Friday, January 18, 2019

100 years of customer service: Levinsky’s celebrates centennial

By Matt Pascarella

At one time or another, you’ve probably been in Levinsky’s on Route 302 in Windham. Whether you need a sweatshirt, pair of pants, winter clothing or some Patriots or Red Sox apparel, Levinsky’s has been serving the public for years. This April marks their 100th anniversary.

Owner Eric Levinsky’s grandfather, Jacob Levinsky, regularly brought military surplus items like blankets, buckets and clothing from Fort Williams to his barn on 8 Oxford Street in Portland and sold them to the public. The very first Levinsky’s opened in 1919 and that same store remained opened into the 1990s.

Eric Levinsky describes that first store, originally called New England Army Supply as the beginning of it all. “The roots that started that store in 1919 are the same ones that have moved it forward.” It evolved into a men’s clothing store, although early on it carried everything from basketballs to belts to firearms.
http://betheinfluencewrw.org/index.html
Eric describes his grandfather and grandmother as being conservative in their consumption and lifestyle, common for the era. In 1930, during the Depression, Jacob was able to sell a significant amount of army candles, similar to a tea candle, to the Hannaford Brothers during a big ice storm when all the power went out in the Munjoy Hill area. Jacob sold enough candles and made enough money to make it through the Depression.

After the popularity of the bellbottom pant in the 1960s and 1970s, Levinsky’s became a men’s and women’s clothing store instead of just a men’s clothing store. With so many new clothing styles and brands, Levinsky’s popularity skyrocketed in the late 1980s. Levinsky’s opened a store in Freeport on Route One, one in Brewer and in the Windham Mall. Unfortunately, over time the Freeport, Brewer and Portland locations had to close, but the Windham Mall location was very successful until business began to change in the mall. In 2005, Eric decided it would be better to move to their current location as a freestanding store on Route 302.

Eric started working for his father and grandfather in 1972 when he was 13 years old. When he turned 15, Eric began to take on a bit of a managerial role. He attended trade shows with his father and learned how and what type of merchandise needed to be purchased for the store. Eric saw the relationships his father made. He stated that building relationships is important, whether it be for business reasons or otherwise. He enjoys working with people and the sociability of talking with customers. Eric stated that he is especially interested in learning about customers and what products they are looking for and need.

Ad from 1985
Eric described his family as being well embedded in Maine. Often, customers come in and reminisce about past experiences or purchases. Eric said that these intimate connections made with people are so unusual and is what he enjoys about his job.

“Bigger stores could never provide that feeling of community, one-on-one, that we have had for a hundred years,” Eric explained.

“We appreciate our customers, we know our customers and we love our customers. We always put them first. There is always a Levinsky in the store; we try to do it right for our customers ... we have a big heart and care about people. If you want to talk to us, we definitely want to talk to you.”

Happy Anniversary, Levinsky’s!


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Strap on your snowshoes and get outdoors for a unique and exciting competition

photo courtesy of Maine Running Photos
By Lorraine Glowczak

When was the last time you ran a 100-meter dash or ran/walked a 5K? For those of you who have – that’s great news. Next question. When was the last time you did either (or both) in snowshoes? Intrigued and wondering how one can go about participating in such a sport?

Whether you have competed in this form of sporting event before or not, now is the time to either participate or try it for the first time right here in Windham. The Le Club Montagnard- Maine Snowshoers-Racquetteurs, which is collaborating with Windham Parks and Recreation, is offering this popular Franco-American event for those who love the great outdoors and wish to compete in a fun and challenging race that will occur on Saturday, February 9 at the Lowell Preserve at 47 Falmouth Road in Windham.

“Le Montagnard is the oldest snowshoe club in the United States,” stated Denise Tanguay of Windham. Tanguay, who is in her early 50s, along with her sister, Diane and brother, Danny have been members of the snowshoe club since before they could walk. Their father, Roland, was the president of Le Montagnard man’s section in the early years of its existence while their mother, Monique, was the president of the women’s section. Both parents were from Quebec where the original club began.

The Tanguay family lived and grew up in Lewiston where there was a large immigrant settlement from the French-Canadian Provinces. In the early years, as there is now among present immigrants, a level of discrimination and outcast was experienced. As a result, in the early 1920s up to and including the 1980s, the Franco-American population stuck together to support one another. One way they did that is through the sports club that also acted as a social support group.  

