Friday, April 29, 2016

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Being a host family is a labor of love with a lifetime of memories - By Michelle Libby

For 35 years, Kathy Hansen has been matching high school students up with families in southern Maine as a part of CCI Greenheart which has offered cultural exchange programs in the United States that connects Americans with international students since 1985. She has had many of the students in her own home for a semester or for a school year, and she recommends that everyone try hosting.

“The biggest obstacles, time, no one has time. Money, no one has extra money and space. They don’t need their own room, just their own bed. These are easily resolved,” Hansen said. “It’s like a gift. You get more back than what you’re giving.” 

Hansen recommends that the exchange students get thrown into the mix of a family. The fit in and become one of the family. “Kids in your home become global thinkers,” she said. She also added that they usually become international travelers, learn about world peace and public diplomacy. “The cultural experience is so worth it.”

The students move into the host homes, attend school, play sports or participate in the school play. They have their own lives and are typical teenagers living under the rules of the family. 

When Hansen had her first exchange student stay with her, the girl became like a daughter to her and this past summer, that girl’s children came to stay with Hansen. 

When she places a student, she looks for things the family might have in common with the student, like musical skills or playing soccer. Sometimes she can match up a family with someone from their country of lineage. 

CCI Greenheart receives 68,000 applications every year and 2,000 are accepted. Twenty-two of those will arrive in Maine. The program is sponsored by the United States Government. A program like this gets students from all over the world together to learn to work together, do presentations together and realize that working together can change the world. 

Each year the students in Maine hold an international evening to show off the style and food from their country. 

They also do a leadership project which is putting on a fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House. It is a requirement that they volunteer and since Hansen has a connection with the Ronald McDonald house, she has them work there to raise money for their programs. It is this volunteer component that sets CCI Greenheart apart from other exchange programs. Some called F1 are academic programs where a host family will hopefully have a relationship with the student, but often times are just a place to live while the student attends school. 

The host families for CCI Greenheart are vetted and approved before the students come here. They can not have a felony charge and not be on general assistance like food stamps or housing assistance. They do not get paid, which is another difference between CCI and the F1. Hosts for CCI are given bios of the students with their interests and goals. After a match is made, pictures can be exchanged and the family and student can talk through social media or email. 

Families who have hosted in the past have been senior citizens in their seventies, single mom who worked fulltime and worked with a neighbor to help and even families with little children. The exchange students are very attentive to their host siblings, Hansen said. 

“Something special changes the dynamics in the families. They hear about it and say ‘that would be so good for our family and how can we make it happen,” she added. The local coordinator must be within 120 miles, but most in this area a closer in case there is an issue, which is rare. Sometimes it’s just not a good fit, to the student can be moved. 
There are many opportunities to try hosting before committing to an entire school year. This summer from July 9 to 29, students from France will be coming to American to learn about culture and share their culture with community members. The students speak some English and will require meals, but will arrive with his/her own medical insurance and spending money. 

There are other opportunities to have a student for two weeks. With the shorter stays, the students usually have activities planned by the coordinator.
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With the longer stays, family vacations might come into play. The students are asked if they want to go and they pay their own way or half of a room for the other children in the family. If there is an issue with an exchange student, Hansen will come in to make sure bills are paid to the host family, if necessary, or to sort out awkward issues. She calls herself “the enforcer.” 

“Eighty-seven percent of families are happy they hosted because it’s such a wonderful experience,” said Hansen. 

“It’s so wonderful that when they leave they take a part of your family with them,” Hansen said. “We love all these kids and we want to find homes for them.” For more about CCI Greenheart, visit, email or call 6653-1007.

Raymond woman named Miss Maine - By Michelle Libby

Last Saturday, Marybeth Noonan, 20, of Raymond, was selected as Miss Maine to represent her home state at the Miss American Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey on Sunday, September 11. The pageant was held at McAuley High School in Portland. 

