Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Do your holiday traditions feel more like obligations? - By Elizabeth Richards

Thanksgiving is upon us, and it’s time to pull out all the old traditions. Or is it? Most people can identify traditions that have been sustained by their families for years around specific holidays. Many of these traditions are beloved, but sometimes, it’s time to take a look at what you do and make some changes. If a tradition has become stressful or you simply aren’t enjoying it any longer, don’t be afraid to say so!

 Thanksgiving is often all about the food. You probably have certain things that just must be on the table, or it simply doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving. Many of these are probably great – but are there some you could do without? 

For me, it was the “green stuff” that showed up on every holiday table. My mother had been making it for years, sending it to extended family gatherings, and every Thanksgiving, there it was. This whipped Jell-O salad with canned fruit was never something I enjoyed. But for years, it was there, and somehow kept ending up on my plate. When I finally had the courage to say “No, thank you,” something funny happened – no one cared! 

When I told my mom I just didn’t care for it, she asked my siblings how they felt. As it turned out, they felt the same way. We haven’t seen the green stuff since. It can be hard to speak up – fear of offending someone, fear of family revolt if you decide not to make your famous sweet potatoes. But just like in my house, the roof won’t cave in if you change the menu up a bit, and just maybe everyone will enjoy a change of pace. 

Maybe your traditions have nothing to do with food. One of the trickiest negotiations is where a holiday will be celebrated. Perhaps you have been going to grandma’s house your entire life, and can’t imagine saying you will be spending the day somewhere else. But when we grow up and start families of our own, suddenly it’s not so simple. It can become a mad dash from one dinner to the next, a crazy juggling act of trying to keep everyone happy. Perhaps it’s time to take a deep breath and ask yourself – tradition aside, where do I want to be?
Once you figure out where and with whom you will celebrate, what does the day look like? Does everyone sit around watching the parade or football? Do you gather around the table to play a board game after dinner? These can be the best traditions of all – the part of the day where you really spend quality time with the ones you love. But what if all that sitting around isn’t what you prefer? Speak up – suggest something new. 

With all the food we eat on Thanksgiving, physical activity is becoming a more important part of the day. Maybe it’s time to start a tradition around getting yourself – and your family – moving. One Westbrook family puts on a 5K on Thanksgiving morning to raise money for high school scholarships. This has grown from a small family event to a large community affair, and is one of my favorite new Thanksgiving traditions. And, it alleviates the guilt of that extra slice of pie! If running isn’t your thing, consider a walk in the woods, a friendly game of kickball or football, or a dance party. 

Whatever your traditions are, take the time to be sure they really work for you. Eliminating the stress of participating in something that just doesn’t work for you is a surefire way to truly enjoy your holidays!

AlliedCook Construction donates their time and provides hope for a Windham couple - By Lorraine Glowczak

John and Linda Gregoire have been counting their blessings every day. The most recent godsend came in the form of a local and well known construction company, AlliedCook Construction. This company donated a week of their time, resources and efforts in October to rebuild Gregoire’s crumbling garage floor. Not only was the garage unsafe, but it had shifted so much that the Gregoires’ “new to them” van could not be driven into their garage because it sits low to the ground. It isn’t every day a large construction company remodels a garage for free, but then, it is not every day one is diagnosed with a devastating disease that robs one of independence.  
“When you are in God’s business, he is in yours,” Linda said, referring to the way things have been going in their life the past nine years. In October, 2007 Linda’s husband, John, was diagnosed with ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. has not let the extreme challenges that go with slowly saying goodbye to walking and talking disempower him. Instead, he uses his experience to help and serve other people living with ALS (PALS). In 2014, he and Linda created the non-profit organization, The Hope-JG Foundation. The organization’s mission is two-fold, “To establish a world class ALS/MS residence in Maine and to inspire and promote innovative technologies.” ( A resource room will be a part of this residence, housing a recording studio which will use the VocaliD platform to record donor voices. This technology produces custom crafted voices for the speech impaired, making communication more human. (

John is now in a wheelchair and uses a voice activated computer to express his thoughts. He and Linda travel all over New England to meet with supporters, PALS and their families to discuss fundraising, grant writing and networking ideas. They also travel to meet with innovators - people or organizations that promote innovative technologies and thinking. Additionally, they travel to Augusta during the legislative session to advocate for issues that affect health care. This extensive travel to advocate, promote hope, and build a home that will provide a meaningful and dignified life for PALS requires a van equipped to transport John and the electric wheelchair. Unfortunately, their “new” 2010 wheel-chair accessible van could not be driven into the garage. The garage is where the lift is located and is what John uses to get in and out of his home. Parking outside the garage works well in the summer, but the pending snow and ice this winter were concerns of the Gregoire family. However, keeping thoughts positive, they decided to make the best of it. After all, money is not easily had when there are other important costs associated with the medical expenses of having ALS. This is where AlliedCook Construction came into their life.

