Friday, February 26, 2021

Polar Dip plungers plummet into Sebago Lake for 'Feed the Need'

By Ed Pierce

Hannaford employees embrace the icy waters of Sebago Lake
during the Polar Dip event just offshore from Raymond Beach
on Saturday, Feb. 20. Hosted by the Sebago Lakes Region
Chamber of Commerce and the Sebago Lakes Rotary Club, the
event helped raise more than $5,000 for 'Feed the Need,' which
provides funding for food pantries across the Lakes Region.

Plunging into the icy waters of Sebago Lake in February isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, but for some intrepid individuals last weekend, diving into the lake was a moment of fun they simply couldn’t pass up.

Swimmers and a crowd of volunteers gathered on Sebago Lake near Raymond Beach on Saturday for the Polar Dip, hosted by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and the Sebago Lakes Rotary Club. Proceeds from the event raised more than $5,000 to benefit “Feed the Need,” which benefits food pantries in the Sebago Lakes Region in Casco, Gray, Naples, New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago, Standish and Windham. 

Jumping into a large rectangular hole cut into the foot-thick ice and 34-degree water, swimmers took pledges to take the plunge and one team went beyond that and took pledges for how long they could stay in the near-freezing water. 

“Although COVID-19 limited the number of jumpers we could have at this year's Polar Dip, it didn't limit the generosity or the spirit of the people in the Sebago Lakes region,” said Robin Mullins, executive director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. “From the Sebago Lakes Rotary, especially George Bartlett, who partnered with us on this event, to the volunteers who helped set up, to the folks who came to watch, and to the brave souls who took the plunge into the 34-degree Sebago Lake, I say, ‘Thank You’ and I feel so blessed to live and work in such a great region where people come together to help one another.”

This marked the first time that the chamber has hosted the Polar Dip and Mullins said the opportunity to stage a fun outdoor event safely during the pandemic while helping alleviate hunger in the Sebago Lakes Region made it a perfect match for the chamber.

“George Bartlett from Busy Bee Laundry in Windham is a member of the Sebago Lakes Rotary Club and wanted to bring the Polar Dip back as part of the Sebago Lakes Rotary Fishing Derby for 2021, Mullins said. “He approached me and asked if I would help. I quickly jumped at that and asked if proceeds could benefit the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber's Charitable Trust, or what we call ‘Feed The Need.’ Food insecurity in our communities is at an all-time high and the $5,000 the event brought in will go a long way in helping the 11 food pantries in Casco, Gray, Naples, New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago, Standish and Windham.”

Sam Speirs of Portland heard about the Polar Dip event through a friend and said she immediately knew that she wanted to be a jumper.

“I’ve done the Lobster Dip in Old Orchard Beach to help the Special Olympics every year, but that was done virtually this year because of COVID-19,” Speirs said. “For this, I was able to raise about $60 through pledges from my friends and that’s why I’m out here today.”

Bartlett said he was pleased to see so many people show up for a good cause and thanked participants, the chamber and everyone who helped stage the Polar Dip.

“Everything out here today was set up by volunteers and they deserve a lot of gratitude,” he said. “We had a heater for the changing tents for the jumpers donated and the tents themselves were also donated. We also are appreciative for public safety personnel who are out here today standing by to assist if needed.”

Several members of Raymond Fire and Rescue were on hand and wore thermal-insulated wet suits just in case of an emergency. Volunteer crews also directed traffic into the Raymond Beach Boat Launch off Route 302 so participants and their families could park safely.

A group of five women from South Portland calling themselves the “Even Keel Committee” wore colorful Mardi Gras costumes when they took the plunge and despite the chilly temperatures, remained in the water for 10 minutes. Members of the group said they have been swimming in the ocean throughout the winter and that was ideal experience to prepare for the Polar Dip. They actually took in pledges for how long they could stay in the lake during the event.  

Zach Conley of Raymond said he wasn’t expecting to be the final jumper of the event, but as it turned out, he was.

Conley serves as president of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and when asked to be a participant, he politely declined.

“I was asked months ago to jump in the lake, and I told them there’s no way I’m going to do that,” he said. “But they came up with some challenges for me that were hard to say no to, especially when it came to increasing the amount raised to more than $1,000. I received a text message last week that they had surpassed that amount, so here I am. I’ve never really done anything like this before but it’s for a good cause and just a few minutes of my time to help others.”

He bounced in and out of the water wearing a thermal shirt and a bathing suit and afterward said he could sum up his experience in two words.

