Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Energetic teens produce one-acts in Black Box style by Elizabeth Richards

In June, the “Blackbox Teens” will take the stage in the Black Box theater at
the Schoolhouse Center for the Arts with two one-act plays. Director Francine Morrisette launched the program in April, which she described as a “teen-powered fundraising effort to benefit improvements to the formerly dilapidated Black Box theater.”

Morrisette said that in Black Box productions the floors, ceiling and walls are typically painted black, with no set. “The mood is created with lighting, and all the focus is on the actors and their acting,” Morrissette said. While they do use costumes and props, those are secondary, not the primary focus, she added. Black Box theater typically has seating for 100 or fewer people, and the chairs are always movable to create any configuration desired, creating a close, intimate, actor-to-audience relationship. In fact, as in one of their one-acts, the audience is sometimes brought into the performance, said Morrissette.

This style of theater is difficult for anyone to do, Morrissette said, because of the heavy reliance on every nuance of the actor, from facial expression to tone. “There’s no way you can distract the audience from their acting, so it puts a lot of pressure on the actor.” She said she wanted to try it with teenagers because they are often able to let loose more than adults. “They’re old enough to be comfortable with themselves, but young enough to still be uninhibited,” she said.

The teens involved are enjoying the challenge, and getting a lot out of the experience. Sandy Rush, a student at Bonny Eagle High School, said, it’s different from the plays they are used to being in, and the style has expanded their knowledge. “Since Black Box is such a different kind, we’ve learned a lot from it,” she said.
Johanna Stanley, a Windham High School student, added, “It’s challenging, because it really is all on us instead of some immaculate set.”

Aside from Morrissette and assistant director Josh Arris, there are no adults involved in the production. The teens are on stage, and they also make up the production committee. “They’ve got us doing everything,” said Will Wheaton, a Windham Middle School student.

Morrissette said an adult production committee usually handles things like costume design, hair and makeup, publicity and advertising, programs, props and concessions. “All the adult jobs that normally go to the board members have gone to the kids, and they’re doing them as well as the adults do,” she said.

Doing the behind the scenes work as well as being onstage brings a sense of accomplishment, the teens agreed. Meagan Jones, also a student at Windham High, said, “Overall, we’re becoming better actors, and having fun with it.”

“I love it,” said Wheaton. “I think it makes you feel more important instead of just showing up and having everything done for you. It gives you more emotional involvement with it.”

Stanley agreed. “It definitely gives us a sense of responsibility in the show that we don’t usually have.”
Windham High School student Kyah Morrissette said that her mom has done publicity for other shows. This time, that was one of her responsibilities. “I feel like I’ve got a solid handle on it now, which is cool,” she said.

Black Box has been a welcome challenge for the teen participants. “I think one of the most difficult things for me was, because it is such a different style than what we’re all used to, learning how to do it,” said Rush.
Stanley added, “A lot of it is learning how to be actually funny and not just stupid funny, because then that’s not really funny.”

Rush agreed. “It makes the humor real. It has to be real,” she said.

Francine added that actors must learn the lines so well that these words become what the person is actually saying, rather than lines in a play. “A lot of these guys have kind of grown up in theater. They’ve learned their entrances and exits, and their lines and line delivery. What they haven’t learned is to become the character. I see some of them have had a real challenge with that and they’ve really faced that challenge, and really overcome that challenge. Some of the lines they deliver now, you don’t hear them as lines.”

The Blackbox Teens currently has nine members from various schools throughout the region. They come from Windham Middle and High Schools, Bonny Eagle, Gorham High School, Gray/New Gloucester Middle School, and homeschooling in Falmouth. Members of the cast have been involved in theater for varying amounts of time, from a year to almost 11 years.

When the concept for the group was first beginning, Kyah spearheaded the campaign to generate interest, sending out a mass email to as many theater kids as she could think of, and reposting the event on Facebook regularly.

Francine said that everyone who showed up for auditions was given a part of some kind, onstage or technical. For their debut production, they chose two shows that had a vast number of parts, so that the shows could accommodate any size cast. Many of the students are playing multiple roles.

The group will open the show, which includes How to Succeed in High School without Really Trying; Check, Please; and a musical intermission, on June 7. The production will run from June 7th through the 9th, and June 14th and 15th. All shows start at 7 p.m. except for June 9, which is at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10. To purchase tickets, call 642-3743 or visit

The Blackbox Teens intend to put on three or four shows per year, in a wide variety of styles. Anyone aged 14-20 who would like to get involved can contact Francine at

Hick Lickin' Good BBQ sauce by Michelle Libby

Hick Lickin’ Good BBQ sauce was all natural before it was popular. Ten years ago, Pete Kostopolous was on the front lines of Portland night life at the Free Street Tavern, which is where the recipe for his Apple Plum BBQ sauce was sampled and perfected.

“My friends remember when I walked in with a little piece of paper with the recipe scribbled on it,” said Kostopolous. They made 120 cases of sauce and put it in the back of his truck. “I told my wife I wouldn’t be back until I’d sold it all. I got to Cape Cod and had sold them all,” he said.