According to a Sun Journal article written by Dave Sargent and posted online on January 15, 2013, the Le Montagnard was founded by Louis-Philippe Gagne. “[He] stood just 5 feet, 1 inch tall and weighed 110 pounds, but he was a giant in the history of snowshoe clubs and Franco-American culture in this [Lewiston] city. As editor of “Le Messager,” Lewiston’s French newspaper, he wrote political commentary that was read throughout New England and Canada.

He was elected mayor of the city twice. In the early days of radio, Gagne hosted live broadcasts
called “L’Oeil” (The Eye) on WCOU, and he was responsible for bringing notable Canadian performers to Lewiston.

Two years after his arrival in 1922, Gagne had founded Le Montagnard, which was the first organized snowshoe social club in the U.S. It was named after Le Montagnard Club of Montreal, the first Canadian Club, formed in 1895. Lewiston’s Le Montagnard Club adopted the original club’s gray and scarlet uniforms, as well as the club’s motto, “Toujours joyeaux,“ meaning ‘always happy.’” www.sunjournal.com/2013/01/15/river-views-newspaper-editor-founder-le-montagnard-snowshoe-club.

Denise Tanguaay
Both a sport and a social gathering, the Le Montagnard of Lewiston continued the traditions of parades and events each winter that included colorfully uniformed members from many U.S. and Canada clubs. Many of the events were held in Lewiston.

“I remember playing the bugle in the parade we had each year,” recalled Tanguay. “It was imperative among the parade participants to have and wear as many snowshoes as possible. My dad made me wear snowshoes on my back while playing the bugle just so our club could have the most snow shoes in the parade. I always rolled my eyes. Now that I’m older, I understand his level of commitment and love for this group.”

What Tanguay and her siblings really enjoyed were the ice castles built every year. “Our family really enjoyed the ice castles built during the sporting competition,” Tanguay said. “The ice came in blocks from No Name Pond and we’d always be amazed at its creation.”
https://www.egcu.org/card
Tanguay’s father was so dedicated to the Le Montagnard club and the sport of snowshoe competition that he worked to make snowshoeing an Olympic sport. “I traveled with my father and
representatives from Canada to France prior to the 1992 Olympics to meet with the Olympic Committee to see if we could promote snowshoeing competitions as an Olympic sport,” Tanguay stated. “We discovered that at least three countries have to be involved to be a part of the Olympics.”
As far as attendance and membership in the United States, The Sun Journal article continued by stating, “From its charter membership of 30 members, Le Montagnard’s rolls grew to 1,000 members by 1950. The club built a large chalet at No Name Pond, and from those waters the ice was harvested for ice palaces constructed in downtown Lewiston for numerous snowshoe club conventions.”

Tanguay stated that at one point, snowshoe participation at the International Championships was up
to approximately 5,000 members. But after her father’s death, membership and participation significantly decreased. “When the last race and parade happened in February 7, 2015, my siblings and I knew we needed and wanted to continue this event and club as long as we could,” Tanguay reflected.

As a result, she hopes to make a comeback with this sport by having a race in collaboration with Windham Parks and Recreation.

Roland Tanguay
“While I am always excited about the opportunity to offer an additional recreational opportunity to our residents, I think that this event is particularly exciting due to the history involved with the Snow Shoe Club, as well as the importance of embracing our Maine winters,” stated the Director of Windham Parks and Recreation, Linda Brooks. “Lowell Preserve is one of Windham’s gems, yet many folks have not taken advantage of this wonderful trail network and holding an event there may bring people out who may not otherwise know it exists.”

To register for this event, visit the website at www.runinarace.com/MWPRSnowshoeChallenge/index.html

Sign up before January 24 and get a free t-shirt. The event will begin at 9:30 a.m. with check in and late registrations from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Along with the 5K run/walk open to all ages, there will be a 25-meter and 50-meter race for those 8 and under and 100-meter race is open for nine and over as well as a 200-meter for those 13 and over.

 For more information, contact Denise Tanguay or Diane Williams at montagnard@maine.rr.com.
The Lowell Preserve is over 300 acres of a forested conservation area that has over 8 miles of trails for all types of users from hikers to ATV users.