“Really cold,” Conley said as he dried off. <

‘Greatest Show on Ice’ hooks 2021 Ice Fishing Derby participants

Greg MacIntosh of Nottingham, New Hampshire
displays his winning togue caught during the
2021 Sebago Lake Rotary Ice Fishing Derby.
It weighed 10.78 pounds and was 32 inches
By Ed Pierce

The ‘Greatest Show on Ice’ lived up to its reputation last weekend as more than a thousand fishing enthusiasts from across Maine and points beyond descended upon Sebago Lake and the Lakes Region to try their luck and possibly take home a prize in the 2021 Sebago Lake Rotary Ice Fishing Derby.

Participants braved chilly temperatures on the lake for a chance to take home the grand prize, a 2021 ATV from Windham PowerSports. This year’s derby welcomed a new Gold Sponsor, General Dynamics/BIW and official media sponsor, Channel 8 WMTW | Maine’s CW for 2021, according to Sebago Lakes Rotary Club member Cyndy Bell.

A total of 1,071 fishermen registered to compete in this year’s derby with 2,500 fish weighed and processed during the event. more than e Over 2500 fish were processed during the derby.

Approximately 7,500 pounds of fish from the 2,500-plus collected was delivered to Nova Seafood to be processed, flash frozen and will be delivered to food pantries,” Bell said. 

Sebago Lake Rotary Club member Tom Noonan is credited with coming up with the idea to create the Ice Fishing Derby in 2001 in cooperation with the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department.  Since that time, the event has grown to become the rotary club’s biggest annual fundraising effort and has supported hundreds of charities over the past two decades, accumulating more than $1 million to donate to local causes during that timeframe. 

“Under the leadership of Sebago Lake Rotarian Toby Pennels, the derby gained additional national notoriety as one of only four fishing derbies in the United States to be featured in a television program filmed for the National Geographic Channel that aired in June 2014,” Bell said.

While many families embraced the annual derby as a chance to get outside during the long winter, participants this year also had to adapt to the reality of 2021 as derby requirements followed the CDC’s COVID-19 protocols, including mask wearing and social distancing to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

According to Bell, proceeds raised from the derby will benefit the Salvation Army, food pantries and other Rotary focused charities and this year the club added an ice shack contest and a 50/50 raffle to benefit wildlife conservation programs.

Here’s a list of winners from the 2021Sebago Lake Rotary Ice Fishing Derby:

Top Prize winners

Grand Prize winner, Chris Grant, ATV from Windham PowerSports

50/50 winner, Josh Sparks, $2,055

5HP Mercury Outboard winner, Dan Stanton


First place, Greg MacIntosh, 10.78 pounds, 32 inches

Second place, David Ferris, 8.36 pounds, 29.5 inches

Third place, Rick Laney, 8.35 pounds, 29 ¼ inches


First place, Jacob Burrows, 1.90 pounds, 14 ¼ inches

Second place, Randall Breton, 1.60 pounds, 14.25 inches

Third place, Christopher Cook, 1.56 pounds, 14 inches


First place, Fran Orcutt, 4.98 pounds, 25 ½ inches

Second place, Wayne Roma, 4.71 pounds, 25 7/8 inches

Third place, Glen Sparks, 4.1 pounds, 25 ½ inches


First place, Ben Carlin, 9.44 pounds, 34 ¾ inches

Second place, Ben Carlin 9.24 pounds, 33 inches

Third place, Billy Groton 8.44 pounds, 32 inches <

Raymond and Windham go green with electric vehicles, cutting costs and contributing to energy efficiency

Many municipalities across Maine and beyond, including
the towns of Raymond and Windham, are incorporating
electric vehicles for town employee use. The cost savings
are vast, benefiting taxpayers in more ways than one. Seen
here is the Town of Raymond's new Chevrolet Bolt.
By Lorraine Glowczak

“Electric, steam and internal combustion engines were all in contention as a means to power early automobiles,” said Raymond Town Manager Don Willard, who enjoys historical trivia. “It was the internal combustion engine that became the preferred power source. Can you imagine where we would be today if the electric option had been selected back then and developed for the past 100 plus years?”

Willard’s discovery seems correct. According to the Federal Department of Energy, the first small-scale electric engine was invented in the 1830s, rising to popularity in the early 20th century “accounting for a third of all vehicles on the road” in the United States. But it was the mass production of the Model T Ford that made the gas-powered internal combustion engine more affordable, causing the attraction to the electric car to wane.

