Friday, March 16, 2018

Windham Center Stage production of “Willy Wonka Jr.” delightfully whimsical by Elizabeth Richards

At the box office I was handed a golden ticket, which I took as a sign that the Windham Center Stage performance of “Willy Wonka Jr.” would be a fun and engaging experience from beginning to end. I was not disappointed. 
Willy Wonka played by Maggie Hancock

My experience wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the concession stand, which was laid out like an amazing sweet shop displaying a wide range of Willy Wonka style treats. This elaborate set up was a preview of good things to come - the sets throughout the show displayed the same whimsy and attention to detail.  

The first act moved quickly through the familiar story, introducing Charlie and his family, along with each golden ticket winner. Each character was portrayed in a way that highlighted their unique personalities and allowed the audience to fully understand them. The costumes and props nicely enhanced each scene, and the energy from each performer made up for the fact that at times it was somewhat difficult to hear from my position in the back. intermission, Act Two launched into the tour of the chocolate factory, moving from scene to scene with seemingly effortless set changes. The scenery showed great attention to detail, evoking the excitement and wonder that the tour participants were feeling - and the message each received when disobeying the rules. The show stays true to the original story while moving swiftly through each child’s challenges.  

The choreography was complex enough to be engaging and fun to watch, but simple enough to be well executed by the ensemble. The hard work and dedication of each and every cast member - as well as the adults who worked with them - was evident throughout the show.

“Willy Wonka Jr.” is an ambitious production and the Windham Center Stage didn’t disappoint! The show will run on weekends through Sunday, March 25th, with performances on Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.  Ticket prices are $10 adults, $8 students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased online at or at the door.

“Like Summer in a Jar” – The Maine-Tex Grilled Salsa story by Lorraine Glowczak

Bryce grilling tomatoes for the salsa
If there are individuals who can capture the spice of life in a jar, it is Windham residents, Stephanie Lay and her 17-year-old son Bryce, co-owners of Maine-Tex Grilled Salsa. The Lays, despite overwhelming odds and intense life challenges have found the recipe to success. 
If you have followed their story since their entrepreneurial endeavor began in 2014, you already know the details. Their salsa business – along with their unique lives – have been captured by local and national publications and television stations. And, as of this printing, the Lays are preparing for a documentary that will appear on Netflix. 

If this is the first you’ve heard of them; their story goes something like this:
Stephanie Lay of Texas, a single mother, discovered that her 2 ½ year old son had autism. “At 11:38 a.m. on Dec. 5, 2002, our lives change,” Lay recalls the day Bryce was officially diagnosed. 

Bryce’s experience with autism is on the “painful” portion of the spectrum. To express his frustration, Bryce would slam his body and head against walls, often creating holes in the walls at home. “He has hit his head against the wall, on average, 25 to 30 times a day,” Lay explained. “I have repaired 36 holes in our walls in our home so far. I have become quite good at sheetrock repair.” The anti-psychotic meds never seemed to help Bryce with the self-harming behaviors but more about that later.

A display at the Falmouth Hannafords
The Lays moved to Maine in 2007 with the inheritance her father gave to her. “I worked and lived in Maine in the mid-1990s, and I was impressed with how supportive people here were with one another. Being a single mom with a genetic history of cancer, I wanted to move to a place that was progressive and supportive, due to the fear that I could face the same genetic outcome that my mother and brother faced (both passed away from various forms of cancer when Stephanie was young). I have no immediate family that can be there for Bryce if I were to face my own cancer and mortality. I wanted to prepare him for a successful life alone in a supportive environment that I didn’t necessarily find in my home state of Texas.”

But it has often been stated, life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans. The inheritance that Stephanie was expecting to assist her in building a new life in Maine was quickly taken away, legally, by a former wife of her father, leaving her and Bryce in a financially stressful situation.
In addition to taking care of her son whose needs required her constant attention, Stephanie underwent a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She also had to have reconstructive surgery on her breasts while protecting Bryce during his self-harming episodes. She did get the gene for cancer, but she has been cancer free for five years. Between the costs of anti-psychotic meds to help Bryce and her own health issue, she was unemployed and penniless.

