Friday, September 14, 2018

Make Shift Coffee House to offer food, music and good old-fashioned civic conversation

What good old fashion conversation looks like
We've always had people in our lives that disagree with us - and us with them. But in recent years, disagreements have grown and chasms have developed; not only within our communities but among friends and between family members as well. It might be safe to say we’ve all become tattered and worn by a lack of civil discourse and a breakdown in communication where the desire to appreciate our differences has all but escaped us.

It is true that our upbringing and environment shapes us and our beliefs. Learning a little about someone’s life can help us to understand one another and accept our differences – and thus potentially changing the course of civility.

Seeking to understand another’s perspective and to learn from each other is the purpose of the Make Shift Coffee House to be held on Thursday, September 27 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Windham Veteran’s Center, 35 Veterans Memorial Drive in Windham (behind Hannaford’s and Reny’s shopping center). The theme for the event is “Exploring the Political Divide.”

Briefly, a Make Shift Coffee House is an event where people have an opportunity for good old-fashioned civic dialogue while enjoying good food and great music. The occasion provides a chance to ask questions and to hear another’s perspective in a safe and fun environment. It’s not about persuading each other; it’s about coming together with the desire to understand and the willingness to listen and learn.

Make Shift Coffee Houses have been popping up in various communities across Maine for the past 18 months and is the concept of Craig Freshley of Good Group Decisions, Inc. According to the website, Freshley, a professional facilitator, stated that he was troubled by the growing political divide and the growing lack of civility in political conversations. As a result, he hosted the first Makes Shift Coffee House event in January 2017 in his hometown of Brunswick in an effort to help bridge that political divide. The event was so successful, volunteer members of other Maine communities have joined Freshley to provide a positive opportunity for conversations with others who have different perceptions.

To follow in the footsteps of that success, seven local community individuals from various political and philosophical perspectives have been working together for the past five months to give Raymond, Windham and other Lake Region residents the same chance to seek understanding with the hope of bridging the gap and returning to civil discourse.

Gary Wittner
The event will begin with music provided by Gary Wittner of Raymond and food donated by area businesses with an opportunity to meet and greet one another. This will be followed by a group discussion, led by Freshley who will manage a civil exchange of ideas as a neutral third party. Questions that may be considered include:

·         How does the political divide affect your everyday life?
·         What are the political differences that divide us?
·         If you affiliate with a particular political party, why?
·         If you feel strongly about a political issue, why?

Individuals in attendance will get a chance to voice topics that they deem important for discussion. Topics will be selected and discussed at individual tables, of which attendees will choose to participate in the issue of their choice. Freshley will bring the smaller groups back together for a large group dialogue to capture a larger viewpoint and to end another successful Coffee House discussion.

Gary Plummer of Windham who is a retired teacher and former elected official, is one of the volunteers who worked to host this Make Shift Coffee House. Being positive and giving back is important to him. “My nearly four decades serving as a local, county and state elected official was a hobby that provided me a chance to give back to a society that has given me so much,” he stated. “I signed on to the Makeshift Coffee House because I see this as a way to help spread and continue a positive outlook on life.” Duffy of Raymond who is a founding member of Raymond Arts Alliance and is a practicing clinical counselor as well as an adjunct faculty member at Central Maine Community College has also volunteered her time toward creating this event. She believes civil, face-to-face discussion is important.Civil dialogue takes the print and visual media, their need for simplification (and to sell their product) right out of the equation,” she said. “I see this [event] as needed more than ever. Our challenges seem more complicated than ever, and we can cocoon in our own likeminded communities and get nowhere forever. We really need to be more interconnected; everybody knows different things that contribute to the whole.”

To learn more about the Make Shift Coffeehouse, visit or call 207-729-5607.

