.com/“This way they can concentrate on what’s important,” said Fortin. Sponsors for the event are Yankee Ford/Brunswick Ford/Rockland Ford, MGM Builders, Homestead Mortgage, Spiegel Scrap Metal, Martin’s Point Healthcare, Naples Marina and Maine Elevator Specialists.

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

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

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

“Brad is such an awesome part of this story,” Jessica said.
To register for All that Glitters is Gold to help children and families facing pediatric oncology, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/all-that-glitters-is-gold-tickets

A Thanksgiving reminder to enjoy what we have, where we are now - despite challenges By Linda Gregoire

Linda and John Gregoire
The following is a letter that the editor, Lorraine Glowczak, asked the author to share with our readers. The editor offers the following introduction to that letter:

As most of us busily prepare and shop for the traditional Thanksgiving feast, we also tend to hurriedly go about checking off the “to-do” list that is a mile long. Sometimes, between the demands of work, family and other community efforts, we can get swept up into all the stresses placed upon us, losing sight of things that we deem important; gratitude and gathering with family (in whatever way family looks for you).

Linda Gregoire of Windham recently shared a letter with her friends regarding her own life as she and her family prepare for Thanksgiving 2017. Although I suspect she does not need an introduction to most of our readers, here’s a little synopsis for those who may be new to the Gregoire family journey.

On December 17, 2007, Linda’s husband, John was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). According to the ALS Associations, ALS “is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. A-myo-trophic comes from the Greek language. ‘A’ means no. ‘Myo’ refers to muscle, and ‘Trophic’ means nourishment – ‘No muscle nourishment.’ When a muscle has no nourishment, it ‘atrophies’ or wastes away. ‘Lateral’ identifies the areas in a person's spinal cord where portions of the nerve cells that signal and control the muscles are located. As this area degenerates, it leads to scarring or hardening (‘sclerosis’) in the region.” www.alsa.org

This hardening and atrophy eventually affects the muscles in the mouth and throat, making the ability to eat for the person with ALS difficult or non-existent. As a result, feeding tubes are put in place to provide the nourishment needed. Five years after his diagnosis, John was required to use a feeding tube.
Linda and John agreed to share her note with our readers on how they will enjoy their Thanksgiving feast in the midst of the challenges ALS presents. 

May the following letter provide a reminder to us all, no matter our own individual difficulties, to be joyful, happy and most importantly – grateful- despite it all.

“I was asked yesterday by the caretaker who installed a new tube feeder how we handle holidays that are celebrated with food. We all want to do whatever we can for our loved ones with a feeding tube to make life easier and normal, so I really appreciated her thoughtful question.

The last 10 Thanksgivings we’ve been faced with small incremental changes that we’ve adapted to because that’s what you have to do with ALS. I always say, ‘if you don’t go with the flow, you get caught in the rip tide.’ If anyone has had the experience of a rip tide you know what I mean - the more you try to fight it, the worse it gets. If you trust and swim in the flow, you’ll be safe. 

So, this morning after I started John’s feed and he fell asleep peacefully while his tummy was being filled, I realized how at peace he is with his current situation. In the beginning with his new tube, we struggled until we got him on a healthy formula. He still ate for pleasure by mouth, so a bowl of pistachio ice cream was eaten while formula was finding its way into his tummy. He had the best of both worlds.

I think the two saddest days for him was when he could no longer eat steak, one of his favorite meals. That came early on, as it’s so hard to chew. 

The next saddest day happened about a year ago when John would sneak a hand cut French fry when Matt [our son] and I ate at Elevation Burger. He choked so bad I almost thought of calling for help. However, once the choking passed he looked at me and shock his head ‘no.’ I asked, ‘No more for now, or no more forever?’ Tears welled in his eyes and I knew - no more forever. We both cried. 

The one thing he still can take by mouth and never chokes on is a small piece of communion bread and a sip of “wine” (grape juice) at church and, God willing, he’ll be able to forever. 

The families' dogs are thankful, too.
So as Thanksgiving approaches, it made me think how we’ve handled the holiday meal. We gather at my sister’s with as many family, friends and dogs as we can squeeze into her home - which can be 20-25 people and up to 9 dogs. 

The food has been mostly grown and raised by my sister and brother-in-law, which is a labor of love. It’s prepared with everyone in mind with oyster stuffing for some and regular stuffing for the rest of us. We all share in bringing what we can, enjoy each other’s company and catching up on life. Then we gather at the table, elbow to elbow and we remember our family that’s with us in spirit and give thanks for those we still have with us to love. 

