Friday, September 20, 2019

Historic Casco schoolhouse rises from the ashes and now is open to the public

Photo courtesy of Rose Andrews-Symonds
By Walter Lunt

After more than a year of resolute and reverent reconstruction, a replica of Casco’s old Quaker Ridge Schoolhouse, or Friends School, was opened to the public this week on the grounds of the Casco-Raymond Historical Society museum.

Nearly 100 visitors attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the museum complex on Route 302 in Casco. Society curator Rose Andrews-Symonds said she heard the comment “How beautiful” numerous times during the three-hour open house event. Andrews-Symonds, who also curated the original building before it was destroyed by fire in 2018, continued, “It’s quite breathtaking to it see (back) almost in its original state.”

Few who gathered for the occasion failed to notice the front steps. The imposing granite treads seemingly invite the visitor to enter. Some were retrieved from the debris of the former structure, and some were donated by Society member Louise Lester.
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Upon entering, just past the cloak room, one knows for sure they are stepping back in schoolhouse time. Rows of old-fashioned desks in long, straight rows await scholars of an earlier day (two of the desks are originals from the old building). Benches, a faded globe outlining countries long ago renamed, an original 1861 wall map of Maine, a standing bookshelf containing atlas’, early grade-readers and other books dated in the 1800s, a large teacher’s desk, an American flag and a wood stove complete the experience.

The old-style interior construction, including walls, trim and floor was completed entirely by Tim Symonds, with assistance from grandson Daniel.

“We’re filled with history,” said Andrews-Symonds, “it’s important to preserve where we’ve been (in order) to know where we’re going.”

The original Quaker Ridge Schoolhouse was built in 1849 on Quaker Ridge Road by the son of a founding settler in what was known as Quaker Hill, or Quakerville. Run by the Society of Friends (Quakers), it operated continuously until 1942, except for the year 1920 when it closed temporarily due to low enrollment. Also, around that time, indoor toilet facilities were added. An open house was held in the 1950s; it was reported that scores of former pupils and teachers attended.

https://bbcultivation.com/In 1971 the schoolhouse was acquired by the newly formed Raymond-Casco Historical Society and moved from its prominent perch on Quaker Ridge to a spot next to the fire station in Casco Village. The structure secured a listing on the National Register of Historic Places in the late ‘70s. Long range plans for the building included restoration and moving to the RCHS museum complex on Route 302. That was just about to happen when arsonists destroyed the building last year. Also consumed by the flames were irreplaceable books and documents dating to the 18th century, including an official proclamation announcing the election of George Washington as president. Plans to build the replica in the new location began almost immediately.

Resources for the reconstruction of the Quaker schoolhouse, including money donations and in-kind services, came from dozens of businesses and residents. Andrews-Symonds said the town of Casco, Hancock Lumber (especially employee Bob Thibodeau), and Society members Skip and Zeena Watkins were just a small fraction of the volunteerism and donations received for the project.
Asked how the new schoolhouse would be utilized, Andrews-Symonds said it now becomes a part of the regular tour of the museum complex, which includes three other buildings. She said the museum is now closed for the winter but will open for school groups this fall, adding “It’s important for the kids to understand the progress of life.”  
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New organization’s mission to “Move Windham Forward” provides candidate forums for fall elections

By Lorraine Glowczak

It all began as a fun and casual conversation among a group of individuals at a monthly networking Business Break event hosted by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. The conversation consisted of various matters of concern expressed by Windham community members. Topics discussed included residential and commercial growth, civility among elected officials, tax increases as well as environmental concerns. The conversation turned serious and it was decided then to be proactive and do something about the concerns expressed.

“We need to move Windham forward in a positive way,” stated Maggie Terry, during that impromptu discussion. Terry is a chamber member and owner of Legal Leaf, LLC and Legal Label, Inc.

It turns outs that Terry had been thinking about this idea for a while – the idea that would unite Windham in a positive and solution-based way. “It seems we’ve been divided for a number of years and I want to change that,” Terry said.

http://betheinfluencewrw.org/index.htmlFast forward three months. Terry along with fellow chamber member and Licensed Insurance Agent with MetLife, Jonathan Priest, have been working together ever since to “Move Windham Forward”, making the thoughts and concerns discussed at the beginning of the summer, a reality.

The organization, Move Windham Forward (MWF) is a non-profit, non-partisan group of residents and taxpayers that have come together for what has been identified as common goals and interests of the residents of Windham. The mission as is stated on the website: “We seek to have a better understanding of the issues we face as a community while we contemplate our decisions on leadership, community planning, land use, infrastructure, taxes and technology changes.” www.movewindhamforward.org.