About the musician:
Guitarist Gary Wittner has been performing worldwide for over 30 years. He has released several CDs and officially represented the USA overseas four times. A native New Yorker, Mr. Wittner performs Jazz, Latin music, and Middle Eastern music locally, regionally and internationally.  He also teaches guitar at Bowdoin College and is a faculty member of the Univ. of S. Maine School of Music.

About the Make Shift organizing committee:
In addition to Plummer and Duffy, the other volunteer members of the organizing committee include: Frank Pecoraro of Raymond, owner of Mulberry Farm. Nancy Foran of Raymond, Pastor of the Raymond Village Community Church. Marie Guerin of West Kennebunk, member of the Raymond Village Community Church. Lorraine Glowczak of Windham, Managing Editor of The Windham Eagle newspaper; and Sheila Bourque of Raymond, President of the Raymond Village Library.

Speaker tells story of how minor ailment saves him from the tragedy of 9/11 by Lorraine Glowczak

Donato Tramuto
September 11, 2001 is a date that will never be forgotten by those who witnessed and experienced the tragedies that occurred in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. Much like any unforgettable catastrophe, everyone remembers that day with clarity. There are also many stories of near misses - seemingly insignificant events – that resulted in a life saved. For some, it was oversleeping and arriving late to their office on the 105th floor, for others it was missing the subway bound for the Trade Center, and yet for others it was an error in flight scheduling.

For Donato Tramuto it was a toothache.

Tramuto, the CEO of Tivity Health, Inc., told his story and explained the purpose for establishing the Tramuto Foundation to a crowd of students, faculty and eight non-profit partners (2018 Tramuto Foundation recipients) at the Stone House on the St. Joseph’s College Campus for a breakfast and commemorative event on Tuesday, September 11 from 8 9:30 a.m.

The morning began with a welcome and opening prayers by President James Dlugos, who has worked closely with Tramuto on other projects over the past three years.

The purpose of the event was to not only gather and commemorate the tragic losses of the terrorist attacks but to recognize the grant recipients of the Tramuto Foundation. A foundation established in memory of two close friends of Tramuto and their son who lost their lives aboard flight 175 on September 11th. The foundation provides scholarships to underprivileged students, as well as providing grants to organizations whose mission it is to better the lives of others.

Two Maine organizations, Saint Joseph’s College and the Good Shepherd Food Bank are this year’s recipients as well as Boston University School of Public Health, Thomas Jefferson University – Jefferson College School of Population Health, Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Health eVillages and Lwala Community Alliance.

After his introduction by Dlugos, Tramuto told an attentive and quiet audience that he was scheduled to be on United Flight 175 from Boston to Los Angeles, a weekly flight he often took from his home in Ogunquit to California where he was busy creating a healthcare company. weekend prior to the tragedy, he and his partner Jeff were the host to two close friends from California and their three-year-old son. “It was the most beautiful September sunny weekend,” he recalled. “We laughed, we ate, and we enjoyed watching three-year old David as he played and explored, begging ‘just five more minutes’ so he could capture more time before he went to bed. At the end of the day, while sitting on the patio, I raised a glass to toast the perfect weekend. I said, ‘It will never be as great as it is right now,’” After choking back tears he continued, “I will never be able to use those words to toast again.”

Tramuto was scheduled to fly back with his friends and their son on that fateful day, but a toothache caused him to change flight plans so he could visit his dentist in Boston. His friends and their son continued their flight to L.A. as planned. It was the plane that hit the South Tower at 9:03 a.m.

As with many whose lives were spared during this devastating tragedy, Tramuto explained the depth of his anger and guilt he felt during this time. To funnel the intense emotions, he decided to create a living tribute in his friends’ memories, creating the Tramuto Foundation to show there is still good that exists in the world.

When asked what advice he might have for others who face such misfortune and heartbreak, Trumato offered two pieces of guidance. He stated that adversity and challenge can create an opportunity for understanding and compassion. “Do you want to remain bitter and hateful?” he stated. “Evil and hatred does not solve anything. Instead, use the experience for good.”