Whatever your endeavor in life, may you don a pair of snowshoes and toujours joyeaux!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Mrs Windham Maine America defines true beauty

Mrs. Windham, Sarah Boynton
By Lorraine Glowczak

It’s not every day you are asked to be Mrs. Windham and to participate in the Mrs. Maine America pageant. But that is exactly what happened to Sarah Boynton, a special education teacher for the Westbrook school district. “To be in a beauty pageant was not something I ever considered but decided to accept the request to participate when a local recruiter for Mrs. Maine America asked me to consider it,” explained Boynton, then offered a chuckle. “When she first approached me, I thought it was a joke.”

Mrs. Maine America offers an opportunity for married, single and/or divorced women over 18 years old to build a network, supporting one another, with the sole focus on bonding together to create better communities within Maine and beyond. “It provides us a chance to use our gifts, talents and roles in life to serve the community, choosing a platform that we are passionate about,” Boynton said.

For Boynton, she will take a stand on empowering young adults to be confident in who they are, providing tools for self-acceptance.  “As a middle school special education teacher and a mother, I am very familiar with the struggles that children face on a daily basis with self-image and acceptance. 

I strongly believe that every child has unique qualities and talents that should be celebrated. My son is an amazing example of a child with unique qualities that should be celebrated. I will always be his biggest supporter and advocate and will use my passion in this area to be a supporter and advocate for many children in Maine.”

https://www.egcu.orgThere are a variety of ways she plans to promote her platform on youth confidence. Boynton states that she hopes to speak at middle schools around the state to inform and educate young adults on ways to be confident and accept one’s authentic way of being. Although just beginning her role as Mrs. Windham, she has already started the process at Westbrook Middle School by talking with groups of students about things such as kindness, complimenting each other, being true to one’s self, etc. “It is my goal to also speak at other middle schools across the state, including Windham,” she said. “I am looking into working with teen centers such as Preble Street in Portland and the teen center in Westbrook.”

In addition to promoting self-confidence among young adults at area middle schools and teen centers, Boynton, along with other Mrs. Maine America participants across the state, volunteers time for other important causes. So far, Boynton has volunteered for a fundraising event hosted by the American
Heart Association with a focus on children who have heart disease and she was a bell ringer for the Salvation Army during the Christmas season. She is also reaching out to local food pantries and will be participating in other fundraising events promoted by Mrs. Maine America.

All this is currently occurring in her role as Mrs. Windham and she hasn’t even won the crown yet - holding the title of the 43rd representative of Maine for the Mrs. America Pageant. What will she do if the crown lands on her head on May 12, 2019 at the DoubleTree Hotel in South Portland?

“I aspire to leave a positive impact on everything I am a part of. I want my children and students to know that when you work hard, care for others, and are true to yourself, amazing things can happen,” Boynton began. “If selected, I want to take the opportunity to make a bigger difference and will do that by working with young adults, paving a way to sincere confidence.

Boynton’s focus is on young adults and making sure they are confident and accept their true way to walk in the world. But what are her thoughts on beauty? “There is nothing more beautiful than an authentically confident person who loves and accepts themselves and other people – just as they are,” Boynton stated.

In fact, when asked by the Mrs. Maine America Pageant committee what she thought would be an important question the judges should ask all the contestants, she recommended the following: “The young girls in our state, along with the country, struggle with body image and their perception of what makes us beautiful. What advice would you give them on what truly is beauty?

Boynton lives in Windham with her husband, Jeff and their five-year old son, Jordan. She also has a step-daughter, 13-year-old, Madison as well as a soon-to-be adopted 25-year-old step-daughter, Taylor, who lives in the greater Augusta area.

The current title holder of Mrs. Maine America is Kimberly Mastropasqua of South Portland. She is spending her reign bringing awareness to bullying and suicide prevention, as well as volunteering for
various causes around the state.

We wish you the best, Mrs. Windham!


There’s no such thing as “can’t” for Raymond adaptive skier

Anita Emery (photo:Disabled Sports USA/Hartford Ins. Co.)
By Matt Pascarella

Anita Emery is unstoppable. Born with cerebral palsy and told by doctors she would never walk, Emery has been skiing with Maine Adaptive Skiing (formerly Maine Handicapped Skiing) since she was seven years old. Now 22, she recently participated in her third Ski Spectacular, a nationwide race camp for disabled young racers held in Breckenridge, Colorado.