Fast forward 100 years and the tide is turning once again. But this time around, the more affordable mode of transportation is the cost-efficient electric vehicle (EV). Many municipalities across Maine and beyond, including the towns of Raymond and Windham, are incorporating the EV for town employee use. The cost savings are vast, benefitting taxpayers in more ways than one.

The Windham Town Council approved a three-year lease of a 2017 Nissan Leaf on April 25, 2017, purchasing the vehicle on July 16, 2020. 

“This was a project identified in the Town’s Energy Plan adopted in May 2011,” said Windham’s Environmental and Sustainability Coordinator Gretchen Anderson. “The Nissan Leaf utilizes a 30-kWh lithium-ion battery with an estimated mile range average just over 106 MPG, dependent on driving style and outdoor temperature.”

Anderson said that the Town of Windham estimates operating savings ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 annually based on an analysis prepared by the Greater Portland Council of Governments at the time of Council approval. “Actual savings fluctuate within that range based on the cost of gasoline and the number of miles driven,” she said.

While Windham has been utilizing the cost savings of an EV since 2017, Raymond has recently purchased their first EV approximately three weeks ago and are looking forward to the same cost savings.

“We purchased a new 2020 Chevrolet Bolt at the first of February,” said Raymond’s Communication Director, Kaela Gonzalez. “The car will be available to all town employees in any department to take trainings or run town related errands thus reducing our mileage reimbursement costs which is done at the Federal rate. The cost to charge the car is estimated to be roughly $500/year according to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”

Gonzalez also said the average gas mileage of Raymond’s current fleet of light vehicles is around 12.5 mpg. “If the Bolt were to be driven 3,300 miles per year replacing our current municipal vehicle miles, we would save enough money on fuel alone to offset the operational costs of the Bolt for the entire year.”

Another positive regarding Raymond’s recent purchase is the resale value down the road.

“We have a saying in Raymond that we seek to achieve revenue neutral solutions when providing services,” Willard said. “The Bolt acquisition will actually be revenue positive for us. We were able to purchase the Bolt at a very low cost due to the rebates offered by Efficiency Maine and incentives offered by Chevrolet,” Willard said. “The original MRSP for the vehicle was $39,895 and after incentives the cost was reduced to $16,562.75. After four to five years the residual value will be between $21,000 to $22,000. The town will thereby recover the initial purchase cost and perhaps $4,500 to $5,000 more in addition to benefiting from transportation cost savings.”

The purchase of an EV is beneficial to the residents of both towns, not only monetarily but in terms of environmental sustainability as well.

In Anderson’s research that is based on EPA’s latest fuel economy and emission rate data, a gasoline vehicle emits more than 5 tons of carbon dioxide per year. “That’s four times as much as carbon emissions as an EV using power from the electric grid,” Anderson said, reflecting on her inquiry. She also said that, overall, driving on electricity in Maine produces the global warming emissions equivalent to a gasoline- powered vehicle that gets 102 miles per gallon.

Additionally, both towns are invested in pursuing other environmentally sustainable projects with the incorporation of LED streetlights and the use of solar panels in Windham.

The Windham Town Council considers sustainability and the environment a priority, with the utilization of an electric vehicle being one of many projects the Town has pursued,” Anderson said. “The Town is reviewing additional alternative energy vehicle procurement through Efficiency Maine and factory rebates.”

Willard and Gonzalez are also grateful for the generous incentive provided by Efficiency Maine and see this as a demonstration project to highlight the viability of electric powered vehicles. The longer-term plan is to turn the after-use sale proceeds of the Bolt into the purchase of an EV pickup truck or SUV for full-time use by the Code Enforcement Officer.

Both towns have an electric car charging station at their respective town halls, and they are open to the public. Along with Windham and Raymond, charging locations can be found on Efficiency Maine’s Charging Station Locator.

If Windham residents are interested in the energy efficiency work being completed in Windham, consider volunteering for the Town’s Energy Advisory Committee. Applications can be found on the town website.

If Raymond residents would like to learn more about electric vehicles and the town’s other energy saving projects, Willard invites them to call his office at 207-655-4742 ext. 131.

“We now are at the Model T stage of the electric car,” Willard said. “And it is only going to improve from here, both economically and environmentally.” <

Lonegan joins Spectrum Orthopaedics – Windham as sports medicine physician

Dr. Christopher Lonegan has joined Spectrum
Orthopaedics-Windham as a primary care
sports physician. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
Sports Medicine physician Christopher Lonegan, DO has joined Spectrum Orthopaedics – Windham as a primary care sports medicine physician. Spectrum Orthopaedics, a division of Spectrum Healthcare Partners, which includes Maine Orthopaedics Center and OA Centers for Orthopaedics, is the leading orthopaedic practice in the state of Maine.