Kostopolous, his wife Jeni, his father and mother, who own the business, all have come a long way since that first trip, but then again, keeping it grounded in the roots of what Hick Lickin’ stands for is important to Kostopolous.

He believes that the sauces should be all natural. He likes each to have a fruit ingredient and all of the sauces are gluten free, except for the teriyaki. All of the sauces have their origins in the kitchen of Kostopolous’ 1700s farm house on Chute Road in Windham. The flavors to date are: Maine Maple Bourbon Grilling Sauce, Maine Apple Plum BBQ, Mango Chipotle BBQ, Peach Habanero with ghost peppers and Maine Apricot Ginger Teriyaki. 

The sauces are made by Lucas Foods in Biddeford. They produce massive amounts of sauce and ship the products nationwide. Their largest account is Hannaford, said Kostopolous. “We’re in the Nature’s Place in Hannaford because we’re all natural and gluten free,” he said.

Five years ago, they began selling sauce to The Meat House, a national company. “That brought us to levels…it’s incredible,” he said. This month alone, they have shipped 26,000 pounds of the maple bourbon marinade. This year, half a million pounds of beef have been marinated in Hick Lickin’ Good sauce, Kostopolous said. “That’s just one sauce out of five.”

The sauce is popular in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, New England states, New York and North Carolina. “We’re heading down the east coast hard,” he said.

Three years ago, Kostopolous had to give up his control in the company to his family due to a brain injury.
“It’s been really hard with the concussion stuff,” he said.

He’s a self-proclaimed athletic guy, having played lacrosse, football and then as an adult he played nose-tackle in a touch football league and he took up racing motorcross. “Those were the biggest hits I took,” he said. Concussions were not as talked about then as they are now and after being hit so many times, the injuries took their toll.

“I was doing endure racing at 52. Those oak trees don’t give very much when you hit them,” he said. Once he crashed so hard that he split his helmet in half. The final straw was when he slipped three steps at his house and knocked himself out.

“Most people don’t really understand brain injuries. It’s almost like a Civil War in your head. It’s a constant battle,” Kostopolous said.

He suffers from migraines regularly. Once a week he goes to Maine Medical Center for “brain work” to try to get him “more functional.” He also sees a bio feedback doctor. Two years ago he joined a support group for people with brain injuries and it helps him to know there are others like him out there. “You realize that we are in a whole different world.”

Kostopolous has six children ranging in age from 28 to 9 years old. He also has four grandchildren. He was one of the people to start football in Windham. “Now, I would never let (my children) play football,” he said.
On each bottle of sauce the label states that a part of the proceeds go to support brain injury survivors. The labels feature a local actor and musician, Kris Eckhardt, who is a friend of Kostopolous.

The business is taking off by leaps and bounds. The sauce is on the tasting palates of people at Previte’s Marketplace. When Hick Lickin’ Good gets the okay from them, they can be sold at Market Basket and Roche Brothers, according to Kostopolous.  

“It doesn’t pay all the bills. We’re not getting rich, but we’re getting by,” he said. The Pantry, Pat’s Meat Market, Whole Foods, Shaw’s and Hannaford are some of the local places that carry Hick Lickin’ Good sauce. It can also be ordered through What’s the next flavor? It could be papaya chili-pepper.

Recreational competition starts on home turf by Michelle Libby

Sebago Sports is in its second year as a non-profit company that creates recreational activities through year-round league play. The creator of the program is Rob Donato, a 31-year-old graduate of Saint Joseph’s College with a degree in business management.

“The purpose is to create recreational activities and have fun. Have people enjoy each other, competing and meeting new people. There is a huge disconnection when it comes to being outdoors playing sports,” Donato said. “There is nothing for young adults leading into adulthood to enjoy like they used to.”

The Sebago Sports leagues welcome everyone from ages 18 to 70. Starting next week, Sebago Sports begins its co-ed slow-pitch softball games. Last year there were eight teams, this year there are 16. Each team must have three women on the field at all times. “It’s hard to find women who can make that commitment,” he said.

Donato’s goal in starting the program was to keep people in the lakes region to play rather than driving through Windham to play in Portland. He also wanted to run it with integrity, he said. He wanted the money to be used for fixing up the fields the league plays on. This year, Donato has been working with his “entourage” to fix the Manchester School field.

Last year, Donato put up a fence and had dirt brought in to the Manchester School field behind Windham United Church of Christ. This year he re-did the right field, re-cut the entire infield, putting down ball field mix, which is a combination of clay and loam, which is soft for sliding. He is also fixing the right field fence that was damaged over the winter.

The field is also used by Windham Little League and other community organizations. “It’s a big project. It’s significant landscaping,” Donato said.

Sebago Sports also uses fields at Windham Christian Academy, Johnson Field in Standish and Mill Street Field in Raymond. One hour games are played during the week starting at 6 p.m. The reigning 2012 Champs Pat’s Pizza is back looking to repeat, but Donato expects there to be competition from the Penny’s Lawncare team called silent assassins. There are 14 games in the season, not including play-offs, which should run until the first week in September, according to Donato.