Noonan was a 2013 graduate from Windham High School, where she was a Windham Chamber Singer and involved in theater. For her talent she did a Broadway style performance.

“I’m super excited and ready. This was my time. Last year was the first time I competed. I knew I wasn’t quite ready. It wasn’t my time. This year was,” Noonan said. 

Noonan has been competing in pageants since age 13 and has won titles in four previous events including Miss Maine’s Outstanding Teen, also run by the Miss America Organization. She is currently enrolled at Lyndon State College in the electronic journalism arts department and would like to be an on air news reporter or anchor when she is finished with school. She did an internship at Channel 6 this past semester.  

Within 48 hours of winning the Maine title she had sent information off to the national Miss America pageant and had been called by the reigning Miss America. Noonan is the first state winner for the 2017 class. For one week, she is the only person registered for the national title. New Hampshire names their representative on Saturday. 

“It’s exciting,” said her father Tom Noonan. “She has the opportunity to represent Maine at the Miss America pageant.”

Noonan has three goals for her reign as Miss Maine. One is to “really stand out at Miss America.” Two is to recruit more girls to the program, which is the largest scholarship program for women awarding millions of dollars annually in cash awards and in-kind tuition waivers each year. Her third goal is to “Be the voice”, which will fundraise for childhood cancer research and providing assistance to families affected by the disease. When in high school, Noonan went to school with a boy, Josh Perry-Hall who is a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. “Seeing how tough it is to have cancer is one thing, but to be a kid, trying to figure out fitting in and homework…add to that a life threatening disease is one of the most malicious things that can happen,” she said. 

At age 14, Noonan opened a “Rent-a-Princess” business, where she would show up to birthday parties dressed as a princess. She added a charitable component to that often visiting Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital and Camp Sunshine raising money to help her platform. 

“Even though I can make their day, I can’t make them better,” she said. She hopes to help fund research for pediatric cancers, which is where only four percent of funding goes now. She wants to “be the voice” for the families of children with cancer. She said she’s raised thousands of dollars already through her business. Noonan would like to be able to cover funeral costs for children who pass away from cancer to help parents eliminate that added stress.  

“She’s not only beautiful, she’s smart. She conquered a 20 minute interview in front of judges. They ask some tough questions,” Tom said. “She’s poised and has a good heart.” wants to be a role model for young girls all over Maine. “I never want to look too skinny. I never want a young girl to want to say ‘I have to starve myself to look like Marybeth.’ I want to be strong, healthy and fit.” She said her best feature is “confidence. Confidence in knowing I can weightlift more than the boy standing next to me at the gym.”

Friday, April 22, 2016

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Carol Otley is named Maine VFW Teacher of the Year - By Walter Lunt
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Hundreds of students, staff, parents and guests were gathered at the Manchester School gymnasium last week in celebration of Community Day, the culmination of months of hard work by students who contributed time and effort to projects in their community and around the world.

As one class presented service awards acknowledging the work and bravery of local police/fire officials, the warden service and local veterans, a surprise announcement turned the tables on who was honoring who. Willie Goodman, commander of VFW Post 10643 took the microphone and announced that the school’s own Carol Otley had been chosen to represent the Maine VFW as Teacher of the Year, 2016.
Loud, enthusiastic applause followed. Otley, whose fourth grade class had just recognized Goodman and fellow veteran Col. Bob Akins, was picked by a VFW state board after reviewing teacher semi-finalists from 10 other districts in Maine.

“Mrs. Otley (demonstrates) outstanding leadership and tireless effort in teaching and fostering citizenship and patriotism in our community,” wrote Manchester principal Danielle Donnini in her letter of nomination.

Commander Goodman had glowing remarks about Otley’s selection.

Her class consistently engages in “amazing moments of patriotism,” he said, such as having “veterans speaking to her classes about their experiences (one played Amazing Grace to the class for Veterans Day), visits to the state capital, and on this Community Day, class donations of birdhouses to raise money for veterans’ nursing homes.