Lonegan, DO, is a board-certified and fellowship-trained sports medicine physician who specializes in the treatment of non-surgical sports-related and other musculoskeletal injuries. He grew up in North Yarmouth, graduated Greely High School, and received his Doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine.

He’s formerly provided professional team coverage for the Connecticut Suns, New England Black Wolves, and Bellator Mixed Martial Arts. He has been affiliated with the Lake Placid Ironman and provided care for Bryant University, Johnson & Wales, Providence College, and the University of Connecticut.

As a Maine native, Lonegan is looking forward to rekindling old relationships and cultivating new ones.

“I joined Spectrum for the opportunity to return to my home state and be involved in the communities and athletics that provided the foundation for my interest in musculoskeletal injuries and medicine itself. I look forward both to working with local sports teams and patients - young and old, athletes and non-athletes,” Lonegan said. “It’s a moving experience to be able to practice as an orthopaedic physician and treat patients in the communities where I grew up actively training and participating in sports. I love Maine and I love Mainers. I simply can't think of a place I'd rather practice.”

The core team at Windham now includes six board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopaedic physicians who bring a broad range of subspecialty care to the community. Collectively, Spectrum Orthopaedics’ comprehensive service offerings provide improved access and convenience to patients.

Their services include:

• Assessment and treatment of all musculoskeletal conditions in children and adults.

• A full range of surgical and nonsurgical treatment options.

• Injury and fracture care to help get patients back to functioning as soon as possible.

• Newly expanded Physical Therapy and Hand Therapy clinics on site.

• OrthoAccess: a walk-in clinic for acute orthopaedic care (no appointment needed).

• Musculoskeletal diagnostics including X-ray, ultrasound, injections, and U/S-based procedures.

Lonegan’s arrival is among many other changes at the Windham practice site. Spectrum Orthopaedics-Windham recently unveiled an expanded physical therapy space and opened OrthoAccess, an orthopaedic walk-in clinic. These new additions will provide greater access to cost-effective orthopaedic care to the Lakes Region area.

The recently enhanced space at 4A Commons Ave. in Windham will better serve patients. The new physical therapy center has state-of-the-art equipment and offers patients more room for exercise and functional movement. For patients that need same-day care, OrthoAccess, an orthopaedic walk-in clinic is onsite and offers immediate assessment and treatment of sprains, strains, minor fractures, dislocations, and other sports and activity-related injuries. No appointment is needed.

All providers in the Windham office are accepting new patients. The office is conveniently located off of Route 302 and can be reached at 207-893-1738 or fax 207-892-2113. The practice site is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. OrthoAccess is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Physical Therapy Center is open Monday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday from 6 a.m. to  4:30 p.m. For more information, please visit

Spectrum is the largest multispecialty, physician-owned group practice serving the state of Maine. The organization consists of 200 physicians practicing in the areas of anesthesiology, orthopaedics, vascular and interventional radiology, pathology, radiology and radiation oncology.

Spectrum Orthopaedics, a division of Spectrum Healthcare Partners, includes Maine Orthopaedics Center and OA Centers for Orthopaedics. Together, the practice offers enhanced accessibility to services, provide more convenience to their patients, and offer subspecialty expert care to all communities. To learn more, visit <


Top female loan officer in Maine for 2020 works for Windham’s Northstar Mortgage Group

By Ed Pierce

Kate DiBiase of Northstar Mortgage
Group in Windham has been recognized
as the top female loan officer in Maine
for 2020 by the real estate data collection 
agency The Warren Group.

Officially ranked as the top female loan officer in Maine for 2020, Kate DiBiase of Northstar Mortgage Group in Windham says it is quite an honor to be recognized as such but prefers being known as someone who tirelessly goes above and beyond to help her clients complete the home financing experience as smoothly as possible.

DiBiase was recently ranked by The Warren Group as the number one female loan officer in the state and said she’s humbled, however it’s not going to change how she approaches her duties one bit.

“I just like helping people,” DiBiase said. “Those going through the process of buying a home can experience such mixed emotions and some nerves along the way. Sometimes I have to help them overcome the anxiety that can occur. But being there for them at the end of the process makes it all worthwhile.”