He stated that by choosing to take the road towards compassion, it changed his life. “I feel like I’m living my calling now. It’s not about my career or material things – it is about compassion toward others. I’ve done more in the past 17 years than I did the first 45 years of my life.”

The last piece of advice he offered is something he stated all great leaders of our time have done at least once in their lives. “Search right down to the core of your being,” Trumato stated. “Find out who you are and what you will do with that.”

He also shared his concern regarding the present political divide. “My biggest fear is 10 years from now, the country will be in a more challenging place,” he reflected “We lack compassion and unity for one another, which was the common denominator during the early days after the attack.”

Dlugos added to Trumato’s sentiments. “I call it ‘radical hospitality’ which goes beyond being tolerant of others,” he began. “If we can stop and take the time to get to know other people and be sensitive to their stories, it will help us to act in a more civil manner. It’s really hard to be uncivil to someone you know.”

Trumato added to his own statement, “Have we lost the lesson from 9/11?”

Following the breakfast and commemorative event, the 2018 foundation recipients transitioned into a private meeting to plan a 2021 20th Commemorative Anniversary Gala foundation fundraiser.

For more information about the Trumato Foundation, visit

Friday, September 7, 2018

Windham High teacher selected to teach financial literacy locally and nationwide by Matt Pascarella

Kelly-Anne Rush
Social Studies teacher Kelly-Anne Rush was one of the 24 teachers, out of over 200 nationwide, selected to attend the Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF) summer institute workshop in California and become an NGPF fellow this past summer. She will spend this school year advocating for and promoting financial literacy in Maine and across the nation in her role as both a classroom teacher and a fellow.

NGPF is a free high-school personal finance curriculum and professional development partner helping teachers deliver essential money understanding in an easy-to-grasp, engaging way. WHS (Windham High School) is one of the first schools in the state to have a specific financial literacy course requirement for seniors to graduate. Rush believes financial literacy is an important skill and all students should have access to high quality instruction in this area.

During the summer institute, Rush came away with a lot of new curriculum ideas but also ways to advocate for financial literacy education. She has used the free curriculum resources (lessons, videos, assessments) from Next Gen Personal Finance in some of her financial literacy classes and her students love them.

 My goal for the upcoming school year as a NGPF fellow is to not only continue to develop high quality, engaging lessons and activities for the students in my classroom but also to be an advocate for promoting financial literacy in Maine and across the country,” Rush stated. “I was very excited and honored to be chosen as a fellow and am excited to continue teaching and promoting financial literacy.”

Rush, a Windham native, has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. Her second-grade teacher, Mrs. Kelly Rich, was the real inspiration for choosing her career path. Rush credits the “American Girl book series and dolls for instilling her first love of history. Toward the end of high school, she had an extremely energetic U.S. history teacher, Mr. Terry Christy, who inspired her to teach social studies.
She earned her B.S. in Secondary Education from the University of Maine and then earned her master’s from the University of New England in 2007.

Her first teaching job was as a long-term substitute at Lake Region High School in Naples. That position turned into a full-time position and she spent 8 years there before coming to Windham High.
“I really love the community and school district, so I made it a goal to apply for a teaching job [in Windham] when I saw one open up,” Rush explained. “RSU14 offers a tremendous amount of resources, support, and programs for students and staff which makes it a great place to live and work.”

In addition to teaching full time, Rush runs a blog and Instagram account called ‘Crafty Teacher Lady’, focusing primarily on teaching resources as well as home design. She renovates and ‘flips’ houses and furniture, too, and is a bargain shopper, always looking for good deals. She loves to travel and makes an effort to go somewhere new every year, mostly in search of the ‘world’s best donut.’