Having come from a wealthy family of hard-working entrepreneurs, being destitute was a first for Stephanie. “My grandfather, Buford Lay, is the third cousin of Herman Lay of the Frito-Lay business. Buford owned a machine making factory that made machines for companies like Frito-Lay.” 
Mom and son show their three salsa varieties

Stephanie’s father, a hands-on businessman, figured out how to repair those machines, writing “How To” guidebooks on restoring and refurbishing the aging machines. “My father would come home at the end of a long day with grease on his hands and face,” Lay recalls. “Then on the weekends, he would golf at the local country club. He was all hands-on and down to earth while at the same time, hanging out with the jet-set crowd on the weekends. Our lives were blessed.”

This is where Stephanie takes a deep and thoughtful breath. “I’m the first member of my family who has been on welfare. It has been the darkest period of my life,” she reflects on a time not too long ago. But Stephanie is one who takes the positive high road. “Now, I am thankful for what my dad’s former wife did because it has prepared me to be where I am now.”

“I have been making salsa for 14 years.” Stephanie began. “Bryce loves grilling his own dinner, so one day I added vegetables to the grill for my next batch of salsa. I just happened to post a picture on Facebook of Bryce grilling the vegetables. A friend responded that I should create a business and ordered a jar of salsa. Two weeks later, I had 109 orders, a patent attorney, and Maine State approval for a residential kitchen.” 

Entering their fourth year, the Lays are having a hard time keeping up with the orders. The Maine-Tex Grilled Salsa products can be found at 21 Hannaford Grocery Stores with twelve more stores in the process of being approved. They also provide their salsa at sixty-two specialty shops, four hotels, two resorts and at St. Joseph’s College in Standish.

The Lays also have an order on hold from an out of state company. However, there is one detail that prevents that sale – a commercial kitchen.

“Our next step is to purchase a commercial kitchen,” Stephanie said. She is working with a business and life coach, Nick Kalogerakis, who once owned the Texas Roadhouse chain of restaurants. “He is helping me with a business plan and we are preparing to find funding sources for the next step. I started this company with just $100 in my bank account, so I have faith that all will work out just fine.”

Stephanie and Bryce before a dance
One would believe this story of mother and son would end here, but there is more. Stephanie has created the SPECIAL Foundation for Autism. This organization was created in order to advocate, educate and alleviate some of the stresses of raising a child with autism. The hope is to help parents in Maine navigate their way through therapies, medications, legal rights and financial problems. Lay, who has stepped back from her role on the foundation, which is now in the leadership of Board of Directors, gives a portion of the proceeds to the organization. The foundation creates ways to employ one-on-one aides to work with the people with autism. As her business grows, Stephanie plans to hire people with autism to make salsa.

Bryce is doing well now, refraining from self-harming episodes, having only about five in the past five years. “I had to do something different.” Stephanie explained. “I feared for his safety and the meds they were giving him were not working. For Bryce, medical marijuana brownies and Marinol have been his saving grace.”

Stephanie is also thriving as she writes her own life story. The book, to be titled, “Routine Interrupted (Autism, Cancer, Hospitals and other Adventures)” is currently in the process of being written and edited.

This mother and son duo has certainly found success in Maine-Tex Grilled Salsa – all with a few simple ingredients. But they also have found the successful ingredients to living life well in the midst of unbearable circumstances. Those ingredients are commitment, determination, grit and love – the true spices of life. help the SPECIAL Foundation for Autism fund work programs, one can donate on the organization’s website at To make a donation towards a commercial kitchen for Maine-Tex Grilled Salsa, go to

Friday, March 9, 2018

Peace activist Father John Dear to speak on nonviolence by Elizabeth Richards

Father John Dear speaking in front of the White House
Father John Dear, priest, activist, author and lecturer, will be offering a full day workshop “Living a Nonviolent Life,” at Saint Joseph’s College from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 17, 2018. The event is sponsored by Pax Christi Maine, the Center for Faith and Spirituality at Saint Joseph’s College and Unity of Greater Portland. 
Dear has been working full time for peace and justice for over 30 years. As a very young man, he had a profound experience while hitchhiking through Israel just after they had invaded Lebanon. While visiting the Chapel of the Beatitudes by the Sea of Galilee he watched Israeli jets drop bombs a few miles away. That was a wake-up call, he said. “It had been going on the whole time, but I hadn’t really paid attention to the war, because who does?” he said. “I decided, I was 21, that I would spend the rest of my life on those teachings, the Sermon on the Mount, and that’s what I’ve done,” Dear said. befriended Daniel and Philip Barrigan, priests and activists who spoke out against the Vietnam War, and who became his teachers. He started organizing demonstrations and getting arrested regularly for civil disobedience against war and injustice. Dear also had many other formative experiences in the early 1980s, including going to El Salvador at the height of the war there, where he learned from Jesuit priests, who were later assassinated.