As a senior loan officer with Northstar, DiBiase helps homebuyers complete mortgage applications and then works with partners to try and find the best possible fit for them.

Originally from Hollis, DiBiase joined Northstar Mortgage Group because of her best friend, Northstar owner Leigh Gagnon. She attended Bonny Eagle High School and graduated from Thornton Academy before going on to earn a degree in business from Husson University.

She’s been with the company for 10 years now and says she’s constantly reviewing changes that can affect her clients.

“You have to stay up to date on guidance changes because they are always evolving.” DiBiase said.

According to DiBiase, her job occupies most of her time.

“It does seem like all I do is work. I’m always on from the time I wake up until when I go to sleep,” she said. “In my job, there is no shutting off.”

All the hard work and long hours pays off for DiBiase though and she believes it’s been the basis for her being ranked as the number one female loan officer in Maine for 2020.

“I’d say I achieved this rank because I’m passionate about what I do,” DiBiase said. “I have a large referral base of people I have helped and based upon their good experience, they tell others and refer them to me. Word of mouth is so important, and I’m blessed that so many people refer me to their friends and family based on what I’ve been able to do for them.”

Gagnon said that DiBiase is well deserving of this recognition.

“Kate is the hardest working person I know,” she said. “What sets her apart is she is passionate about what she does; this isn’t just a job to her. Her clients become friends and are not treated as transactions, they are treated like family.”

DiBiase said that she truly owes thanks to her team, partners, community, friends and family.

“That’s what’s helped me to reach my goals,” she said. I don’t take that for granted.”      

DiBiase lives in Windham with her three dogs and when she’s not working, she enjoys going to spin class, traveling and spending time with family and friends.

Based in Peabody, Massachusetts, The Warren Group is the premier provider of real estate data in the nation’s housing market. For more than 150 years, The Warren Group has been a trusted collector and distributor of regional real estate data. Our comprehensive approach provides accurate and timely real estate sales information updated weekly to help identify new opportunities to expand your bottom line. Warren Group collects and compiles data on real estate sales and ownership. <

Camping World to acquire Lee’s Family Trailer Sales & Service

National recreation dealer Camping World will
acquire Lee Family Trailer Sales and Service of 
Windham and the facility will become the first 
Camping World location in Maine in April.
Camping World Holdings, Inc., America’s recreation dealer, has announced that an agreement has been signed to acquire Lee’s Family Trailer Sales & Service of Windham. 

Company officials say that the acquisition is anticipated to close in April and will become the company’s first location in the state of Maine.  Camping World continues to march toward establishing a recreation dealer platform in all 48 contiguous states.

“It’s our intention with acquisitions like this to complete our goal of operating our recreational dealer platform in all 48 contiguous states,” said Marcus Lemonis, CEO and Chairman of Camping World Holdings.  “This achievement not only creates more convenience for our nearly 5.5 million unique customers but sets the stage for a web centric process to sell both new and used RVs nationwide completely online.”

The company currently has operating RV dealerships, agreements to acquire existing RV dealerships, is under new construction or has land acquisition pending in all 48 states.

The new Maine facility will transition to the Camping World brand with a target open date of mid-April and be the first of at least two locations in the state.  The SuperCenter will include a wide range of new and used RVs from top manufacturers in addition to a full assortment of RV and outdoor products and accessories.

Camping World Holdings, the nation’s largest network of RV and outdoor lifestyle - centric locations, currently owns and operates over 170 SuperCenters nationwide, specializing in RV sales and service, RV parts and accessories, outdoor lifestyle products and its entire portfolio of Good Sam products and services.  From new strategic acquisitions, new store development and facility upgrades, the Company’s network will continue to expand and evolve while serving its customers' outdoor, RV and camping needs.

Lee Family Trailer Sales & Service is owned by Dan Craffey and has been in business since 1984. It is a Sebago Lakes Region fixture at its expansive 480 Roosevelt Trail location in Windham and sold a record 1,000 RVs in 2020, more than triple the 300 RVs sold at the facility in 2017.

RVs are exploding in popularity because they are affordable and perhaps the safest form of travel offered in America today. They can be customized and driven to remote campsite locations or on interstate highways to vacation spots or even visiting out-of-state relatives.