The Ski Spectacular, in its 31st year, is sponsored and largely funded by The Hartford Insurance company. Participants are evaluated and grouped with similarly skilled skiers. Everyone there has a disability of some sort. They understand and can learn from each other. “You get to meet so many people that might have a different disability than you and seeing how they do things is really cool,” observes Emery, who is an alpine skier and racer.

Participants, who get four days of training, are trained in both the slalom and giant slalom. A fun race where participants get to create their own teams is how the training session ends. Emery’s team came in second this year.

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Of the twelve coaches at the Ski Spectacular, at least ten of them are Paralympians. “They have so much knowledge and they want to share it. It’s really cool to talk to them and get their point of view,” explains Emery.

Born in Latvia, her adoptive parents Frank and Christine Emery brought Anita and her brother to the United States when Anita was just under two years old. Born with cerebral palsy, doctors told her she would never walk, but after multiple surgeries and physical therapies she proved them wrong. She keeps going. She has played soccer and basketball and swims in the summer. She currently goes to the gym to train.

Emery got interested in skiing through her adoptive father. She quickly fell in love with the sport. She enjoys being outdoors and enjoys the thrill skiing provides. “It’s freeing,” she says. “[When it comes to] racing, I like the competitive aspect whether I’m racing against a clock or racing against someone else and I’m always pushing myself to become better and learn new techniques.”

Emery has recently started volunteering with Maine Adaptive. She goes skiing with individuals for the day and teaches them techniques and helps them in any way she can. She says it’s fun to ski with others and learn their story.

(Photo taken by Reed Hoffman)
Emery feels very blessed to be where she is today. She prefers to look at the positive side of things; how much she’s overcome and how she’s learned to adapt to different things in her life. “I think of how I can inspire others and share with people my story and how blessed I am to be able to do it. I try to focus on that and see where skiing takes me,” she reflected.

Emery’s goal for the upcoming season is to race at the end of March in Winterpark, Colorado which would earn her a classification to compete nationally. The classification is based on her abilities. This classification would enable her to participate in the 3-4 days of racing. She also has a long-term goal to get to the Paralympics.

She loves the support and sense of community and family events like the Ski Spectacular and programs like Maine Adaptive provide.

“I really love this sport; I’ve met some great volunteers and great people and I have great coaches that have supported me along this journey.”

Friday, January 4, 2019

Reading challenge opens up a new world to students at Raymond Elementary School

By Lorraine Glowczak

Fun and imaginative reading challenges are nothing new at Raymond Elementary School. Every year, the teaching staff organizes exciting ways to spark the love of reading among their students. But what makes this year’s reading challenge different from past contests is that it is the first time, as a whole group, that the challenge has been combined with a service project.

“We have been doing two or sometimes three reading challenges a year for many years at Raymond Elementary School, but this is the first time we have participated in the Heifer International Read to Feed challenge as a school,” explained Patricia Gordan, RSU14 music teacher and organizer of the event. “We often offer theme reading challenges with current events, for example, reading our way through the Iditarod at so many pages per mile. When they met the goal, we had a real musher come to school and demonstrate the use of his dog and sled. Last year we had them earn Olympic medals during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Sometimes the challenges are just silly fun as when they had to read to earn baby pictures of staff members; then they tried to guess the identities of the staff members. But this year, we decided to combine the challenge with a service project.”

Front Row L to R: Isaak Ronfeldt, Tatianna Lanning, Elyse Silvia, Christian Ladd Allie LeBourdais, Emma Horowitz, Maevelyn Armstrong Back Row L to R: Brooklynn Wing, Anna Bowie, Taliah Worthing-Shriver, Anica Messer, Quinn Atchinson. Missing: Summer Bush (was also a top reader)

In the Read To Feed program, students read to earn money. From the money raised, animals can be purchased through Heifer International for farmers in developing countries. According to the Heifer International Read To Feed website, “Children (individually or as a group) get sponsors for each book they read during a time frame set by their Read to Feed leader. At the end of the program, the group pools its funds and donates them to Heifer International to help Heifer assist millions of families around the world feed their families and reach self-reliance.”