It all began with the preparation of a fundraising event for The Hope-JG Foundation that will occur in early spring 2017. John and Linda had been communicating with Saint Joseph’s College president Jim Dlugos regarding a space provided by the school for a public viewing of the film “Hope on the Horizon.” The film is about four individuals who hike the 48 highest peaks in the White Mountains in 24 days to raise awareness and funding for ALS. During the emails back and forth about this fundraising effort, Dlugos became aware of the garage disrepair. Concerned, president Dlugos visited the Gregoires and spoke to them about having the space renovated. “You do so much for others, you also need to think about your needs and let others help you,” is what the Gregoires recalled Dlugos telling them. Soon after that conversation, Dlugos was in a meeting with Matt Cook of AlliedCook Construction discussing projects at the college. During this meeting Dlugos approached Cook, asking him if he could assess the repairs of Gregoires’ garage.

A couple days later, Cook visited John and Linda. “It was a small project that made a huge impact,” Cook stated. “There was no way I would leave without helping John and Linda.”
Cook was very impressed with the collaborative efforts of the other companies he reached out to and who also gave their resources for this project. These companies included Bob Grondin of R.J. Grondin, Inc., Jason Robinson of Dayton Sand & Gravel as well as Auburn Concrete. 

“It’s nice to give back to a community that supports you,” Cook continued, referring to the success of his Scarborough based 58-year-old company founded by his grandfather.   

It only took five days to restore the garage. During the re-construction, a big hollow hole underneath the cement where water had washed the ground away was discovered immediately following the removal of the floor. Needless to say, this made the garage a hazardous place to drive, walk or use a wheelchair. In fact, the lift itself was sitting on hollow ground.

John now has a safe and ice free way to get in and out of his vehicle and into his home. To celebrate
their labor and efforts, soup was prepared on the final day by Linda and shared with the three crew members who worked diligently all week. The crew consisted of Mark Blunden, Chris Monahan and Rick Dow. 

“This project was such a blessing to keep me safe and under cover as winter approaches. The Hope-JG Foundation work keeps us active. Being able to run out to a meeting, without navigating the crumbling garage floor to get to a cold van parked outside, is huge. We can’t thank Matt Cook, President Dlugos, and the team Matt gathered, enough,” John said, expressing his gratitude.

In a world filled with chaos, sadness and anger; the selflessness and compassion of a few individuals in a small town community is a reminder to never give up on hope. 

For more information about The Hope-JG Foundation, to make a donation, to support an innovator or to volunteer your services, please contact John and Linda at

Friday, November 18, 2016

Community packs Veteran Center to celebrate local service members - By Michelle Libby

The Windham Veterans Center was standing room only on Friday, November 11, Veteran’s Day. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10643 hosted the event to recognize service men and women from around the world and in the local area.

“Fewer than 10 percent of Americans can claim the title Veteran. Far less than 1 percent of our US population is currently defending our Nation,” they said on the program for the event. The audience full of veterans was flanked by the Windham Chamber Singers and Boy Scout Troop 805, who participated in the ceremony. The Chamber Singers sung the National Anthem and the Boy Scouts presented the flags. 

“Veterans Day is an important day when the country honors all the military who wore the uniform. This is a great day when the veterans and the community come together and we are thankful we live in an area where we get so much community support for our event,” said Windham VFW post commander Willie Goodman. 

The keynote speaker was 88-year-old Korean War Veteran Jerry Black. He celebrated his 61st wedding anniversary this year with his wife Mildred. His life story is worthy of more than a few lines in a speech, but he did his best to give the audience a flavor of his adventurous and exciting life.
Some of the highlights started with his Scout leader being drafted, thus ending his Scouting career. 
Everything was recycled for the war effort and everyone scoured the countryside for items that could be used. He went barefoot for four years because his family couldn’t afford shoes. He saved his metal toothpaste tubes to recycle for a new one, the old one going toward the war effort. Victory Gardens were important in war time. People put them in their front yards. With no driver’s license, he purchased a red, model T fire engine. 