John is seated at the table with his own spot and place card as he enjoys his ‘dinner’ too. He’s the only one allowed his electronic device because it’s for speaking and he’s the self-appointed one to keep track of the football game for the entire table. That’s as important as cooking the turkey.
We chat, pass food, laugh and, of course, we eat. 

http://betheinfluencewrw.org/index.htmlThanksgiving Dinner is more about who’s around the table then what’s on the table. We feed our bodies and enjoy the food but more importantly, we feed our souls with love and thanks for all we have. 

So, for all our tube feeders, join in the feast and give thanks and feed your soul on love and life. This is what I’m grateful for everyday of the year, not just the days of November. Happy Thanksgiving to you all and God bless you all.” Linda Gregoire

Editor’s note: As we enter the holiday season of giving, please remember to give a financial contribution in the amount that works for you on “Giving Tuesday”, November 28. Give a donation to your favorite non-profit organization or consider giving to John and Linda’s non-profit, Hope-JG. Hope-JG is dedicated to helping families living with ALS and other neuromuscular diseases, live life to its fullest by leveraging existing world class technology, supporting technical innovation and biomedical research. www.hope-jg.org.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Jordan-Small Middle School “adopts” a school hit by the hurricanes in the U.S. Virgin Islands by Jennifer Davis

The Sprauve School prior to hurricane damage
This year has brought with it many devastating storms that have affected many parts of our country. One area that was hit especially hard was the Virgin Islands. Although the storm itself is gone, these areas still need help to recover. Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond is offering that help by “adopting” the Julius E. Sprauve School on the island of St. John in the United States Virgin Islands. 
 
The Sprauve school is home to 350 students, grades K-8.  During Hurricane Irma, the Sprauve School was heavily damaged. The damages worsened when Hurricane Maria passed through the island a week later. The school was so damaged, that the students had to miss over a month of classes while the school made repairs. As of today, the school has reopened but the students must do split sessions, as parts of the school still remain unusable. Of the damages, many if not all of the school supplies were destroyed.

https://www.facebook.com/Hole-in-the-Wall-Studioworks-287969967880120/?fref=tsRandy Crockett, Principal at Jordan Small Middle School along with Kelly Crockett and another colleague wanted to find a way to help. Having visited St. John on several occasions, Randy and Kelly Crockett had a personal interest in helping. “We wanted [to] find a way to let the staff at the Sprauve School know that people are aware of their needs; that they had not been forgotten,” Crockett said. 

After some work, the Jordan-Small Middle School Guidance Counselor was able to connect with someone at the Sprauve School to get the process going to adopt the school and help supply the school with much needed materials and supplies for the students. “Our goal is to have a box of supplies with notes from our students [delivered] to each of the classrooms at the Sprauve School before the holidays,” Crockett said.

Each year, Jordan-Small works on community service activities, and this year adopting the Sprauve
Sprauve School after hurricane damage
School is going to be the main event. The fifth graders at Jordan-Small are going to be at the heart of the project. The students have already made signs to promote the adoption of the school and they will play an integral part in sorting the supplies donated.  

As mentioned, the goal for Jordan-Small is to have a box of supplies delivered to each classroom before the holidays. The biggest struggle they are currently facing is getting these supplies to the Sprauve School.  

As of right now, they must choose between a very costly delivery or a very long delivery time.  The staff at Jordan-Small is looking for suggestions that will make the shipping of these supplies get to the staff and students in a timely, cost effective manner.

Jordan-Small Middle School will be accepting donated supplies as well as monetary donations through December 8th. Items to be donated can be brought directly to the Jordan-Small Middle School.  

Monetary donations should be made payable to the Raymond PTO and mailed directly to the Middle School at 423 Webbs Mills Road, Raymond, ME.  

If you have any questions on the items needed, please email Randy Crockett directly at rcrockett@rsu14.org.  

https://www.egcu.org/loansThere will be another opportunity to donate in the future through Raymond Elementary School in January.  “It’s all geared toward the kids,” Crockett states. “We want to make sure that Sprauve School knows that they have not been forgotten.”

Be The Influence: A village that works together can move mountains by Lorraine Glowczak

Local youth have an active role in Be The Influence
It’s an African proverb that has gained popularity since the mid-1990s from the book title of the same name, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Be The Influence, a Windham/Raymond collaboration of individuals and organizations that work together to reduce substance abuse in the community is a successful example of that proverb.
 