The group offers an educational approach for all residents who wish to get involved but are not sure how to go about it. The website includes the proper way to address the Town Council regarding any issue that one deems important as well as background information about each elected official.
But perhaps just as importantly, MWF will offer two “meet the candidates” gatherings. Windham residents will have the opportunity to meet, speak to and address concerns with the candidates running for Town Council office. The purpose of these meetings is to allow residents to get to know
the individuals they are voting for so they can make their own personal and well-informed decisions at the local election in November.

The first gathering will occur on Monday, September 30th from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Microtel Inn and Suites’ Roosevelt Room at 965 Roosevelt Trail. The second “meet the candidates” gathering will occur again at the same location from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, October 10th.

“We want to make it clear that Move Windham Forward is a non-partisan organization,” began Priest. “We do not endorse or oppose any candidate running for Town Council. We just want to provide the opportunity for residents to ask questions in order to be well informed as they vote in the elections this fall.”

“We also want to eventually hold Town Hall meetings to provide ongoing conversations in a positive way,” Terry added. “This is a future goal we are working on. Right now, we want to focus on our meet and greet gatherings so they can be as successful as possible.”

MWF emphasizes a core set of concerns that include: Unity, Growth, Taxes and Environment.

http://www.eaglesushi.com/Briefly, and as stated on their website:

1)     Unity: North Windham. South Windham. East Windham. West Windham. In such a geographically large town made up of a growing, diverse population it is often easy to fall into our divisions and not feel as one. Especially over the last few years. It is important that we remember that mostly - we all agree on more than we disagree on starting with this; we all love Windham.

2)     Growth 1: Everywhere we look something new is being built; a house here, a subdivision there. It all adds up. What brings many people here is the rural feel but, ironically, as they come that rural feel disappears a little more for someone who was already here. What is the answer? Unfortunately, this is not an old question, it has been around for decades - but to date has been without a real solution. Some say stop growth completely, some say have zero regulation and let landowners do as they wish. The answer is somewhere in the middle.

3)     Growth 2: Windham is one of the fastest growing towns in Maine for residential housing but is significantly lacking in commercial development. Commercial development such as retail, service businesses, restaurants, office space, manufacturing and high density residential are the keys to our economic future. This development would benefit our town, by bringing more of a sense of community and a place people want to be, by helping create new revenues to offset the residential tax burden and by encouraging growth in the places we want, instead of the places we don’t want.

https://cumberlandfair.com/
4)     Taxes:  We can’t seem to avoid them, but we can certainly have more of a say in how they are spent. The town budget should reflect the needs and goals of the taxpayers, for today and tomorrow.  Our elected officials and town staff should be constantly working to maximize the return on every tax dollar by spending wisely for today and investing smartly for tomorrow.

5)     Environment: Our environment in Windham is our greatest treasure and must be protected. Windham has some of the most beautiful farm space, open space, forests, water bodies and animal habitats; it’s a large part of why many of us chose Windham. These assets need to be protected, especially our lakes, streams and ground waters, many of which are already on state impaired lists. It is in our control and our responsibility to preserve our environment for Windham’s next generations.

For more information, peruse the Move Windham Forward website at www.movewindhamforward.org

Friday, September 13, 2019

Raymond Elementary School dedicates new playground

Ribbon Cutting ceremony on the first day of school
By Briana Bizier

The first day of school is always exciting, but last week students at Raymond Elementary School and Jordan Small Middle School had an especially memorable event to mark the beginning of their academic year. As the bright September sun glittered off Panther Pond and Sebago Lake in the distance, students left their classrooms and walked to a new fenced field behind Raymond Elementary School.

Randy Crockett, the principal of Raymond Elementary School, welcomed students from both the
elementary and the middle school. After offering his heartfelt thanks to the community, parents, and local businesses whose generous donations helped with fundraising events such as last summer’s ice cream social and the annual holiday pie sale, Crockett described the elementary school’s new playground and play field.

We’ve installed a new balance apparatus,” he told the assembled crowd of teachers, students, parents, and community members, “as well as a climbing Webscape and two new sandboxes.”

http://www.hallimplementco.com/That towering blue Webscape, which immediately drew the interest of many of the children walking past the new playground, has an especially touching story. The entire structure was made possible by a generous gift from Raymond Elementary School kindergarten teacher Stephen Seymour, his wife Karen, and their family. This journalist can confirm that both the balance apparatus and the climbing Webscape appear to be much more fun than anything found on school playgrounds when I was
growing up.