“She continues to nurture a seed that will help our youth grow into productive, law abiding citizens with patriotism, respect and genuine pride for our nation,” said Goodman.

Otley will receive a cash prize and a plaque at a ceremony in June at the VFW state convention in Portland.

“I am humbled and honored. I look up to such great men and women. And I salute them,” said Otley after the Community Day announcement.
She will compete for the national VFW title in Kansas City this summer.

Other Community Day observances included cash donations to various non-profit organizations from classes that had conducted fundraising projects. One group built so-called “buddy benches” for use on the playground. Any student feeling lonely or having a tough day is encouraged to use the bench and converse with others who have a sympathetic ear. School principal Chris Howell was the keynote speaker for the occasion. Howell congratulated the students on their fundraising and projects and encouraged all to always look for opportunities to help others and to be kind. 

“Always think before you speak,” he advised, and reinforced his remarks with a quote from President Woodrow Wilson: “I’ve never had to apologize for something I didn’t say.”

Summerfest takes an entire community of support - By Michelle Libby

Every year volunteers from Windham gather to organize a daylong event with the one goal of providing a venue of “fun family entertainment” that will help benefit non-profits and bring recognition and pride to the town.

Summerfest, held just after school ends in June, is a town event where locals come to see and be seen, eat some amazing food prepared by local non-profits (frozen hot chocolate, anyone?), play fun interactive games (frog jump), and talk to local businesses in the business expo. There is live entertainment going all day, a parade, amusement rides and all of it is capped off with fireworks at dusk. There is nothing more exciting than seeing the community spread out across the grounds, laughing, playing and waiting with anticipation for the first whoosh of fireworks. 

Each year, the committee is tasked with raising between $25,000 and $30,000 to keep the event the same size. To grow, more money will be needed to bring in bigger entertainment acts and more spectacular fireworks displays, which are two of the most expensive line items in the budget. 

Summerfest is run by all volunteers. No one on the committee takes money for their time and efforts. The money goes toward logistics, tents, chairs, parade entrants like the Shriners, entertainment, electrician, porta potties and fireworks, according to Summerfest committee chair Kelly Mank. Leftover money is donated to certain non-profits, like DARE. Summerfest starts with a minimal budget of donations made after the last year’s event. 

Deb Matthews, a lifelong Windham resident and the chair of off of the booths and parade, remembers Old Home Days fondly. Old Home Days was the community event in the early 1990s and before.
Matthews volunteers because, “This is my way of giving back to the community. This is a family oriented event that you can bring your kids, grandkids and grandparents to. It’s multi-generational,” she said. Summerfest is put on by the Summerfest committee, Town of Windham, RSU14 and Windham EMS, fire and police.  

Growing the event has been difficult. They continue to take suggestions on how to make it better, but without the support of the community, the event will remain what it is. Suggestions like providing tents for all vendors selling food, so there is a uniform look and people will know what is being offered. 
“We want Summerfest to be the one stop place for non-profits, so this can be their major fundraiser,” said Mank. “Better entertainment will being out more people, thus the non-profits make more money.” There are still booths available in all three booth areas, community, business and craft fair. 

“Every year is better,” said Matthews. “Every year we get closer to what I remember as a child.” Matthew agrees that the biggest challenge is fundraising and getting volunteers to help. “People are so busy nowadays. They just don’t have time.”

The carnival rides pay to be a part of Summerfest, donating a portion of ticket sales back to the organization. The committee is organizing more county fair type events from pie eating contests to tug o’ war. 

We are always looking for volunteers, one or two on the committee for fundraising and one to organize the parade. If taking on an entire project is too much, Matthews suggested helping make phone calls or seek out donations from five businesses or ask them to be in the business expo. On the day of Summerfest, volunteers are needed on the parade route. 

There is a way to help Summerfest besides volunteering. The committee has set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the event at or donate in jars that have been placed around the community. 

“It really is a community event. We want everyone to be excited for Summerfest. We want everyone to want to bring their grandkids back in 20 years,” said Mank. 