There are six ASA certified umpires who will call the games, which can get pretty heated, he said. He is also looking into liability insurance. Teams pay $650 for the co-ed softball season and $700 for the all-men’s softball league.      

Sebago Sports plans to have a men’s softball league this summer with a shortened season, basketball this summer sponsored by Sebago Sports and Windham Recreation Department, flag football in the fall and basketball in the winter.

Donato knows that a league of this kind takes support from the whole community. He has worked with key people and businesses to get the season off to a strong start. They are RSU 14 athlete director Rich Drummond, Tom Gumble, who takes care of the Raymond school facilities, Windham Fire Department and Garvin “Chip” Jones, Paul Kittrick, Dave LeClaire, The Dore family, Bill Hansen, who manages facilities at the Windham schools, Ralph Vance, CR Tandberg and Shaw Brothers.

“I want to explode this,” Donato said. “If I could play sports and be outdoors and create different leagues to compete in, that’s my ultimate goal…to make people happy,” he said.

Donato was born and raised in Millinocket. He liked the small town feel there and would like to create some of that in this area. “It’s the small town support I like,” he said. “That’s how it was. We were always out playing all day until mom said ‘come in’ and then we still played,” he added.

Sebago Sports is planning a home run derby on Sunday, June 23 after Summerfest. The cost will be $10 to enter and the person who hits the most home runs, wins. Each person gets 10 outs and anything not a home run is an out. The winner will receive a trophy, their name listed in The Windham Eagle and they will get their money back. All proceeds from the derby will benefit the Class of 2014 project graduation. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Camp Sunshine receives paddleboat donation by Leah Hoenen

Families seeking respite and relaxation at Camp Sunshine in Casco have a new way to enjoy Seb
ago Lake this summer. Longtime volunteer Ron Eby and The NASCAR Foundation have teamed up to donate a new paddle boat to the organization.

The boat was launched Friday, May 10, just ahead of the tenth annual NASCAR Day.

Years of volunteering, giving and fundraising for Camp Sunshine earned Eby widespread acclaim as one of four national finalists for The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award last year. Because Eby was a finalist, the foundation gave Camp Sunshine a $25,000 gift. This year, The NASCAR Foundation offered another gift to the charity when it helped Eby purchase the boat.

Camp Sunshine Executive Director Matt Hoidal said NASCAR’s recognition of Eby’s contributions has brought more attention to Camp Sunshine and its work. “It invigorates our current community of volunteers and draws in new interest,” he said.

NASCAR is holding 10 days of giving this May in honor of the anniversary of NASCAR Day, said Lorene King, Executive Director of The NASCAR Foundation. In celebration, the foundation is making additional donations to organizations it has already worked with, she said.

Hoidal said, “We are among several organizations that are the focus of Days of Giving.” The racing organization wanted to give a gift that would make a difference, and asked for a wish list, he said.

“They liked the idea of providing a vehicle. It’s not a car, it’s not a racecar, but it’s a vehicle for families to get out and paddle on the lake and have some fun in,” said Hoidal.

Hoidal said Camp Sunshine exists through individuals like Eby who give of themselves, and organizations like The NASCAR Foundation which give financial support.

Eight years ago, Eby began raising money for Camp Sunshine as part of his work to organize Summerfest. He estimates he has raised $250,000 for the organization since.

“Camp Sunshine is a year-round retreat for children and families with life-threatening illnesses in Casco on Sebago Lake,” said Eby. “It’s important to support children with life-threatening illness, but to support the whole family as well.”

The importance of the support of places like Camp Sunshine hit home for Eby years ago when his own daughter became severely ill during a trip from Maine to California. “It reminds me how important it is to have that support when you have a child with a life-threatening illness,” he said.

With a small staff supported by 2,000 volunteers, Eby said the camp hopes to host 800 families this year at no cost to the visitors.

King said, “Ron Eby is a very special individual. He has the true heart of a volunteer.” She said he displays and epitomizes the values the foundation looks for in volunteers who are working to improve children’s lives and give them the opportunity to live, learn and play.

NASCAR Day is a way for The NASCAR Foundation to highlight the work it does in support of children’s charities and to encourage and inspire people to take part in those efforts, said Eby.

He said he wants to encourage others to nominate outstanding volunteers for the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award.

“With the humanitarian of the year nomination, that was a pretty big honor. Given the scope of the process and seeing this year how people are nominated, it is very clear to me how difficult it was and how special it was to get to that level,” said Eby.

Hoidal said it’s been amazing to see Eby’s contributions to the organization blossom. “Here’s somebody who came to us looking to sponsor a few families and to see his level of support grow year after year, it’s amazing,” said Hoidal.

For more information, find Camp Sunshine online at or call 655-3800. Follow The NASCAR Foundation online at, on Facebook or Twitter.