The concept of Be The Influence (BTI) began in March 2014 as a group of Windham and Raymond community members joined forces to raise awareness and address the concerns of substance use and abuse. As a result of the Drug Free Community Federal Funding, the BTI coalition was officially formed and began to focus its attention on the youth within the community.

https://www.schoolspring.com/search.cfmThe BTI vision is to provide support and resources to students as well as communicate a consistent drug-free message, assuring students that they live in a community that cares about them.
The coalition is comprised of various members of the community that include: RSU14 staff and teachers, local law enforcement, town council members, the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, prevention and counseling organizations, libraries as well as community and business organizations. 

Coalition members join forces because they want to make a difference and influence youth in positive ways.

“We work collaboratively to educate, engage and motivate the youth in making wise decisions and practicing healthy behaviors,” stated Laura Morris, BTI Director. 

Laura Kulaw, otherwise known as L.K., is a Heath Teacher at Jordan-Small Middle School and one of the many coalition members who also acts as a youth resource representative. She feels passionate about being a positive adult role model. “I believe kids need positive role models and direction,” stated L.K. “There is a lot of conflicting and misinformation out there regarding drug use and I want to help them sort it out with accurate facts.”
https://www.lifetimedentalhealth.com/
L.K. also stated that she enjoys educating students and having them get involved to make a difference too. “If we can educate and give them an active role, they can speak to their peers about the effects of substance abuse.”

Aimee Senatore, Executive Director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce (SLRCC) is also an active coalition member. “I am personally involved because I have young children nearing the middle school age and want to do my part,” Senatore explained. “I want to not only educate myself but empower myself and my children with the knowledge and skills we need to be a healthy and happy family. Professionally, it is part of the SLRCC’s mission to foster strong communities within the towns we represent. Protecting our youth from substance abuse has a direct impact on the quality of the workforce in the years to come and the health of our communities as a whole.” 

Windham Police Department Patrol Captain, Bill Andrew is also part of the BTI coalition. Andrew participates because he wants to collaborate with others in the community, providing a positive and consistent message to the youth. “As a police department, we want to provide the same message on the street that is provided in the classroom and beyond,” explained Andrew. “To do that, we work collaboratively with BTI and have police officers and drug experts speak to students on an interactive level in their Health Classes. It’s important for the students to see and speak to the officers on a personal level on issues such as drugs without feeling threatened.” Andrew encourages students to make wise decisions and to consider the long-term effects of drug and alcohol use. “Using drugs will affect a student’s academic success as well as their athletic abilities and other favorite extracurricular activities,” Andrew stated. “I encourage them to think about their future, three to five years from now, and where they hope to be. It is very important that they understand the impact drugs have on their brains.” 

Although there are many conflicting thoughts surrounding drug, and specifically marijuana use, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that marijuana use among teenagers and the effect it has on their developing brain is of major concern. The American Psychological Association (APA) confirms Andrew’s statement regarding the use of mind-altering drug use and the developing brain.

Most experts agree that the fully developed brain occurs around the age of 25 (some say 21). As a result, the brain is still “under construction” and studies indicate that drug and alcohol use have an effect on that developing brain.

According to the APA, marijuana shows some promise for treating medical conditions. However, “At least some of those benefits are thought to come from cannabidiol, a chemical component of the marijuana plant not thought to produce mind-altering effects. But there's a lot left to learn about this and other chemical compounds in marijuana. What's clear, however, is that marijuana's signature high comes from a psychoactive component known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). And evidence is mounting that THC is not risk-free.” www.apa.org/monitor/2015/11/marijuana-brain.aspx

The above study also indicates that, “heavy marijuana use in adolescence or early adulthood has been associated with a dismal set of life outcomes including poor school performance, higher dropout rates, increased welfare dependence, greater unemployment and lower life satisfaction.”
http://www.windhampowersports.com/ 
There are many ways one can get involved and make a difference in the life of the Windham/Raymond youth. “It’s a community effort,” Andrew stated regarding the importance of becoming a coalition team member. “From the Police Department to the school board to various businesses – it takes all of us to make a healthy community.”

Any individual or organization can become a coalition member. All it takes is a passion to make a positive impact, no matter your area of expertise. “It takes a village, and anyone can make a difference,” Morris said. “Your expertise and interest can move mountains.”

To learn more, check out the BTI website at www.betheinfluencewrw.org or contact Morris at director@betheinfluence.org.