Local backyard beekeeping on the rise - By Lorraine Glowczak

Due to the profound interests in backyard beekeeping, join beginner apiarian Lorraine Glowczak, as she shares her discoveries on her new adventure of keeping honeybees in this monthly column. Enjoy.

The recent popularity in sustainability and homesteading has giving rise to backyard beekeeping. Although I live on a small acre of land, I’m not a homesteader, but beekeeping has been buzzing in and out of my consciousness for many years. So, recently I took the plunge and purchased my first package of bees. They are due to arrive in a week. 

Since announcing my new endeavor, the extreme fascination with honeybees has caught me by surprise and kept me in long conversations with total strangers. The countless questions and comments informs me just how little I know. To assist in my learning, I am reading as much as possible, have taken a class from a Master Beekeeper, joined the Cumberland County Beekeeping Association, and have a mentor or two by my side. But I suspect it will be the bees themselves that will impart the most knowledge.
My most recent discovery happened in January through a conversation I had with a scientist from the USDA office in South Portland. 

“Where are your honeybees from?” He laughed when I told him Georgia. What he really wanted to know was if the bees were German, Russian or Italian. It took me a bit to assimilate that there are races of honeybees and are immigrants to the U.S. Although there over 4,000 varieties of bees native to North America, honeybees are not one them.

The first documented case of honey bees arriving to the Americas was in 1622. Although research does not indicate what country of origin these particular bees were from, beekeeping history tells of the earliest honey bees known to live in America was the German bee, also known to as the black bee. They were a nasty and grumpy sort that made beekeeping management very difficult. Additionally, the German bee was riddled with diseases and survival rates were low making honey production inadequate. hundred years after the German bee made it’s landing in the New World, the Italian bee arrived giving the apiarian some relief. The Italian bee is a very laid back insect and has a canny knack for foraging. They are also excellent pollen collectors. Also, the Queen, whose bright yellow “coat” makes her easier to identify, helps the apiarian keep track of her whereabouts. As a result, the Italians quickly became a favorite among beekeepers of the day and remain a popular choice three centuries later, especially among the novice apiarian like me. (Yes, my bees are Italian.) 

Although still a favorite among 75 percent of the beekeepers, there are a few draw backs with the Italian bee. First, they are susceptible to varroa mites – making survival rates low, sometimes with only a 50 percent survival rate per hive after a long cold winter. Their inclination to overbreed can contribute to lower honey production and in the event of limited nectar supply, the Italian bee will not hesitate stealing honey from another hive (which can lead to increased mite infestation and a cranky fellow beekeeper.) 

Which brings us to the Russian bee. They have been exposed to mites much longer than the Italian. The long time exposure has created a natural resistance against the mite and stems the need for the use of chemicals to eliminate the pests. Their resistance to disease and their ability to survive winter months is a preference among some beekeepers. The Russian, however, is known to be a bit more aggressive which keeps the Italian a beekeeper’s favorite.
There are other variety of honeybees that aparians also include in their beekeeping business to include the Carniolan, Caucasian, and the Buckfast bees. If you wish to learn more about these bees, below are a few websites for your perusal. Or, you can join me and other beekeepers at the Cumberland County Honeybee Association at

Friday, April 15, 2016

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Manchester School has outstanding attendance at its first color run - By Michelle Libby than 200 runners and supporters of Manchester School turned out for the school’s first color run
last Sunday. The cold weather didn’t deter the runners from stripping down to their white shirts and pants to run the one or two mile trail around the school to be sprayed with liquid color and then be doused with powdered color.

“It was awesome. The kids were having a great time. I didn’t know who was having more fun, the kids or the adults,” said Jessica Weatherbee, Manchester School guidance counselor.
Fifth grade teacher Jessica Carle’s class was the organizer of the event, which they started planning in September. Weatherbee and Carle, both avid runners, decided that if the students were game, they would host a color run. 