Dear has travelled to war zones all over the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan. He has served as the director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the largest interfaith peace organization in the US. After 9/11, Dear served as a Red Cross Coordinator of Chaplains at the Family Assistance Center. 

Dear helped draft Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message on nonviolence and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times, once by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Dear has given thousands of lectures across the country and the world on peace and nonviolence and has authored 35 books on the topic, including “The Nonviolent Life”.

The basis for his talk, he said, is a quote from the speech Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the night before his assassination, 50 years ago this April: “It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence.” Fifty years later, Dear said he sees this playing out in the culture of violence we live in.

Standing under the window of Nelson Mandela's jail cell
I’ve been trying to explain nonviolence all my life,” said Dear. He said there are three simultaneous things a person must do to reach the level of the great peacemakers: To be nonviolent to yourself; to be nonviolent to all human beings and all creatures on the earth; and to be part of the global grassroots movement of nonviolence. 

His workshop will have three parts, exploring those three attributes in greater depth to help people understand what each one means, and how they can be achieved.  “I’m going to encourage people to continue to be part of movements more than ever, to pick a cause and get involved or to join a movement now and realize that all the issues are connected,” he said. 

One big challenge among good people, Dear said, is that they don’t feel any hope. “A lot of people would say there really is no hope, the country is going down the tubes, and [along with] catastrophic climate change, and there’s nothing we can do. That’s the voice of total despair, that is not the voice of the peacemaker,” he said.  But an important teaching of Dr. King, which he wants to emphasize at the workshop is that the definition of hope is the final refusal to give up. “I think we have to rise to the occasion and do what we can,” Dear said.
In addition to the Saturday workshop, Dear will be preaching at the 10 a.m. service at Unity of Greater Portland on Sunday, March 18. He will also hold a workshop from noon to 2 p.m. at the church centered on his book, “The Beatitudes of Peace.”
For more information on Dear and his work, including his two new books, visit  For information on Campaign Nonviolence, a national week of action with over 2000 demonstrations and marches planned across the country in September, which Dear cofounded, visit

Changing lives while living a dream by Lorraine Glowczak

Turner poses in front of the Sierra Nevada range
William (Bill) Turner’s dream has been to bike coast to coast - across the U.S. to see the beauty this country offers close up, as well as meet its many people along the way. He has decided this is the year to make that dream come true. Turner will leave on Friday, June 1 from Portland, Oregon to travel 3,800 miles in two months and two weeks, arriving in Maine and the first, original Portland on Saturday, August 11.
Turner’s story, however, isn’t just about fulfilling a lifelong goal but in his effort to do so, he will help change the lives of those who face various disadvantages. Turner will participate in the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure which raises funds for The Fuller Center for Housing. He intends to raise $16,600 for the construction of homes for families in Haiti, Puerto Rico and wherever else the need is greatest.

Turner, who is from Harrison and a member of Windham’s Faith Lutheran Church, will join a multitude of other adventure seekers and philanthropists as they peddle their bikes 75 miles per day, taking one day off for rest and down time. The bicyclists stay in churches, school gyms and other places that open their doors, providing their floors for a night of sleep on blow up mats. 

In addition to their nightly stopovers, the participants will stop on designated build-days to construct or repair homes along the way. There will be five build-days in this year’s 70-day cross country journey.

Although it is Turner’s first coast to coast trip, he participated in last year’s Fuller Center’s bicycle adventure, peddling 1700 miles from San Francisco, CA to Santa Fe, NM. “I had to see if it was something I truly could do and wanted to do,” Turner stated. “Not only did I discover that I could bike across the country but more importantly, I determined it was the most uplifting experience I’ve ever had, and I desire to be with these people again.”
On that 1700-mile journey last summer, Turner met his personal fundraising goal of $11,000 which was enough funds to build and provide two homes for two families in Haiti.

Last year’s bike trip also provided Turner an opportunity to stop for one build-day in the Southwest. “We repaired windows and worked on various other projects for an individual who had Spina Bifida,” Turner said. “We did things for him that he was unable to do for himself. All the tools needed were supplied for us and we did the work.”

