Friday, April 20, 2018

The multi-faceted life of a local entrepreneur and philanthropist by Lorraine Glowczak

Misty Coolidge
The first paragraph in a newspaper article most often identifies the who, what, when, where, how and why to introduce the major details of the subject. In this case, the who is Misty Coolidge. 

To address the other five topics requires a novel length composition in Coolidge’s circumstance and cannot be captured in one sentence or identified in a 500-word article. However, much like Coolidge, we are always up for a challenge and will do our best to capture this entrepreneur and philanthropist’s unique energy, style and contribution to her community.

Many recently married couples know Coolidge through her farm and barn wedding venue, Coolidge Family Farm located in New Gloucester, co-owned with her husband Peter. Her mother, step-father, aunt and cousin also help in this family owned business.

Coolidge is all hands on when it comes to helping the newlyweds have their dream wedding. “Despite my dream of having a barn wedding of my own, we discovered that our budget was not going to allow for it, so one of the reasons for starting this adventure was to provide a beautiful venue at an affordable price and provide as much as I could to my couples to ease the stress of planning and making a budget work,” explained Coolidge.
In her bartending role

Others may know or have worked with Coolidge through her bartending enterprise, Maine Mixologist, LLC. Besides offering this service at the Farm, you can find Coolidge and/or her 15 qualified bartenders at other venues in multiple locations from Kennebunkport to Stockton Springs and beyond. To keep the family vibe, her sister and cousin are two of her bartenders.

If operating two businesses wasn’t enough to keep this mother of three small children (under three) busy, she somehow finds time to follow her love of history and historical preservation.
Coolidge recently purchased and is in the process of renovating the Old Baptist Church, 16 Shaker Road in Gray. This church was once the home of an antique shop that included an apartment over the shop and church owner, Victor Downs. 

“I have always loved the quaint beauty of that church,” Coolidge said. “I knew one day I would purchase that building to preserve its historical beauty and make it an alternative location for my wedding customers in case of inclement weather. I also want to make the chapel available for other local venues, for networking events, family gatherings, bridal showers and dinner parties to name just a few possibilities.”

After the passing of Downs, Coolidge reached out to his family after they put their father’s home and antique shop on the market. “They were very happy about my interest in preserving the church,” Coolidge stated. “They said that their father would have been very pleased with my desire to keep the building intact instead of demolishing it to make room for a parking lot, which was its destiny.” The church renovation will be completed early this summer and an open house will take place.
When Coolidge is not running two businesses, raising a family, making bride’s dreams come true and restoring history, she does as much as she can to give back.  Her passion for service began at Husson College where her sorority’s dedication to community service fueled her passion to help others. One way she hopes to open some doors and really make a huge difference was in her decision to run for Mrs. Maine and help fight hunger. Two years ago, she competed for Mrs. Maine America where she placed 3rd out of 18 wonderful women. Then she took a year off to add a third child to their family, but she is back at it competing for a more community service-based organization, Mrs. Maine International. Currently holding the title of Mrs. New Gloucester, she’ll be competing with 5 other amazing women this Sunday, April 22nd at the Crooker Theater in Brunswick.

The pageant and the organization highlight married women, their accomplishments and commitment to family and marriage, while promoting their individual passions. The contestants’ passions are funneled into fundraising efforts to help meet the needs of others or non-profit organizations.

“My platform is fighting hunger,” Coolidge explained about her role as Mrs. New Gloucester. “I have raised funds and continue to raise funds for area food pantries including the New Gloucester Food Pantry. On May 6, I will host the second annual Running of the Brides 5K at Coolidge Family Farm. Most people, both men and women, will run in wedding dresses.” The money raised from this event will go toward Good Shephard Food Bank.  

In addition to family and friends, couples who are booked at the Farm for 2018 and 2019 are invited to raise money toward the cause as well. The couple who raises the most will get $500 off their venue or other services. 

This impressive list of accomplishments does not end here. Coolidge will also be running as a democrat for House District 65 (New Gloucester and parts of Poland.) Being a relative of Calvin Coolidge, lover of history and politics, and a passion for doing what’s right and good are in her blood. “I believe in small country values and I am against big business in politics. It is my goal to participate in civil discussion with both parties and to get matters resolved for my neighbors. It’s all about serving them.”

One would assume that a woman this successful, passionate, giving and who is a relative of a former U.S. President would have been born with a silver spoon. This is not the case. Coolidge explains: “My mother raised three children as a single mother. Despite her hard work, she still needed to utilize State services and utilized the ‘free lunch’ program at school.  I guess that's where my passion for helping the local food pantries comes from. Not that we went hungry, but the statistics on those that do (1 in 5 school children) makes me want to help all those other single moms or families who do not have enough to eat at home”. 

It seems Coolidge found the skills to follow her dreams and passions. But instead of focusing solely on her own needs, she has stopped, reflected and reached back to grab the hands of others so that they, too, can live to their fullest possibility.

Library Open House revealed exciting new updates to better serve the community by Lorraine Glowczak

Children's Librarian Laurel Parker shows off new infant dpace
The Windham Public Library staff and town officials invited the community to a “Grand Reopening” Open House that included a large spread of refreshments on Thursday, April 12 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to celebrate the recent library renovations. 
The event began with a welcome and opening remarks by Library Director, Jen Alvino and Town Manager, Tony Plante to a crowd of approximately 35 to 40 library patrons who were eager to see the new updates.

Alvino expressed her gratitude to both the public for their understanding and patience during the renovation process, as well as to the Town Council and Town Manager for their support. Alvino pointed out that the new library renovations contributes extensively to better serve the community needs now and in the future. 