Saint Joseph's Graduates 516 by Michelle Libby

On May 11, Saint Joseph’s College honored the achievements of 179 on-campus students
and 337 students from the online division. The College conferred 12 associate, 297 baccalaureate and 208 graduate degrees. The graduates come from 43 states, the Philippines, Canada and South Korea.

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the president and CEP of Goodwill Industries of Northern New England and the granddaughter of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters and was the honored speaker at the Saturday’s event.

In a press release from the college, Roosevelt said, echoing the voice of her grandfather, “My charge to you this morning is the same charge my grandfather put forth when he addressed the Class of 1932 at Oglethorpe University, in the grip of The Great Depression: ‘We need enthusiasm, imagination and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely…We need the courage of the young. Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world, which you will find before you. May every one of us be grated the courage, the faith and the vision to give the best that is in us to that remaking.’”

Two others were given honorary Doctorates of Public Service, Jim Killoran, a 1980 history and sociology graduate of St. Joe’s and is the current director for Habitat for Humanity of Westchester in New York, and Kevin McCarthy, the president and CEO of Unum and chief operating officer of Unum Group.   

Chipman Farm to open new stand in Raymond By Leah Hoenen

One of Maine’s longest-established farming families is set to open a new stand in Raymond, selling local produce, baked goods and preserved products.

Chipman Farm’s new building, on Route 302 just over the Raymond line, is expected to open by Memorial Day, said Elaine Chipman.

She said the 1,500 square-foot building in Raymond was designed by her husband, Doug, and includes a courtyard for hanging baskets and perennials and a bakery.

“Years ago, we had a bakery. So this is new for us again,” said Chipman. “We’ve hired a baker who bakes from scratch and will use a lot of our fruit and vegetables in the products,” she said. Baked goods will include pies, cookies, whoopie pies and strawberry shortcakes; the stand will also offer baked beans on the weekends and soups in the fall, she said.

Shoppers can expect to find a full line of fruit and vegetable crops through the fall, as well as a variety of Maine products, including wine, beer, cheese, milk and other local items.

The farm already has stands in Poland Spring and Gray and has had a presence in Raymond before the construction of the new stand, said Chipman.

“We’ve been in the area before. (It’s) a really busy route and we’ve been looking for a while to build something on 302,” said Chipman. David Greep allowed the Chipmans to take a long-term lease on the property, where they have erected the building, she said. “We plan on being over there for many years to come,” she said.

Chipman Farm is a family affair. The Chipmans’ daughters Tomi and Alana are the eighth generation to work the family’s farm, established in 1781, said Chipman.

“Both of them have decided to come back to the farm,” she said, noting that it is one of Maine’s oldest working farms.

“We work very hard, but we work as a family and feel like at the end of the day we’ve accomplished something,” said Chipman.

As the growing season progresses, Chipman said, the farm will employ a picking crew of 20 and a staff of 12 for the stands. “It’s nice to be able to buy fresh produce that people know was picked on our farm that morning. I can tell you the time it was picked and who picked it,” said Chipman.

Keep up with Chipman Farm on Facebook and online at

Monday, May 13, 2013

RTP to launch Portland-to-Naples Bus Service by Elizabeth Richards

Public Transportation will soon be available from Naples to Portland.  In July, Regional Transportation Program (RTP) plans to launch a new passenger bus service between the two communities, with stops in Raymond and Windham. 

This isn’t the first time there has been service along this route, but the past service, in the 1980s, did not have the ridership required to keep it going, says Daniel Goodman, customer and community relations coordinator for RTP.  Although that service failed, there have been studies conducted for at least the past decade on the need for service to the Lakes Region, Goodman said.  Some of these studies have been used to develop proposed stops and schedules.  RTP also wants to also have community feedback on these issues to find the best stops, said Goodman.  

In order to assess the needs of the community, a survey is being conducted to solicit feedback from area residents.  Zoe Miller, coalition director for the Lakes Region HMP, a program of the Opportunity Alliance, has been working with RTP, as well as Cumberland County government, to collect information.  “We are trying to figure out how can we get as much citizen input as possible so that RTP can go into it hearing from the community,” she said. 

Miller said the goal is to have the service be as accessible as possible from the beginning.  The survey could also show who is most likely to use the service, which will assist in promoting the bus, Miller said.  For instance, if it shows that people will use it to attempt to save money on gas, they can reach out more to employers and commuter networks.

State Representative Jane Pringle from Windham took the survey, and is encouraging as many Windham residents as possible to also do so.  “The good thing about the survey is it gives people an opportunity to share if there is something outside what they see in that option.”

The survey also offers a little insight into the tentative plans, she said, including the times of runs, which look as though they could be convenient for commuters.  “If I were a commuter and I didn’t want to have to drive and park, and I had pretty regular work hours, it looks as though it would be a great way to take some of the traffic off 302,” she said. 