Camping World is always looking for seasoned and professional RV sales associates, technicians, and retail support to assist with locations across the country. Individuals interested in applying for a position may visit <

Friday, February 19, 2021

Windham awaits closing on sale of former South Windham Fire Station

The Windham Town Council has approved the sale of the old
South Windham Fire Station to Great Falls Construction of 
Gorham. Closing for the building is expected to be finalized
by June with plans calling for the structure to be redeveloped
into a brew house and restaurant. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE    
Developers plan brew house, restaurant for vacant structure

By Ed Pierce

At some point this spring, ownership of the South Windham Fire Station will pass to a Gorham company who plan to redevelop the building and convert it into a new brew house and restaurant.

During the Windham Town Council’s final meeting of 2020 on Dec. 22, councilors unanimously voted to sell the old vacant fire station for $125,000 to Great Falls Construction of Gorham, owned by Jon and Cindy Smith. At the same meeting, the council awarded a contract up to $4.3 million to Great Falls Construction to renovate the Windham Police Department building and to construct a new fire station at 375 Gray Road in Windham. Closing for the sale of the old South Main Fire Station is expected by June.

Located at 8 Main Street on Route 202 near the town line with Gorham, the single-story former South Windham Fire Station sits on 0.3 acres along the Presumpscot River. It features 3,500-square feet of space, four bays, with offices and storage areas in the rear of the structure.

When the town council requested bids for the building and property in September, councilors said that the desired outcome was to redevelop the former fire station “into a vibrant commercial and/or mixed-use property that will act as a catalyst in the revitalization of the South Windham Village.”

Before it was decommissioned in 2017, the South Windham Fire Station was one of four fire stations within the Windham Fire-Rescue Department. The original South Windham Fire Department was founded in 1913 and consisted of a house for storing fire hose near what is now the Little Falls Landing Retirement community. A functional hydrant system for firefighters was created using water pumped from Sebago Lake.

By 1934, the South Windham hose house had been upgraded to a larger dedicated fire house using bricks supplied by the men’s reformatory on River Road in Windham and labor from the U.S. government’s Works Progress Administration. Two years later, in 1936, that structure was heavily damaged by a fire and was reconstructed. In 1966, Windham built the four-bay regional fire station that it shared with Gorham for almost five decades before being deemed too small and unsuitable for expansion.

Great Falls Construction was one of two companies bidding to acquire the old fire station and has successfully redeveloped numerous buildings and structures in Maine, including Station Square in Gorham.

During the Dec. 22 meeting, Windham Town Manager Barry A. Tibbetts told the council that the taxes that would accumulate from this parcel would go into a future TIF to be established and those funds will be used for future sidewalks, road improvements, lighting and general upgrading of infrastructure in the South Windham area. Voters had approved a bond financing the Windham Central Fire Station expansion project earlier in 2020.

In its presentation letter to the Windham Town Council, Great Falls Construction officials said the company is currently in the process of developing an 11-acre parcel in the center of Berwick, at the site of the former Prime Tanning Lot now renamed as “The Edge at Berwick” among several others it is working on in the state.

“If successful with the South Windham Fire Station redevelopment proposal, we will seek to create a suitable space for local residents to enjoy that will act as the stimulator for the revitalization of other spaces in this village center,” the presentation letter reads.

The letter goes on to say that “once the construction is complete, our commitment to quality and community fit does not stop. The same values are carried forward with our property management company, JCS Property Management. We currently own and operate over 100 commercial and residential units throughout Southern Maine.”

The Great Falls Construction presentation to Windham town councilors proposed a renovation and update of the old South Windham Fire Station facility to create a family-friendly neighborhood craft brewery and restaurant combination at that site.

“We see this property as the ideal place for families to enjoy dining and gathering while riverside and are confident in a craft brewery/restaurant’s ability to provide local skilled labor and stimulate the surrounding village’s economy to best prepare it for future vibrancy,” the presentation letter reads. “This unique property located along the river creates a pleasing spot and lends itself perfectly for a nice afternoon out to lunch or dinner with family and friends. Our intention is to create a vibrant commercial property that will anchor and stimulate the development of the South Windham Village as it continues to improve as a community orientated, walkable place to gather.”

Details for the Great Falls property redevelopment plan is to connect with the current footpaths to promote continued foot traffic and allow for maximization of parking onsite and along the adjacent street.