Local students gain leadership skills, broader understanding of the world through HOBY programs by Elizabeth Richards

Emma Ward and Alexandra Hammond
Two high school students from Windham gained global perspectives and leadership skills at two Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) programs this year. Alexandra Hammond and Emma Ward participated in both the HOBY Maine weekend seminar in June and the HOBY World Leadership Congress (WLC) in July.  
After attending the state seminar, the girls were eligible to participate in the WLC. This year, the program was on the Loyola College Campus in Chicago. There, the girls spent a week with youth from around the world.

HOBY was founded in 1958 by actor Hugh O’Brian, best known for his role as Wyatt Earp, after he spent time in Africa with humanitarian Albert Schweitzer. HOBY’s mission, according to their website, is “to inspire and develop our global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service, and innovation.” More than 10,000 students participate in HOBY programs each year.

Both the state seminar and the WLC offered opportunities to develop critical thinking skills and discover the power that students have to make a difference in their communities.

The state seminar focused on learning about yourself and how you as an individual can help the community, Hammond said, while the WLC took a broader angle, showing students how, together, they could make an impact.  “It was a different take on the same idea,” Hammond said. 
Ward said, “The world [congress] showed us people from everywhere.”  This brought many different points of view, and many different issues to discuss, she added. “We all got together and helped each other.”

During the WLC, the girls learned about their specific leadership styles, and how people with different styles can work together. One of the most difficult aspects, said Hammond, was trying to understand the point of view of students who came from other parts of the US as well as other countries. Though this was a challenge, Hammond also said, “seeing other people’s perspectives was a big benefit.”

Ward said that it was difficult in the beginning to open up and talk to people.  Her group communicated via snapchat prior to the WLC, but the group time at WLC allowed them to connect on a deeper level.  “They say you make really good friends, lifelong friends, but you don’t really realize that until you actually get there,” she said.  “We’re still all talking, which is really nice. Having friends from all over the world is a good thing.”

Participating in HOBY was a great growth experience, Hammond said. “A lot of people are closed minded. Going into it I didn’t think about how closed minded I was but coming out of it I have all these new ways to think about things and ideas on what we can do,” she said.  Students had an opportunity to help each other talk through issues and share what happens in their own school systems.

Ward agreed that the experience offered a broader perspective. “It really just shows you the people of the world, instead of just from Maine, just from Windham,” she said.

The girls also enjoyed getting a glimpse into what a college experience might be like. “We were on campus with people our own age for a week, we had to do things on our own, and being treated like an adult was a good thing,” Hammond said.
HOBY programs extend beyond the weekend or week-long experience, asking students to bring what they’ve learned back into their communities. At the state level, they are asked to commit to completing 100 hours of community service in the year following the seminar. And at the WLC, Hammond said, they were challenged to up that to 250 service hours in a year.

One of the things Hammond would like to do is to work with her school administration to help students have a bigger say in changes that occur.

#HallImplementWard said she’d like to encourage Windham High School to select students to attend. “If you’re thinking about getting involved in your community but you don’t know what to do, this is a good way to learn what you could do for your community and what other people are doing for theirs,” she said.

Both girls are already busy, active students. Hammond participates in Key Club, and plays soccer, softball and basketball. She also volunteers at Windham Primary School sometimes, working with the special education department. She doesn’t have a lot of time, she said, but participating in HOBY showed her where she can combine passions and fit in more community service.

Ward said she doesn’t currently volunteer anywhere. “Going to HOBY showed me that I could,” she said.  She also is active in soccer, lacrosse, and this year will do indoor track.  

Both girls talked about becoming counselors for the state seminar. In order to do so, they have to complete their commitment of  those 100 hours of community service. “I think it would be a good opportunity if we can fit it into our schedules,” Hammond said.  
Attending the WLC was a commitment of both time and considerable expense. The girls had support from the community and their families to participate. Ward thanked Alternative Sprinkler Fire Protection and Birchwood Nursery School for their support, and Hammond thanked HR Block for their sponsorship.  Both girls also expressed gratitude for the numerous friends and family who supported their experience.