Goodman said the goal of the service is to meet the needs of all residents of the Lakes Region, from those who don’t have cars to multiple car families, who want improved access to all of the towns on 302.  “Our hope is we’ll get people who choose to ride.”  The bus will have space for bicycles and luggage, as well as wireless internet access. 

Miller adds, “There’s an opportunity here for helping the local economy and boosting tourism.”  This includes reaching out to folks from the Portland end who might grab their bike and head to Sebago Lake State Park, she said. 

Miller is excited because she thinks that transportation options are important, and play a big role in cutting down on pollution and encouraging people to get more active, thus improving community health.  “A lot of people think rural living means relying on their car,” she said.  However, she adds, there are many examples around the country where public transit is really working, both helping people to save money and be healthier.

The new service is different from other services that RTP offers.  It will operate on a regular schedule, and is open to the general public. The operations side is federally funded through funds from the FTA. There are no income guidelines in order to use the service.  “It’s important for people to know that it’s open for everyone,” said Goodman.  The service will begin early in the morning and have late evening runs as well.  Goodman adds that the stops will be at private locations, and “This wouldn’t be happening without the support of a lot of local businesses.”

The details of the scheduling, stops and fares are not yet finalized, but RTP’s goal is to launch the service on July 1, said Goodman.  The survey is available online at .  Anyone who responds can opt to be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift certificate to Hannaford Supermarkets. The survey closes Sunday, May 12 at midnight. 

Local woman takes an eye-opening trip to Haiti by Michelle Libby

The Reverend Wendy Rozene, Deacon at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Windham, and her husband Dick went to Port-au-Prince, Haiti at the beginning of April for a conference for all of the priests in the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti and many from the US and Canada. Their plan was to discuss the church’s connection with Haitian churches. They were accompanied by John Arison, the chair of the partnership program for the Diocese of Maine and Sarah Danser, the chair of the Haiti commission. There were 265 partners and approximately 90 Haitian priests in attendance, according to Rozene. It was their first trip to the island nation, but it won’t be their last.

“You realize that our poorest in the US is nothing compared to the people of Haiti,” she said. They took group tours through the cities devastated by an earthquake in 2010. The cities have not finished rebuilding from the disaster.

“I was pleased to see all of the rubble has been cleared away,” said Rozene. She said they are still knocking down unsafe buildings and clearing that debris away. Many men from the area take the cement blocks from the demolition and bring it back to their homes to rebuild those.

“It was very hot, 96 degrees and 100 percent humidity all the time,” she said. “The poorest of the poor are still living in tent cities.” The tent cities, however, have been moved out of the major areas, some people were paid to move their tents into the mountains out of view of the public, said Rozene. Fifty-thousand people still live in tent cities.
Those who have houses live with walls cinderblocks high with no roof. The fortunate ones have a tarp over the top of the structure, she said.
“It’s been two and a half years and there are still electrical wires hanging down. A lot of people have lights and electricity, but it comes and goes,” Rozene said. There is no running water, no mail and everyone uses cellphones to communicate.

“It was the poorest country in the western hemisphere before this happened,” she said.

St. Ann’s along with other Episcopal Churches in Maine donate time and money to raise funds for their sister parishes in Haiti. St. Ann’s is partnered with St. Barnabas in Treille, Haiti. The village sits in the northern mountains and has 8,000 people, roughly the size of Cumberland, said Rozene.

The keynote speaker at the conference was the minister of foreign affairs in Haiti. He spoke about what the Episcopal Church of Haiti is doing to drill wells and start up businesses in Haiti. They are also rebuilding schools and houses. The donations from churches in America have been immensely helpful to the Haitian government, said Rozene.

Without running water, the people use watering stations and cisterns that are used to collect rain water. On the city tour, Rozene saw a man in his twenties or thirties stripped down to his “tighty-whities” taking a sponge bath.

Treille has a new well that encapsulates a spring head and has a cistern that collects the water. The villagers are now in the process of running PVC pipe down to the church where they will have their first watering station. This mountain village is only accessible by a footpath, a two mile hike up the mountain. Before the well, the women were carrying five gallon buckets on their heads up the mountain.

There is also no electricity in the village. “When you look at Google Earth, you don’t see many buildings at all,” said Rozene. The houses that are there are hidden under trees to protect the people from the sun.
Schools are now being reopened after having been leveled to rubble during the earthquake. The school buildings today consist of a sheet of plywood two feet off the ground and with four feet on top open for air circulation, and they might have a corrugated roof. Public schools are free, but Catholic and Episcopal schools cost $100 per child to attend the one in the mountain village and between $800 and $1,000 per year at Holy Trinity School in Port-au-Prince.

Despite the adversities, the people of Haiti are of wonderful spirit, very hopeful, faithful people, said Rozene. “They are more thrilled that we pray for them and they pray for us,” she said.

“The poor here in the US have so much more than the people of Haiti, yet so little faith,” said Rozene.
The place that touched Rozene the most was a visit to St. Vincent’s School for the Handicapped. Children. The children are deaf, blind or without limbs, through birth or the earthquake. She was able to use American Sign Language to communicate with some of the children.