The elementary school’s new sandboxes were built as an Eagle Scout project by Alex Brooks, who was once a student of Raymond Elementary School and now attends Windham High School. A second Eagle Scout project is planned to replace the playground’s storage shed that holds jump ropes, sporting equipment, and sleds.

Principal Crockett also took time to generously thank the Maine National Guard. Members of the 262nd Engineer Company (Horizontal), which is based in Westbrook, did the original earth work to clear the new play field, hauled in over 500 loads of gravel, and turned what had previously been a steep, forested slope into a grassy, level field.

It’s always great to give back to the community that supports us,” Major Kerry Boese of the Maine National Guard said at the opening ceremony.
https://www.smithwick-ins.com/
Alissa Messer, a parent volunteer who was instrumental in overseeing the playground’s construction, emphasized gratitude as she spoke to the students. “This playground is a labor of love,” she said. “Today, we are grateful for what we’ve been given.”

As the crowd applauded enthusiastically, the speakers held out their scissors and cut a wide, red ribbon, officially opening Raymond Elementary School’s new playground. The air filled with cheers as the students followed their teachers for tours of the playground equipment.

If you’d like to view Raymond Elementary School’s new playground and play field for yourself, it is open to the public after school hours and on weekends.

Senator Bill Diamond helps to pass law to keep hands on the wheel

Pat Moody of AAA, Sen. Diamond and Rep. Mark Bryant.
Can you tell the difference if the driver of this car
was intoxicated or intexticated
By Matt Pascarella

Distracted driving is unsafe and has been a problem for a while. And it’s only getting worse. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA) website, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates distracted driving kills an average of nine people and injures 1,000 every day.

Recently, Senator Bill Diamond introduced and passed LD 165, a bill “To Prohibit the Use of Handheld Phones and Devices While Driving.” This bill will go into effect on September 19, 2019.
The bill was created out of a similar law that Senator Diamond sponsored in 2011, that made texting while driving illegal. However, while it was illegal to text and drive, it was not illegal to use your phone or have it in your hand.

cstlouis@spurwink.org“We talked with law enforcement and the biggest problem is texting while driving; the crashes, the injuries are just exponentially increasing,” stated Senator Diamond. “What this says is you cannot have your phone or device in your hand. Everything in this bill is all about hands-free. You look down for two seconds, often times it’s three or four seconds – and in that short amount of time a lot can happen. And that’s a problem. This fixes it.”

This bill allows law enforcement to stop an individual if they are holding a phone in their hand, no matter what they’re doing. Diamond reminds the reader that you can attach your phone to your dash with a clip and if a call comes in, tap the button and talk or talk through Bluetooth.

We use the phone for so much more than calling people, and the temptation is there to use it. Senator Diamond goes on to say, “Just like we did with seatbelts; when we passed the seatbelt law people said, ‘you can’t make people put on a seatbelt.’ With public awareness and education, we did. It’s to the point now where, if you’re in a car without a seatbelt, most of us feel weird, and secondly, we got kids in the car who say, ‘hey dad, you don’t have your seatbelt on.’” Like the seatbelt law, this hands-free device while driving law is a cultural change.

What happens if you still do it? The first time is a $50 fine and every time after that is a $250 fine.
 “All Law Enforcement is going at this full speed; they’ve all become frustrated with the needless accidents because someone was distracted; and most of that distraction was with a phone,” added Senator Diamond. “It’s going to be very aggressive, and people need to know this. If they can break this culture, break this habit, they’re going to literally save lives.”

Pat Moody, Manager of Public Affairs for AAA of Northern New England has met with Senator Diamond and AAA has a campaign centered around not driving ‘intexticated’.

“AAA is an advocate for traffic safety. We do a lot of research on distraction in all facets of driver safety, we survey our members, then we also do research through the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety to better understand those aspects of driver safety. Specifically, we’ve done some work on distracted driving...the one big thing that comes out of this is that cognitive distraction is real. With this specific law it’s going to get that device out of their hands, so people are less likely to do things like Snapchat, check Facebook, send a text message – all those things that take your eyes off the road.”

The essence of AAA’s slogan; ‘Don’t drive intoxicated, don’t drive intexticated’ is both these driving behaviors end up with the same result. “A lot of people would never think of drinking and driving; dropping the kids to school and taking a sip of beer but they don’t think twice about sending a text,” added Moody. Texting and driving have become a habit, and come September 19th, people are going to have to think twice when they’re in their vehicle.

https://bbcultivation.com/To-be driver and 16 year old junior at Windham High, Hayleigh Moody stated, “You will be hard pressed to find a teen without a cellphone these days. When your phone “pings” and you know you have a text, it is really temping to take a quick peek and check it. Unfortunately, it only takes a glance away from the road for really bad things to happen. I think parents are key; the more they demonstrate that texting while driving isn’t appropriate then their kids will be more likely to follow their example. My dad uses the “do not disturb while driving” feature of his cell phone so it temporarily holds text messages until he is parked. The new “hands free” law...will help change behavior of adult drivers and when a teen sees that their parents are less distracted by their phones while driving, hopefully they will follow their example.”