“We have considered the changes in design in this COVID-19 world and are confident in the sustainability of the model which includes extensive outdoor seating and garage doors that open for extensive ventilation. We also intend to display the natural beauty of the river by creating ample gazing opportunities whether inside the craft brewery restaurant or out. The river is a treasure we’re excited to responsibly unveil for patrons and community members to enjoy while dining or gathering with family and friends. The public benefit is top of mind as we developed this concept plan as we only succeed if the community accepts and enjoys the space. We are confident in the positive community benefits this local option will create for the South Windham Village,” the presentation reads. <

Mrs. Maine USA 2021 winner exemplifies true determination

Misty Coolidge of New Gloucester has
been named as Mrs. Maine USA 2021
and will represent the state in the national
Mrs. USA Pageant in Omaha, Nebraska


By Ed Pierce

This year's Mrs. Maine USA winner is a familiar face for many couples in the Lakes Region as someone who helped make their wedding day so special. Misty Coolidge of New Gloucester was awarded the 2021 crown on Jan. 25 and will now compete for the national Mrs. USA 2021 title in Omaha, Nebraska in July.
Coolidge, 45, operates two highly successful wedding businesses and venues, Coolidge Family Farm in New Gloucester and Coolidge Chapel in Gray, and a mobile bar company, Maine Mixologists, that travels throughout the state to serve cocktails for weddings and other special events. Through her work, Coolidge has assisted many couples in celebrating the wedding of their dreams through careful planning in a spectacular setting.

She and her husband of seven years, Peter DeBear, are the parents of three children, and believe in giving back to their community through a variety of community activities. Coolidge is a member of her local school board, sits on the GNG Development Corp., started a local Empowering Women's group, and is a volunteer for Good Shepherd Food Bank. 

Her path to winning the title shows determination and willingness to adapt to challenges. Coolidge was born in Waterville, grew up in Norridgewock, and graduated from Skowhegan Area High School. Following graduation from high school, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Pre-Law from what was then Husson College, now Husson University, in Bangor.

“I was planning to attend law school after college and studied for my LSATs on the beach after graduation but life took me into the legal field as a paralegal instead,” Coolidge said. “I worked as an Intellectual Property Paralegal at Preti Flaherty for seven years and then as a Real Estate Paralegal for Dead River Company for 15 years before being laid off. That was the kick start I needed to start my own businesses, be my own boss, raise a family, and put my passion for love into a full-time career.”

Building her businesses wasn’t easy.

“My husband and I purchased the New Gloucester Coolidge Family Farm property about seven years ago,” she said. “It is an 11-acre retired farm venue with a colonial farmhouse that sleeps 10 and an attached barn, both built in 1860. “We restored the house and barn to the beauty it is today. I host approximately 30 intimate and magical wedding experiences there each year and am the partial planner/coordinator for all my couples to help them alleviate any stress they may be carrying. My couples are an extension of my family and every year I'm humbled and honored that they chose me to share in their wedding journey.”

The venue also consists of an adjacent house which Coolidge calls the "Groom's house" that was added four years ago. She and her husband also purchased the land behind the farm two years ago where she designed and had three cottages placed. One is a Honeymoon Cottage that Coolidge runs year-round for not only wedding weekends, but also for other couples wanting a place to escape for a romantic getaway. The other two cottages accommodate parents or overflow bridal party guests.

Three years ago, Coolidge also purchased and painstakingly restored a one-room wedding chapel in Gray that she renamed Coolidge Chapel, that couples use for marriage ceremonies. It also hosts bridal showers, baby showers, networking events, and smaller receptions for under 50 people.

“I'm also a Notary Public and marry a handful of my couples each year and do spontaneous ceremonies on other days of the week elsewhere around the state,” she said. “It's so fun getting a call on a Sunday from a couple visiting Maine that wants to get married as soon as possible. I love love, but spontaneous love is truly special.”

If that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Coolidge also operates Maine Mixologists, a mobile bar service that travels throughout Maine serving cocktails for weddings and other events.

“I've got about 30 bartenders and other serve staff, three company vans, lots of bar rentals, and just purchased and converted a 1994 Chevy Grumman food truck into a mobile bar that I've dubbed my little ‘Whiskey Girl’ since whiskey is by far the most popular spirit these days and my personal fav too,” Coolidge said.

In 2016, Coolidge entered a pageant for the time and placed Second Runner-Up in Mrs. Maine America competition. She won the Spirit Award and the Gown Award and gave her motivation to continue competing.

“I was so inspired by the experience and enjoyed it so much, that I just knew it was going to be the start of my pageantry journey,” she said.

After a year off to have another baby, Coolidge won the 2018 Mrs. Maine International title and advanced to compete in the national pageant that year in West Virginia. In 2019, she competed in New York City for the International Ms. National Pageant title and vied for the 2020 Mrs. Maine America crown once again, and although she didn’t win, she won the pageant’s Community Service Award and Spirit Award for a second time.