She also shared her appreciation of the library staff. “The renovation process would not have been as successful without the amazing staff’s excitement and ability to adapt to constant changing circumstances.”

Plante also expressed his admiration of Alvino and the staff’s ability to keep the library operating during the updates and the frequent changes with perpetual moving parts. “It was like playing library Tetris,” he began. “The staff’s excitement and upbeat attitude was nothing short of amazing.”

Deanna.Bragan@GorhamHouse.comThe many improvements that help better service the community include one larger circulation desk instead of two. The new desk is on the first floor to accommodate all areas of the library and it comes with an additional work room space. 

Jennifer Dupree, Circulation Supervisor is very happy with the new expanded circulation desk. “With the work room, we now have the space to store returns until either a staff member or a volunteer can return them back to the shelves, creating more space and efficiency.”

There is also a new counter area behind the circulation desk which provides the space for processing and delivery. This updated feature now expedites the delivery of books, CDs and other library materials to the patrons more efficiently. 

Children and teens are also benefiting from the renovations. The children’s room now includes and dedicates a space for infants and operates with a new, easy to follow system.

McKenzie Crossman in the new teen study space
“We now have a color coding system,” explained Laurel Parker, Children’s Librarian. “The colors correspond to the age of the reader. This gives the space a much more orderly flow and makes it easier for the young patron to find what they are looking for.”

Parker also pointed out that the beautiful mural of Babb’s Bridge on the east wall is now in full view. Prior to the renovations, the painting was partially hidden due to shelving. “People are seeing the mural for the first time,” Parker said. “It’s been there for a while but no one could see it until now.” 

The second floor got a few of its own facelifts including a Maine Collections Room that comes with a table and four chairs for study, as well as a high back executive chair for reading. Another addition includes two private study rooms that can hold up to 4 or 5 people at one time.
Teenagers enjoy the new computer space to work on homework improved second floor also comes with a quiet study corner just for teens as well as a table with four computers. “I come here after school often and wait for my dad to pick me up,” began McKenzie Crossman, who used the corner study space to get some of her assignments done before spring break began. “I really like that we [teenagers] have our own space to study and it makes me look forward to coming here. I also like that we can hang out with friends in this new space.”

The three-hour open house was a success, with a steady stream of library patrons, including many of the Windham delegation, to look at the library’s makeover and the new services it is now able to offer.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Windham Middle School participates in engaging and exciting learning methods by Lorraine Glowczak

The students at Windham Middle School (WMS) will participate in Project Based Learning (PBL) from now until the end of the year. PBL is an energizing, inspiring and student-centered mode of educational discovery that includes subjects in the humanities, math, English language arts, science and data analysis. 
“The teachers understand they are required to meet certain standards and criteria,” began Principal of WMS, Drew Patin. “With Project Based Learning, they deliver these educational expectations in an engaging, compelling and exciting way. Often, the students have so much fun, they don’t realize they are learning something important in the process.”

Each grade level and classroom will work on a specific topic. The projects’ learning process will include interviews, field trips, speaking with a panel of experts in their field of study, as well as building and maintaining specific project designs as it relates to their topic. There will be guiding questions, kick-off events and final products for the required learning outcome. Part of that learning outcome will be shared with the community via print media, including The Windham Eagle newspaper.
The various topics of which the students will participate include the following:

·         Students working with veterans to understand the history of wars, the qualities of a hero, and the sacrifices and contributions made by those who served.

·         Students taking an active role of environmental scientist by constructing an argument supported by evidence that explains the negative effects of pollution in water.

·         In the topic “Be the Voice: Giving a Voice to those that are Voiceless in the Face of Adversity,” students will choose an adversity that the Earth faces due to human factors. They will research this topic to explain implications of this problem and make suggestions for change.

·         Students will learn about the opioid epidemic in Maine by researching its impact on the state and devise solutions to improve Maine’s future.

·         For the “Dam It” projects, students will provide an evidence-based position/opinion on the removal or continued use of a dam on the Presumpscot River.

Last year's class helping with the PWD
·         A team of students will facilitate a project in which they will work collaboratively to become informed and opinionated citizens about controversial renewable energy sources.

·         Another project will engage a team of students in a project where they will develop answers to the following question: “What makes a sustainable community?” 

·         A group of music students will discover ways to make music more accessible to all students in the RSU14 district.

Other projects will look at heart disease, vaping, cultural awareness, hydroponics and how to make a change in democracy.

Each teacher determined the subject matter, based upon their students’ interests. “We wanted to choose a topic that was relevant to our area (community) and many of our students live near or frequent Sebago Lake and other local bodies of water,” explained sixth grade teacher, Cory Didonato, whose group project is entitled, “How Dirty is Our Water?”.

Patin stated that in his experience with PBL, the conversations among students changes from ‘What show did you see last night?’ to ‘What subject and expedition will you be participating in?’.
“Project Based Learning gets kids excited about education,” explained Patin. 

https://www.egcu.orgDidonato agreed. “Project Based Learning is inquiry-based which makes the learning more relevant for students. It allows them to tackle real world issues which makes for deeper learning and - hopefully - enjoyment. We enjoy it because we get to see students excited and motivated to make a difference in the world around them.”

Not only do the students get excited about the learning process, but PBL is beneficial to the teachers. “I have found that the teachers are recharged with this style of teaching,” Patin said.

It won’t be long when the students and teachers of WMS will share their excitement for learning with the community. Be on the look out in future editions of The Windham Eagle, as the students share their learning outcomes with our readers.

“This is an opportunity to improve the students’ work,” stated Patin. “They are aware that not only will their teachers see their completed assignments, but others will see what they have done, too.”