Pere Jonas, the priest in St. Barnabas, is in charge of eight congregations, four schools and three clinics. It is unlike what we have in Maine, where one priest has one parish. Children in St. Barnabas can go to school up to fifth grade. If they want to attend the high school they have to make the two hour climb down the mountain, then take a two hour drive into town. Students who do this find residential placements.
Rozene and her husband hope to return to Haiti next February when it will be a little cooler to hike into the mountains to visit St. Barnabas.

Konbit Sante will host its 4th Annual Maine Walks with Haiti and 4-Mile Run on May 11 starting at 9:30 a.m. The run cost $20 to register on that day.  The walk is $15.  Proceeds from the event go to support programs in Cap-Haitien.  Gather at Back Cove Park on Preble Street across from Hannaford. Kids under twelve are free, 13- to 21-year-olds are $10, and adults are $15.

Children collect book donations for Rwanda library by Elizabeth Richards

Children in the church school classes at the Windham Hill United Church of Christ are learning about the wider world through a mission project that has them asking for book donations to send to a library in Rwanda.  The library was started by Windham High School graduate Nathan Petersen, who is teaching English for the Peace Corps in a small village in Rwanda. 

The Christian education committee at the church got the ball rolling on the project, said Nathan’s grandmother, Paula Smithson.  She and her husband, along with Nathan’s mother, are members of the Windham Hill church. 

Petersen graduated from WHS in 2004 and the University of Maine at Farmington in 2008.  Smithson said that after seeing the movie Hotel Rwanda, Nathan become fascinated with Africa, and Rwanda in particular.  He applied for the Peace Corps and left in September of 2011.   The Peace Corps asks their members to reach out to the community they live in with a project of some kind, so he decided on a library.  Initially, he met with some resistance Smithson said.  However, once it was approved there was a big celebration in April, and the project has become very successful.

One challenge that Petersen has encountered, according to Smithson, is that the idea of a library, or even having books, was unfamiliar in the village.  “He had to teach them about borrowing books, and getting interested in reading them,” Smithson said.  Recently, she said, he has noticed people in common places in the village looking at the books, but he has to go and retrieve them because they don’t understand the concept of returning books to the library.  Petersen will return to the US in November of 2013.

“Every year we try to do a project with the church school children that reaches them beyond the immediate church group,” said Carolyn Clark, the church school coordinator.   Having books and learning to read were familiar concepts for the children in the church. “We chose this book project because it’s something the children can relate to,” said Clark. 

The children asked the congregation for donations of new and gently used paperback books, as well as setting up an Amazon wish list to help with the project.  Church member Laurel Parker, who is the children’s librarian at the Windham Public Library, offered her personal expertise to help select appropriate books for the wish list.  That wish list can be found by searching for Parker’s name on Amazon, and selecting her public list WHUCC for Nate in Rwanda.  Clark said they are focusing on books for early readers and readers new to English, up to a third grade reading level.     

Because they knew that shipping would be expensive, Clark said, they asked for paperback books only.  The children held a pancake breakfast on Palm Sunday, and the proceeds of that breakfast, along with some donations from the congregation, will be used to ship the books.

Each age group in the church school program has had a different job to complete, said Clark.  The younger children decorated the box used for collecting the books.  The middle group is designing stickers to put inside the donated books, and the oldest class is responsible for publicity.  Publicity has included a bulletin board, and tallying results to report progress to the congregation. 

Book donations will be accepted until May 19, and then they will be dedicated at a church service.  Following the dedication, the group will work on shipping the books.  While they don’t know exactly what it will cost, they know they will need a substantial amount of money to ship all the books collected.  Clark said they may need to break the shipment into a couple of loads, and may also need to do some more fundraising.  Although the children didn’t have a specific goal ahead of time, the book drive has been well received. As of Sunday, May 5, the children had collected 292 books.

Bring the world home as a host family with CCI Greenheart by Michelle Libby

There are a lot of reasons not to be a host family, but Windham resident Kathy Hansen can counteract every one of those and place a foreign exchange student in a home, and make it a rewarding experience for everyone involved.

“Anyone can host,” said Hansen, who has been working with CCI Greenheart for 27 years. “It’s been a wonderful journey,” she said. The mother of five children and grandmother to 13 between the ages of 16 to 3 weeks old, Hansen began working with exchange students when she allowed her son Jon the experience of being an exchange student through AFS.

“When Jon was a junior in high school I had no money. There was no way I could take the kids to travel, so I brought the world to my kids,” she said.

Jon has since travelled all over the world and married a woman from Lithuania. “We’re very worldly,” Hansen said.

There are a lot of rules to having an exchange student live with a family, most of which are governed by the Department of State. Each student needs their own bed, not their own bedroom though. “They can’t sleep on the couch in the living room,” said Hansen.

Each family, after a lengthy application, is vetted, has a background check and a home visit, before the family can even see the files of the exchange students.