The reading challenge ran from November 5 until December 14 and the students received sponsorships and pledges from families, friends and area community organizations and businesses. The students from each homeroom who had read the most pages or minutes formed a group to decide which animals to purchase.

https://reps.modernwoodmen.org/zconley/The students who met the challenge and read the most pages or minutes included: Isaak Ronfeldt, Tatianna Lanning, Elyse Silvia, Christian Ladd, Allie LeBourdais, Emma Horowitz, Maevelyn Armstrong, Brooklynn Wing, Anna Bowie, Taliah Worthing-Shriver, Anica Messer, Quinn Atchinson and Summer Bush.

They raised over $800 and the animals purchased were: a water buffalo, a llama, a pig, a trio of rabbits, a hive of bees and a flock of chicks.

But that is not all they purchased. There’s more to the story.

Although it is true that reading develops vital language skills and deepens the understanding of the written word, reading also opens new worlds and enriches the lives of children. According to children’s librarian, teacher and author Barbara Freedman-De Vito, “Through books, children can also learn about people and places from other parts of the world, improving their understanding of and concern for all of humanity. This, in turn, contributes towards our sense that we truly live in a "global village" and may help us bring about a more peaceful future for everyone.”

This is exactly what occurred and was the unexpected learning outcome with the students at Raymond Elementary School.

“I met with the group of top readers when it was time for them to choose what to buy from Heifer,” Gordan began. “I assumed they would be most interested in choosing animals and was very touched by their passion to send a girl to school. In fact, they were distressed to learn that there are places in the world where children, and especially girls, do not have the opportunity to go to school. They were also very interested in buying a biogas stove and were shocked to learn that some people in the world have open cooking fires in their houses.”

From this reading challenge, not only did farmers receive animals that help to provide income, food and self-sufficiency, but one girl gets to go to school and one family gets to cook on a stove instead of an open fire. Simply as a result of reading.

The written word is alive and well and the love of reading changes lives in so many ways.
Big kudos to the students at Raymond Elementary School and the following organizations that contributed financially to the challenge:
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Raymond Lions Club
Raymond Village Church
Sebago Storage
Camp Pinehurst
Flynn Land Surveying
Camp Nashoba North
Wohelo Camps
Krainin Real Estate
Ultimate Hair Salon

Group plays Bunco for fun and good cause

Members of the Bunco group
By Elizabeth Richards
           
While Bunco is the primary reason for their monthly gathering, a group of local women have also created a community of giving that extends far beyond the dice game.

Diane Loring and a group of friends and neighbors began gathering to share a friendly game of Bunco each month 49 years ago. Though membership of the group has changed over the years, due to life circumstances, the game has gone on. “We’ve been through marriages, divorces, births and deaths. We’ve lost four of our original members over the years,” Loring said. She and her longtime friend, June Pierce, are the only remaining original members, though some joined them shortly thereafter.

The game of Bunco requires twelve players each time, since they play three tables of four, Loring said. That’s why the group includes twelve regular members, and four alternates. If one of the regulars is unable to play, an alternate is called.

https://www.facebook.com/windham.veterans.center/?rf=1016192665105713The group meets once each month, drawing in November to determine when each member’s turn to host.  They pay to play the game, because they play for prizes, and a few years ago they began to contribute extra money each month to a special fund. Originally, this fund was started to send flowers or a gift to members of the group when they were ill, Loring said, but at the end of the year they’d end up with a few hundred dollars, so they began to give back to the community as well.

The group decides together what their fund will be used for, and over the years they have supported individual members in times of need as well as people and groups in the community. They’ve donated to the food pantry, purchased backpacks for children at the beginning of the school year, and contributed to neighbors helping neighbors, among other things.  This year, the Bunco group put together 42 bags for the residents at Ledgewood nursing home that contained lap robes and other small necessities.

Loring said that the group, most of whom are in their seventies and live in Windham, mainly comes together for their monthly game. “Some of us are friends outside of Bunco, but a lot of us, we see each other once a month and we have a great time,” she said. It feels good to be able to do something for the community as well, Loring said.

Loring said the group has donated quietly throughout the years. “We’ve been under the radar, and we’re not out there to make a name for ourselves,” she said. “But we have done quite a bit when you put it all down on paper,” she added.