“This is a great fundraiser,” said parent Wendy Gaulrapp. “I’d rather do this than buy wrapping paper.”
The event raised close to $3,500 between registrations and concessions. There were also raffles donated by local businesses. 

“We were blown away by the participation and support from the community,” Weatherbee said.
The best part for Shiba Haddadi and Brooklynn Hennigar were throwing the color and getting some exercise, both were running the two mile option. 

Fourth-grader Jacob Lord, broke his shoulder the day before the race. He cried, but not because he broke his bone, but because he didn’t want to miss the race, said his mom, Stephanie Smith. Other students agreed that they couldn’t miss the event. Athena Nicholas walked the race with her sister Demi and her mom, Erin. They brought sunglasses to protect their eyes from the color. There were there to have fun.
“I was blown away by the turn out,” said principal Danielle Donnini. “There were lessons learned.” The class will go back and assess how things went and what could have been done better, she added. Asked if the school will do another color run, she said it was up to the classes next year, if they want to take it on for Community Day. check for the total amount will be donated to Manchester School on Community Day, which was held this past Wednesday, to be used for various projects like the gardens, supplies for teachers, said Carle. The 24 kids in the class wanted to make sure that their fundraiser would help the school. 

If you missed this color run, Windham Primary School will host a color run on Saturday, April 30 at 9:30 a.m. Register for that race at  

VAST promotes lifelong health and well-being - By Walter Lunt

A disabled Maine service Veteran, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)and depression, conversed with his VA counselor who told him, “I’m writing you a prescription for VAST.” Although not a drug and not a remedy that required a pharmaceutical prescription, the counselor was quite serious, and explained to his client that Veterans Adaptive Sports & Training was probably the best treatment for his condition.
The VAST program operates at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester and offers free year-round sports and other activities for veterans with physical and visual disabilities, traumatic brain injury and PTSD.
VAST volunteer Homer McLemore of Windham shared the veteran/counselor story at a recent membership meeting of the American Legion Post 148. McLemore was there to support the center’s speaker of the evening, Kristina Sabateanski, founder and director of VAST.

Sabateanski told the gathering that research supports frequent physical activity for the disabled because it reduces stress, depression and secondary medical conditions, while increasing confidence, employment rates and quality of life.

Year-round games include hand and recumbent cycling, wheelchair basketball, floor hockey and tennis, archery and the increasingly popular disc golf. Over the recent winter, Sabateanski said participation also increased for cross country skiing/biathlon utilizing pellet rifles. About 30 paralympians show up at the outdoor center at Pineland every Wednesday from all over southern Maine. Five or six hail from Windham/Raymond; several more arrive by van from Togus VA Hospital in Augusta. The games and goodwill gatherings take place from 9 a.m. to noon.

“Pineland Farms takes care of our overhead,” explained Sabateanski. “They provide the outdoor center and all the equipment.” VAST is funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs.
Volunteers, many of whom are veterans themselves, and students help run the program. Students are usually therapeutic recreation majors or taking elective classes like Facilitating Adaptive Outdoor Recreation at the University of Southern Maine.
“But it’s not all about us,” said Sabateanski, “the program is veterans helping veterans.”

In addition to physical well-being, the VAST program officials said the sense of camaraderie among fellow veterans plays a critical role in the overall goal to promote life-long good health. Down time between activities and a lunch break afford the participants the chance to network and to share common experiences. Sabateanski and McLemore’s observations suggest this collaborative time is as valuable as the sports play.
One spouse, referring to her veteran husband, said VAST brought out a new, more positive side of his personality. “I’ve never seen him act that way.”
“I really enjoyed Kristina’s history and passion about her VAST program,” said American Legion post commander Mel Greenier. “I am very happy there is a program such as this to assist our veterans. Her stories of various veterans who were doing something for the first time and taking a moment to feel happiness again was touching. I have had Post members tell me afterwards they want to be more involved and will see if they can volunteer to help Kristina’s program.”