Families who host can’t be on any government welfare, can’t have a felon living in the house, must have a clean home, (“My standard isn’t really high,” said Hansen.) and everyone in the family must be in agreement that this is what they want to do. The only cost to the family is to feed the student.

CCI Greenheart also has liability insurance if something should happen. If a placement turns out to be the wrong fit, Hansen said, the student could be moved.

All of the students coming to the US have high grades and speak English well. The students are selected out of 45,000 applicants for a grant given by the US Department of State. The exchange students are required to live up to a code of conduct. No smoking, no sex, no drinking or they’ll be on the next plane home, said Hansen. “They represent CCI Greenheart, their country and their family,” said Hansen. It’s embarrassing to get sent home. The students bring their own spending money, she added.

They come from all over the globe, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, France, Germany and Spain, to name a few. There is a Palestinian boy at Bonny Eagle this year, who gives talks about a 16-year-old’s perspective on the conflicts in the Middle East.

“We have no sides, we’re neutral,” Hansen said. The advantage to CCI Greenheart is that they’re environmentally conscious. “They come over here and we do volunteer projects,” Hansen said.
The students and families are monitored and visited four times a year, but Hansen touches base with them often.

There is an orientation with the students where all of the expectations are laid out. “We instill pride in them for their country and instill pride for them being here,” she said.

Hansen is the regional director and local coordinator for New England. There are six exchange students in Windham, 50 in Maine and 31 of those are in Southern Maine.

Windham has openings for exchange students for the upcoming year. Seven families are going through the application process at this time. But there is room for more.

“We don’t want to burden families,” Hansen said. The local coordinator acts as a mediator on any tricky subjects. “I’m really good at this. I advocate for my host family.” Students can go on vacation with host families or stay with friends. “You treat the student like your own kids,” she said. 

The statistics are that only seven percent go home, some because of homesickness, others death in the family. No one stays who wants to leave.

“We want everyone to have a good experience,” Hansen concluded.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

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Sebago Trails Paddling offers kayak rentals by Leah Hoenen

Bill Allen has been exploring paddling destinations around the Windham-Raymond area a lot lately. He’s identified more than 30 places where people can launch kayaks and explore the lakes region and will offer kayak rentals to locals and visitors alike at Sebago Trails Paddling Company starting May 9.

“Windham is the gateway to the lakes region – the largest recreational region in the state, in terms of population at least. There are several lakes, ponds and waterways to paddle in,” said Allen, who has lived in Windham since 2007.

When his grandfather rented cottages and rowboats, Allen learned to row before he graduated into canoes, then kayaks. “People say if you have something you love, you never actually go to work,” said Allen, noting that despite his love of kayaking, the business is still a business.

Allen had pondered the idea of a kayak-rental business for a while. His daughter, Katelyn Allen, also an experienced paddler, worked for a rental company. Father and daughter thought they should combine his business experience with their love for paddling. Things fell right into place when he met Virginia Arsenault, with whom he and Katelyn Allen have incorporated Sebago Trails Paddling Company.

The company’s 37 Perception kayaks have arrived and are a mix of standard single kayaks, double kayaks and sit-on-top styles. Some boats are smaller for smaller paddlers and Allen will offer shorter paddles and a variety of sizes of life jackets.

Allen said the company aims for a soft opening in early May with a grand opening Memorial Day weekend.

“We have a trailer and we will do deliveries,” said Allen. Deliveries within a certain radius and to some public launches will be free, while other fees are yet to be determined. The daily rental fee of $40 includes a kayak, life jacket and paddles. Kayaks will also be available for $200 per week.

Someone who wants to rent, but doesn’t want a delivery can pick up a kayak and accessories and transport their own with Styrofoam rooftop kits available in the store, Allen said.

Renters will be able to pick up other key accessories, such as bug spray, sunscreen and waterproof, floatable containers, in the store.

“These people are going to be renting, so I’m thinking, ‘What are they going to need for today that they forgot or didn’t know they needed,’” he said.

“I’m trying to encourage people who haven’t been before, but would like to go,” said Allen. Sebago Trails Paddling Company will supply kayaks to groups and will teach a class with Windham-Raymond Adult Education this spring. That includes classroom instruction and two sessions of on-site instruction before a group outing.

“Anybody who is afraid it’s a difficult thing or a dangerous thing should give it a try. It’s really easy,” said Allen. “I’ve given lessons to friends who were nervous and concerned about safety. About ten strokes out and they’re saying, ‘This is fun. I want to get my own kayak,’” he said.

Sebago Trails Paddling Company has a website and an active Facebook page, which the company will use to announce weekly specials, including paddling flash mobs, which Allen expects to hold at various launch sites around the area. The website and Facebook link to Allen’s GoogleMaps page, showing launch sites around Windham and Raymond. So far, there are 35 sites shown, each with a short description of the launch and surrounding area.

Allen said there are plenty of places to go where paddlers can avoid motorized boat traffic and many locations that are safe and friendly for novice paddlers. “Sebago Lake is so big it has lots of motorized traffic, but it also has lots of little places that are quieter that motorboats can’t reach,” he said.