“I saw Mrs. Pratt (after Mr. Pratt had passed away) and told her, ‘for $35 I could take that home tomorrow’.” She agreed and he paid cash for it. He still owns the engine, but it is now at the Owls Head Transportation Museum. He used the engine along with five of his buddies to help put out 47 fires. Every time the bell rang, they ran for the engine. 

He joined the Navy out of high school and was put on ship number 821, the USS Johnston out of Rhode Island. He chose the Navy because, “I’ll have a warm bunk, hot meal and floating all over the ocean,” he told the crowd. He got license plates for all of his cars, RV, trailer and motorcycle with the number 821. He told his wife he used that number because it was the date they were married.
He took an Honor Flight last July. “I’m just a little guy from Maine, putting a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” he said. 

His wonder at the world and his down to earth attitude brought many to tears. He was given an Eagle head cane for his service by Norm Devonshire from Distinctive Carvings. He carved the cane as a part of an ongoing program by Maine Woodcarvers. 

Devonshire also carved the Fallen Warrior Memorial also called the Soldier’s Cross. The wooden statue took 250 hours over 2 years to carve. He came down with cancer while working on it, he said. “It was something I wanted to do for several years.”  
Bill Diamond, Jerry Black and Willie Goodman

Community members came to honor the veterans. “It’s important for me to stay in touch with the veterans,” said Sue Plourde, who worked for Hannaford for 30 years and did a lot of work as they were building the center. 

Milo Jackson came from Limington. He was honoring his family members who were in the military. He purchased pavers for some of them, which were dedicated at the ceremony on Friday. “It’s kind of nice they do this for people,” Jackson said. 

Windham High School senior James Manette was announced as the winner of the Voice of Democracy contest. His speech was moving and inspirational. He is hoping to attend the US Air Force Academy in the fall. He attended a summer academy there where he started to learn about military ethics. 

“No one gets left behind. You are part of something bigger than yourself,” he quoted from his essay.
The veterans wanted to thank KFC for the donation of 400 pieces of chicken, Buck’s Naked BBQ for the potato salad and cole slaw, Sam’s Club and BJ’s for the donation of cups and plates and Sam’s Club for the cake. Kelly and Richard Sebeftyen donated Kettle Korn and Kanaan LaPierre from Westbrook donated special desserts.

Kiss Me Kate, lighthearted play within a play - By Michelle Libby

There’s only one week left to see the hilarious, touching story of Kiss Me Kate on stage at the Windham Performing Arts Center at Windham High School. The talented cast shows their range with this play within a play about a leading man who is reunited with his ex-wife. They are cast opposite one another in a play “The Taming of the Shrew.” The scenes bounce back and forth between on and off stage in the fun musical that takes place in Baltimore. “Throw a number of cases of mistaken identity, some gangsters, and additional romantic entanglements into the mix and you get Kiss Me Kate!” according to the playbill. 

With so many story lines going on, the play is rather long, but entertaining nonetheless with its toe tapping songs and cute romantic story.  

Ellie Joseph is outstanding as Lilli/Kate, the ex-wife/diva, who is not willing to settle for traditional wifely roles. She belts out songs like “I Hate Men” and “I Am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple.” 

Will Wheaton made the roll of Fred/Petruchio his own, staying in character even when he wasn’t in the spotlight. He made the audience root for him and we hoped that eventually he would win the girl in the end. (SPOILER: He does.) 

Other stand outs were Celine Baker in the role of Lois singing “Always True To You In My Fashion.” Hanna Griffin also did a great job leading the ensemble in “Too Darn Hot”. And the comedic timing of Hannah Brackett and Caleb MacDonald with their gangster accents was spot on, keeping the audience laughing though out the show. 

The hair, make up and costumes were perfect for the time period and the actors that had to change costumes between the Shakespearean play and the modern day did so effortlessly and in character. This was not a one costume per person performance. The costumer was Weslie Evans and the assistant was Pat Hutchinson. 

The show was directed by Rob Juergens with the music director Richard Nickerson and choreographer Vanessa Beyland. 

With three more shows this Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., don’t miss a chance for a fun evening out. For reservations, call 207-893-1742 or email However, reservations are not required.

Pit Band