Sabateanski said the program also offers multi-day sports camps. “There’s a transformation after four days (together) – the camaraderie of military people does something to take their minds off their disability.” She added, “That’s why VA counselors recommend the prescription (for VAST).”

Windham veteran Don Rogers said he gets involved regularly “…so I can get out. Otherwise I’d just sit around the house.” Also, he added, in reference to the USM volunteers, “There are pretty girls around, too.”

Sabateanski, herself an Army veteran and two time U.S. Olympic biathlon participant, founded VAST four years ago, inspired by recently injured veterans she encountered at a military sports camp.

“It’s never once felt like work,” she said. Unfortunately, “…they cut themselves off from the community. But here, there’s a new light in their eyes.”

Now in its fourth year, VAST operates 50 Wednesdays a year and includes two to four multi-day camps. A turkey hunt was organized last fall. Fly-fishing and fly-tying and a sailing camp are planned for this spring and summer. Participation is encouraged, regardless of skill level.
VAST has partnered with other community organizations across the country to develop the U.S. Paralympics, or Paralympic sports clubs. Estimates put the number of physically disabled Americans at about 21 million. For more information, visit

Local chapter of Sons of American Revolution ramps up recruitment drive - By Walter Lunt

Monday, April 18, is Patriot’s Day which commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord near Boston in 1775. It signifies the emergence of American independence and is celebrated chiefly in Maine and Massachusetts. For David Manchester the 241st Patriot’s Day marks the “run-up decade” to America’s 250th anniversary, or quarter-millennial (also referred to as semiquincentennial). Manchester, who is past president of the Southern Maine Chapter of the Maine Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) wants to utilize the intervening years as a time to significantly increase numbers in the organization. SAR is a proud and exclusive group of citizens who can trace their roots back to a Patriot in the struggle to win independence from Britain.

“One doesn’t have to have an ancestor who fought in battle,” Manchester hastens to point out, “anyone who served the cause qualifies.” He says some SAR members can trace their family back to shadowy figures who ran intelligence missions, provided ammunition, printed hand bills or sold provisions to the military.

Documented proof, however, is required. Typical sources include birth/death/marriage certificates, town and census records and town, county or state vital statistics publications. One source, particularly helpful to many, according to Manchester, is the Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War (1905), available at the Maine Historical Society in Portland.

Manchester traces his own family roots back seven generations to Stephen Manchester, a founding member of old Windham (New Marblehead) and a Revolutionary War soldier. 

“Upon hearing the news of conflict in Lexington/Concord, Manchester joined a Windham militia group and marched to Boston,” David Manchester said.

Local records reveal there were 91 men from Windham who served in the American War of Independence, according to Manchester. Of those, 32 are interred in Windham cemeteries, 30 are buried in other towns or states and 29 are listed as unaccounted for.

“We are looking for (their) descendants to join (SAR) and get recognized,” said Manchester, and added, “If anyone thinks they may have (Patriot connections), we will help trace back their ancestry.” Southern Maine Chapter of SAR was formed one year ago and meets regularly at Baxter Memorial Library in Gorham. In addition to regular business, the meeting often features speakers on history and genealogy. The chapter has about 15 active members, but thanks to Manchester, who was recently awarded a medal from the national organization in recognition of his recruitment efforts, the number is expected to go up. A second chapter formed last year in Bangor. Both are affiliated with the 175 member Maine Sons of the American Revolution.

All affiliates and the national SAR sponsor essay contests on leadership and patriotic themes. Boy Scout Eagle Scouts and high school boys and girls can be awarded up to $10,000 for winning entries.

After nine more Patriot’s Days, Manchester foresees SAR and its chapters will be intensely involved in 4th of July celebrations around the state. SAR will undoubtedly contribute with parades, color guards, flintlock muzzle loading demonstrations, Patriot workshops and, hopefully, more SAR members celebrating their heritage. 

For additional information on SAR, contact David Manchester at, or 892-6830.