“Some charge a fee, but most are free. Some are very rustic and some have limited parking, but there are access points. Some make you think of northern Maine,” said Allen. His experience paddling the area shows as he describes the scenery of various locations, down to the types of turtles he sees and birds he hears. 

Allen grew up in Monmouth and was an owner of HomeVision video rentals. “I spent a lot of time here. Windham was always one of my favorite communities. It’s nice to live and work here,” he said.

“The rental of kayaks is the foundations of an organization I hope to grow,” said Allen, referring to many walking and biking opportunities throughout the greater Windham area, including the Mountain Division Trail and Sebago to the Sea trails. “We want to be the leading paddle outfitter, and cycling is possible in the future.”

Keep up with Sebago Trails Paddling Company on Facebook, or find it online at Call 894-4696 for more information.

Dancemakers teacher purchases studio by Elizabeth Richards

Dancemakers will soon have a new, but familiar, face at the helm. Nicole Getchell will close on the purchase of the studio in late June of 2013. 
Getchell, who lives in Standish, has been a teacher at the studio for two years, along with teaching at Portland Ballet. She has been performing with Portland Ballet since 1992 and teaching there since 1999. When she becomes the owner of Dancemakers, Getchell will leave her position at Portland Ballet to focus all of her energy on the Windham studio.  After 21 years, Getchell says leaving will be extremely hard. However, after years of family encouragement to open a studio of her own, she’s ready to take that step. “I look forward to a change, a challenge and a new phase in my life,” Getchell said. 

Getchell has a lot of excitement about her new endeavor. She is quick to say that she doesn’t plan to change Dancemakers from what it is. The studio offers a variety of dance styles, and will continue to do so. “I’m not going to make it a ballet studio,” she said. She does, however, want to offer better training in ballet to the students at Dancemakers, because she feels that ballet is the foundation for every form of dance. “I want to make them well-rounded dancers. We already have some extremely talented dancers,” she said.

While Getchell would like to expand at some point, she doesn’t expect that to happen in the first year. The studio, located in an old barn, is already an expansion over the original one-room dance studio that was located behind the post office. There are some challenges – such as wooden posts for dancers to navigate around - but there is a comfortable, homey feel to the space. It is the only dance studio in Windham, and Getchell said, “I will do whatever I can to stay in Windham.” She said if she moved the studio, the kids she’s come to love might not follow.

Dancemakers currently has approximately 130-150 students, and has focused primarily on classes for young people. She hopes to expand offerings for adults, such as having adult ballet, clogging and jazz, if there is sufficient interest in the community. Dancemakers has a very active competition team, Adrenaline, whose members work hard both on training and on fundraising in order to be able to attend competitions, which have taken them as far as Providence, RI this year. Dimitra Corsetti, who has been managing the studio, will remain on the teaching staff and closely involved with Adrenaline.

Getchell’s goals for the studio are heartfelt. She wants to be around the children more, and she wants the studio to feel like a family.  “I am very excited about the opportunity to have a new place I can call home, make new memories, and enjoy teaching the students an appreciation for what they are learning, all the while having a positive and fun experience,” she said.

Windham students featured in Sprout Film Festival by Michelle Libby

Tuesday night, six Windham students performed in a 17 minute play titled “Showtime” at One Longfellow Square in Portland. The most unique part of this play was that the lead actress, 14-year-old Windham resident Joanne Haibon, has Autism. 

Spurwink presented the Sprout Film Festival 2013. The festival showcased a number of films and forms of entertainment related to autism, Asperger’s syndrome and intellectual disabilities. 

“Spurwink is a leader in caring for friends and neighbors in our community with developmental or behavioral disabilities. We are excited to be partnering with Sprout, a New York non-profit, to present the 2013 Sprout Touring Film Festival,” Spurwink said in a press release. 

The film that featured Windham High School students was written, produced and directed by Spurwink staff and was shown for the first time Tuesday. “Showtime,” starring Haibon and a 23-year-old woman with Asperger’s Syndrome, “is the story of Abigail, a young girl with a history of making things up at school. She is drawn into a surprising adventure while on a class field trip. Ultimately, Abigail must choose between telling the truth and honoring a secret.”

Haibon and her friends had to audition for their roles. Haibon has experience on the stage, often acting in Windham Center Stage Theater performances and most recently with Schoolhouse Arts Center in the play Willy Wonka. She has never had a starting role, according to Laurie Shepard who directed Willy Wonka. Shepard’s son, Andrew, was also in the film. 

“He thinks it’s a wonderful cause,” Shepard said. “Joanne doesn’t get cast as leads in plays because of her disability,” said Shepard, but stated that she was amazing in “Showtime”. Most of the filming took place at the State Theater in Portland on one Saturday. Haibon had to film for three days, said Shepard. 
“Showtime” was the longest film presented. The other local entry was “Thriller”, a reimagining of Michael Jackson’s 1984 Thriller video.

Other screenings were held in Augusta and Lewiston.