When asked why he chose the Fuller Center to fulfill a bucket list item, Turner stated it was an organization that makes a concerted effort not to misuse donated funds, meeting the needs of the less fortunate instead. “They don’t waste money,” Turner began. “Most of the food on this trip is donated and they hire limited staff to fulfil administrative duties. There is complete transparency and 95 percent of the funds raised go toward housing. Also, there is no hard-sale attempts to convert people to Christianity. Although I am a Christian myself, I believe there are many paths to know God.”, The Fuller Center for Housing is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry. The website states, “. . . we do not use the term Christian as a restrictive limitation of our approach. It is, in fact, just the opposite. Our supporters and volunteers do not have to be Christians, nor do our homeowner partners. We’ve built with Jewish and Muslim families in the United States, Hindus in India, Buddhists in Nepal. [We are] dedicated to eliminating poverty housing worldwide.”

The Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure changes lives, not only for those who are recipients of the Fuller Mission but those who ride and stop to help people along the way. “I have gained a bunch of new friends as a result of my participation last year,” explained Turner. “Of everything I have ever done in my life, this is a highpoint. If anyone has ever thought about doing something like this, I say ‘go for it.’”

To donate, go to Turner’s fundraising page at www.fullercenter.donorpages/2018BikeAdventure/WilliamTurner/ or send a check to The Fuller Center for Housing, Attention Bike Adventure, 701 S. MLK Jr. Blvd. Americus, GA 31719. Be sure to put “FCBA: Bill Turner” in the memo line.

To follow Turners bicycle adventure, go to his Facebook page at

For more information regarding The Fuller Center, visit their website at

Friday, March 2, 2018

RSU#14 leads in an Eggcellence School Menu Program by Jennifer Davis

On February 15, 2018, the Windham-Raymond School District Food Services Program, led by Jeanne Reilly, Director of School Nutrition, was named as the “2018 Eggcellence in School Menu-Innovation” Recipient by the American Egg Board. 
Throughout the country only 34 schools were nominated for this reward. “We were very surprised to win this award,” stated Reilly. “The American Egg Board had been following our presence on social media and the menu innovations that we highlight on our social media channels, led them to nominate us for this award.”
Healthy Foods Fuels Hungry Minds is the mission statement for the Windham-Raymond Schools Nutrition Program and the highly trained staff believes in and values this mission. They exhibit this every day in their daily activities by making sure all students have access to healthy nutritious foods.  

Reilly and her team work to create menus that are interesting with creative names and fun themed events, entertaining facts and delicious recipes, setting them apart from other schools. “We truly believe in social media marketing and we frequently post information and pictures and promotionals about our school meals across 3 social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter,” said Reilly. “We are incredibly fortunate to have a chef on staff who works alongside our staff and me - inspiring, training, developing recipes and working with students in the classroom and in after school activities.”

Reilly and her staff serve approximately 1000 breakfasts and 1800 lunches every school day, using approximately 500 or more eggs each week. The eggs are served in various forms including breakfast sandwiches, breakfast pizza, breakfast wraps, scrambled eggs and egg pops from a recent themed event surrounding the Super Bowl. has worked for RSU 14 for the past eight years. Last year, she was awarded the Katherine O. Musgrave Public Service Award for her work. It is very clear that Reilly is very passionate about what she does. “Our goal is to ensure that all children have access to healthy breakfast and lunch,” states Reilly. “We offer parents the extra assurance that the meals are fresh, healthy, whole grain and packed with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.”

“As a school system we are egg-cited to share that Windham-Raymond Schools Nutrition Program is in the recipient of this years “Eggcellence in Menu-Innovation Award,” states Sandy Prince, Superintendent RSU 14. “Thank you to the American Egg Board for recognizing Jeanne Reilly’s leadership efforts with providing creative and nutritious meals to all of our students. Jeanne’s vision strikes again whereby she is brilliant with taking a vision and creating the future of ‘greatness’ with RSU 14 School Nutrition Program.”

Congratulations, Jeanne Reilly, and staff on your hard work.

A local superintendent’s journey by Matt Pascarella

There is a twisting road of experiences one takes from that of an educator to the position of superintendent. Sanford Prince IV has been superintendent for RSU#14 since July 2003 and he shares the steps he took to be a leader in the Windham and Raymond communities. 

Prince graduated from Cape Elizabeth High School and attended the University of Maine at Farmington for Elementary Education and Special Education. He earned his master’s at the University of Southern Maine in Education specializing in School Leadership and became certified as a school administrator. 