“This is one of the most important bills I’ve ever passed because of the result of saving lives and injuries. I’m proud of this because I think it’s one of those things where an immediate difference can be made,” concluded Senator Diamond.


Friday, September 6, 2019

Book launch and toy drive to raise funds and awareness for pediatric illnesses

Image courtesy of Courtney PostvanderBurg
at Tailwind Portraits
By Lorraine Glowczak

St. Ann’s Episcopal Church will host its annual Welcome Back Weekend beginning this Saturday, September 7th from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and continuing into Sunday, September 8th. The purpose of the annual event is to welcome back and invite the community, parishioners and non-parishioners alike, to enjoy each other’s company and welcome everyone back after the beautiful summer vacation.

The weekend will be filled with many fun activities on both days. On Sunday – in addition to a BBQ after the 10 a.m. service, there will also be an opportunity to donate toy’s to Libby’s Ouchie Box and Make-A-Wish foundation as well as attend a book launch from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The book, “One Child, One Million Prayers: Driving through Hell in a Minivan,” by Windham author, Norma Fitts was recently published in July. It’s the heartwarming and, often heart wrenching true story with touches of humor about a mother and an adopted daughter – who are both liver transplant recipients. But this story is not any ordinary transplant recipient story (as if there is an ordinary in such circumstances) – the tale includes the “coincidence” of how it all occurred and how it affected the mother and daughter as well as all who loved them.

Norma, at the age of six, was diagnosed with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha 1), an inherited condition that raises the risk of liver and lung disease. Some with the Alpha 1 gene live with very few issues and have a healthy life, but in Norma’s case, she required a liver transplant.

http://www.eaglesushi.com/Despite all the medical difficulties, she receives a new liver, grows into a beautiful young woman and marries the man of her dreams. Alpha 1 is only inherited if both sets of parents carry the gene. But this was of no concern as Norma was told she wouldn’t be able to have children. A miracle occurred and she and her husband, Adam, had their first child, a girl named Chloe. All is perfect – until they discover that Adam carries the Alpha 1 gene, too – and thus, so does Chloe.

To prevent the possibility of having additional children who might inherit the same need for a liver or lung transplant, they decide against having any more biological children, but to adopt instead. Norma prayed that she would get a child who most needed her. “I prayed for a child whose needs I could meet and be mothered best by me,” Norma explained in the book.  

Maya was that daughter. Born prematurely, Maya is eventually diagnosed with liver cancer – and required a liver transplant at a very young age.

Norma takes the reader back and forth in time, comparing her experience and that of Maya’s. Sharing the “hell” that all families experience in such circumstances – Norma is candid. Honest about the fact that she, as a child was always in the spotlight (and news media attention), leaving older sister, Jess, feeling dismissed, alone and unseen as parents and others concentrate on Norma’s health and survival.
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As a result, Norma shows appreciation to her sister - now the aunt to Chloe, Maya and adopted son, Lonnie. “Having Jess take care of Chloe and Lonnie was wonderful because she knew what it was like to be a sister of a sick child – she knew their needs and was able to advocate for them,” Norma stated in a phone interview. “She was a blessing.”

Learn more about Norma’s experience this Sunday. There will be snacks and beverages available and donations for Make-A-Wish Maine will be accepted at the snack table.

Norma has donated fifty books to Camp Sunshine as well as providing two signed copies that were a part of a Make-A-Wish Maine fundraiser – her two books raised $1600.

As for the donation of toys, they will be go towards Libby's Ouchie Box Toy Drive that was created by the Rulman family. Libby Rulman, a survivor of childhood cancer, collects toys for the Ouchie Box, located at Maine Children's Cancer Program (MCCP). 

After a clinic visit at MCCP, which may include anything from chemotherapy to a check-up, patients are allowed to choose a prize from the box. The Ouchie Box gives pediatric cancer patients something to look forward to on their clinic day. It often brings smiles after tears.

The Rulman family will be on-site collecting donations for Libby's Ouchie Box Toy Drive. They accept toys for children of all ages: newborns to teens. Gift cards and cash donations are also welcome to help families affected by pediatric cancer.



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