Friday, December 26, 2014

Local law enforcement make the season bright for many Windham children - By Michelle Libby

Last Thursday officers from Windham Police Department swarmed into Walmart armed with baskets and a budget. Their mission was to buy Christmas presents for children in Windham who might not have presents under the tree this year. 
The Windham Police Association raises money through fundraising drives to pay for the gifts. Each pair of officers kept track of the money they were spending as they loaded up their carts with bikes, Legos, iPods, Frozen toys, balls, helmets and so much more. 

“We try to get something for every age range,” said Officer Gene Gallant, who based his buying decisions on what his son might like. 

Officer Eric Quatrano knew all about Barbies and dolls thanks to his young daughter. The only thing they didn’t buy…

“We aren’t purchasing fire trucks today,” one officer said with a laugh. 

Anna Gold approached the officers and asked what they were doing. When she heard she pulled out a $100 bill and handed it to them to help with the shopping. “You guys put your lives on the line every day,” she said. “It’s the least I can do.” 

Terry Bickford also felt generous and donated $50 to the cause. In between the donations and shopping, people stopped the officers to thank them for their work and their presence during the past week. Just before check out, Tom Mailer from Auburn gave the officers another $20 to help with the purchase.
The officers donated their time to shop for close to $2,000 worth of Christmas presents, which they drove over to the Windham Social Service building to be passed out to children in need.  

The officers who helped were Tom Hamilton, Quatrano, Lee Maher, Jim Cook, Gene Gallant, president of the Windham Police Association Jason Burke and Justin Hudnor.

“It’s a blast,” said Quatrano as he pulled another toy from the shelf.

Families get surprise visit from Santa and the Windham Fire Department - By Michelle Libby

Windham firefighters and their families banded together this year to surprise four families from Windham who needed a little help this year. Seventeen or so people gathered to decorate the fire trucks with colored lights and garlands before heading out of the station. Kids, wives and friends of the fire department all gather to spread the joy.
“This was the first year we did four families. We usually do one or two,” said Lt. Chip Jones, who organized the donations. 

Windham social services picked the four families from their wish list forms. Then the fire department went shopping, buying everything on the wish list and then above and beyond that, said Jones.
“Families were so appreciative of what they received. Kids were so excited and some got a ride in the fire truck,” said photographer Jennifer Wescott. 

The department didn’t buy as much food as they have in the past, but area restaurants and businesses donated gift certificates for services like oil changes, and extravagances like nail treatments, haircuts, massages and movie tickets. 

“The generosity of this town is amazing,” said Jones. The fire department members, friends and supporters raised money and pooled it together to buy the gifts.  

“We fulfilled every wish those families wanted and more,” Jones said. One family let their children open one gift each, then saved the rest for Christmas. The other families told the children to wait for Santa to come and see the presents under the tree, Jones said. “The kids were just thrilled.” 

All of the families were single moms and the relief they felt was palpable, said Jones. Jones started organizing the donations a few years ago. He started gearing up about mid-November. He went to businesses to ask for donations. “I’m so excited to see this happen, and put a smile on people’s faces,” Jones said. He added that this was a great year for donations. “This is truly a special way to do this. The economy is a little better this year and people want to be a part of it. Everyone sees so much bad in the world, just to have them turn around with a smile on their face…” said Jones. “These four families are going to have one hell of a Christmas,” he said with a laugh. “This is something they are going to remember for months and years to come.” 

Capt. Ken Thorpe helped Santa out Saturday night.  

The fire department is open for visits. Jones encourages people to bring their children to see the fire trucks and talk to the personnel.

Breakfast with Santa sees record turnout for Windham Lions - By Michelle Libby

Zachary O’Brion from Windham couldn’t wait to see Santa and ask him to bring Legos for Christmas this year. He found Santa hanging out at the Windham Veterans Hall Saturday morning as a part of the seventh Breakfast with Santa event sponsored and run by the Windham Lions Club.
 “This is the best turn out we’ve ever had,” said Don Swander, who is a member of the Windham Veterans Association which donated the use of the hall and has each year to say thanks to the community for all they do for Veterans. With close to 1,000 people passing through for pancakes, sausages, warm syrup and orange juice. They ran out of food and had to purchase more including buying eight gallons of juice, when two will usually do.

“It’s a good turnout for a good cause,” said Lion Jan Soucy. 

Students from the Windham High School LEO club helped serve and manned a coloring table for children waiting to see Santa. 

The charge was a monetary donation to the Lions Club, which raises money for eye glasses, eye exams, eye screening for every student at Windham Primary School. All of the money they raise staying in Windham. 

Last weekend, the Lions Club donated 1,200 pounds of food, $1,000 in cash and bought 14 gift certificates to Walmart to the Windham Food Pantry for needy families, said Lion Bob Simmons.
The Lions Club has been in existence in Windham since the 40s or 50s according to King Lion Shirley Banks. The group has a little over 20 members, but welcomes new participants. They meet the first and third Monday of every month at the Windham Public Library, 217 Windham Center Road. 

Banks said that the increase in numbers had to do with the advertisements and cooperation of the schools, who put out notices and sent emails home to parents.

Eagles Club new location motivates fundraiser - By Michelle Libby

The Fraternal Order of the Eagles held a barn raising pig roast at their new location near the rotary in the old Dancemakers dance studio. They have been open for two weeks in the building they purchased and rebuilt with hundreds of hours of volunteer hours. 

The pig roast and barn raising was held to benefit the organization that has found themselves strapped for cash after move. 

Artie Spinks donated a pig for the roast and members brought in side dishes and baskets to auction. They held a turkey shoot and members dressed in their best western wear from boots to hats. 
The non-profit Eagles donates money to 12 major charities, like muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease, Cathedral in the Pines and families that request help. Each month they also donate to the Windham Food Pantry. 

“We are people helping people,” said Patti Sandberg, who led the committee for the barn raising.
“That’s why I joined this group,” said Dawn Kime, secretary of the Eagles. “Do something positive and join the club. It’s giving back.” 

The new location is much bigger than the former location at 824 Roosevelt Trail. The private club has a bar, two pool tables, pull tab machines and members willing to visit at any time. It is a smoking club. The profits from the sales go toward the charitable works. 

The Eagles are always welcoming new members. The organization is 150 years old and has nationwide chapters called aeries. The Windham chapter has approximately 325 members. It has two general meetings each month. 

The renovation of the old Woodberry’s farm started in the barn. There is still work going on upstairs where the dance studios used to be and then out into the house. There are still some offices that are rented in the front of the building, said Kime. “We’re so excited to have our own place,” she added.
Members are ages 22 to 90. They pay an initial membership fee of $50 and then a renewal of $30. Veterans and police officers get free memberships the first year. 

This event raised approximately $2,000 toward the club’s expenses. 

“We’ve got to take care of ourselves to take care of others,” she added.