Prince made Windham his first home in education in 1982 as the school’s first full time kindergarten special education teacher. He remained with the school until 1986, at which time he went to the Gorham school district as the Director of Special Education Services. While there, Prince also was both principal of an elementary school K-3 and Principal of the districts Kindergarten Center in Gorham and acted as the interim principal for the middle school principal for three years.
Around 2002, he became principal at Lyseth Elementary in Portland soon becoming Assistant Director of Educational Planning for the Portland School Department. Prince eventually returned to Windham in 2003 and became Superintendent of Schools. He stated that he enjoyed working in Windham previously and was interested in the work a superintendent would do.

Prince is responsible for six schools in the RSU #14 district: one high school, two middle schools, three elementary schools, an adult education program as well as the Katahdin Program which is a program within a school. 

Prince says being a superintendent is very rewarding and he enjoys being part of a team that makes a difference for students. “It’s extremely meaningful work when you’re really involved in making decisions that are best for students.” 

One of the hardest parts about being superintendent is budget cuts and losing staff. School safety is another issue that can be difficult to manage. “When it hits hard it can hit really hard . . . if something happens,” he explains. Prince believes having a positive attitude makes a big difference in the outcome of all events handled by his department.

“There’s a lot of moving parts within this organization - it’s inspirational, it’s exciting,” explains Prince. “I have a good team and that makes all the difference in the world. At the end of the day, I can say I’ve given it my best. My lens is always what’s best for students - and that’s what’s really important.”

In his free time, Prince is a ski instructor, as is his wife. They co-instruct students at Shawnee Peak on the weekends. He’s mindful of wellness and has run four road races in the past year. “It goes back to my scouting days - I just love being outdoors,” Prince said. He enjoys camping, biking, rollerblading and waterskiing as well as landscaping on his property.

Odd Fellows and Rebekahs offer camp scholarships to Windham youth by Lorraine Glowczak

The Rebekah and Oddfellows Organizations of Windham have three scholarships available for students in Windham between the ages of eight and 14 to attend Camp NEOFA in Montville, Maine for a one-week experience in July 2018. This scholarship is available for those who need financial assistance to be involved in a residential and summer camp much like their more advantaged friends and classmates.

To be considered is easy and simple. “All we require is a one paragraph sentence stating why you
wish to participate,” stated Janet Waterhouse of the Windham Pinea Rebekahs. “We want to provide an opportunity for low income students to have the same experience as those who are able to attend summer camps annually.”

Camp NEOFA (North East Oddfellows Association) is a co-ed camp that began in 1958 and is located between Augusta and Belfast. It was purchased to provide a residential camping experience to youth of all backgrounds. It sits on 115 acres of wooded land, fields and pine groves and provides 2,300 feet of water frontage for campers to swim and kayak. The camp offers 12 cabins, a nurse’s cabin, a mess hall, craft hall, volleyball court, baseball field, a paved sports yard and a recreation building.
There are a variety of activities available for the camper that include dance, archery, fishing, soccer as well as arts in a variety of forms. There is an activity available for every taste and preference.
Briefly, the Odd Fellows Association began as a concept in 17th Century England when life was and widowed mothers.
tough, unruly and dangerous. Typical life at that time included sickness, orphaned children

As their website explains, “Ordinary people from different trades and walks of life found it necessary to group together as brothers and sisters and contribute some of their hard-earned wages to a common fund which they could use for unfortunate times such as sickness, losing a job and even death. They would work together to help each other and the unfortunate families back on their feet, whether it was rebuilding a barn that had burned or putting in a new crop after a devastating season. Such (an) altruistic and friendly society came to be known as ‘Odd Fellows’ because it was odd to find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need and of pursuing projects for the benefit of all mankind. It was believed that they were ‘an odd bunch of fellows’ who would behave in such a selfless and seemingly impractical fashion. Odd Fellows are also known as ‘The Three Link Fraternity’ which stands for Friendship, Love and Truth.”

The Rebekahs was founded in September 1851 when it officially adopted women as part of their membership.
Their mission and purpose are still alive today, four centuries later, and it is for this reason the local
chapter wishes to provide for all youth an opportunity for growth and friendship with a summer camp experience.

As stated previously, to be considered for this camp experience, the youth must be between the age of eight and 14 and a Windham resident. The scholarship pays for the camp fee and provides a $20 per day stipend for spending money. It is required that all campers have a physical. For those families who do not have insurance, the physical will be paid for by the Rebekahs. Other financial needs will be considered and met upon discussion.

To apply for consideration, send your one sentence paragraph that answers the question as to why you wish to attend this summer camp opportunity to The Pinea Rebekah Lodge, PO Box 628, Windham, ME 04062. For more information call 207-892-8005.