Finishing second in a bid for state representative last fall, Coolidge took some time off to refocus her energy and had a hunch 2021 was going to be a big year for her.

“I once again found myself back to researching the USA pageant system and started following their queens, messaging with the director, and learning more and more about their mission,” Coolidge said. “On Jan. 25, I was honored to be crowned your Mrs. Maine USA 2021. I've got so many big dreams and aspirations and am so excited for a year of representing a state that I love so much here and in Omaha in July. Then I plan to ramp up my service countrywide when I bring home the title of Mrs. USA 2021.”

Between now and the national competition in July, Coolidge said that she’ll be working with a pageant coach (the reigning Mrs. Galaxy) to prepare her to compete and acquire the tools she needs to win.

“We'll be Zooming once a month to discuss wardrobe, my platform, perfecting interview techniques and skills, and I'll be focusing on my health and getting fit for the stage,” she said. “I'll also be focusing on my platform which is fighting hunger and food insecurity throughout our state. I'll be spending time volunteering at the Good Shepherd Food Bank, hosting a Quilt Auction in May at my venue for the Margaret Murphy School to credit their account at the Good Shepherd, will be hosting my annual 5K for Hunger in June, and making other appearances for other great causes.”

According to Coolidge, she’s grateful for the support of her husband, her 5-year-old twins, Eva and Caden, and 3-year-old daughter, Grace. She credits her grandmother and her mother for serving as excellent role models in her life.

“My mom is a very talented seamstress and has altered many of my gowns and came to my rescue at my state International pageant when an entire row of sequins came off my gown before going out on stage,” Coolidge said. “She painstakingly hand-sewed them all back on for me. Both women raised me to be a strong, independent woman who has a big heart and a powerhouse personality. My mom has always been an entrepreneur and owned a bridal shop growing up which is most likely where I got my passion for working with brides. I'm honored to have been raised by these amazing women.”

As the reigning Mrs. Maine USA 2021, Coolidge will spend some time making appearances around the state and can be reached by email at and she can be followed on Facebook at Mrs. Maine USA 2021.

For Coolidge, she said that the best part of being involved in a pageant is traveling and meeting other amazing women who inspire her to be better than she was yesterday.

“Afterall, there is only one winner, so the majority of those who compete leave without a crown, but if you enter the pageant with the goal of having fun, presenting your best self, and making lifelong friends, then what you leave with is so rewarding,” she said. “Each pageant experience has been different, but I've grown with each one.” <

Windham clothing drive assists victims of Enso Recovery fire

By Daniel Gray 

Windham area residents donated more
than 15 bags of clothing during an
effort to assist victims who lost
everything in a fire on Jan. 25 at Enso
Recovery in Augusta.

In the last couple of months, there have been quite a few highlights of positive stories in our community and those who’ve lent a helping hand to others. However, sometimes there needs to be stories of loss and heartbreak that turn out to be their own happy stories in the end.

On the evening of Jan. 25 soon after the sun went down, a fire damaged Enso Recovery in Augusta. Partnered with the Maine Association of Recovery Residences (MARR), Enso Recovery is a rehabilitation program to help Mainers who have problems with substance abuse.

The Enso Recovery house is a safe place for people to be, along with having others in the same situation to help each other and lean against. There had been 12 men living there and going through their rehabilitation process, only to have it halted suddenly by the fire. No one was injured in the fire and there is no suspicion of foul play, but the residents on the top floor of the Enso Recovery home tragically lost everything they had.

Brittany Reichmann, the Assistant Program Manager at MARR, instantly sought help from the Windham community. She grew up here and knew the people in town would help her mission as well. Reichmann was also determined to help these men because she knew what it was like to be on the path to a better, sober life.

On Feb. 5, Reichmann reached out to the community and led a clothing drive for the men that lost their possessions in the fire.

According to Reichmann, the response to her appeal for help and the turn-out of those wanting to donate clothing was incredible. Not only did many Windham residents give back, but Enso Recovery also received a large donation from Maine Needs in Portland, an organization that helps Mainers meet their basic needs.

By the end of the collection effort, Reichmann accumulated more than 15 bags of clothing items from the Windham-area community to give to those who had lost items in the fire at Enso Recovery. Not only did people donate lightly used items, but they also donated more than that.

"People who didn’t have things to donate even went out and bought things, it was really something special." Reichmann said.

The people at Enso Recovery and MARR were more than amazed with the swiftness of the Windham and Portland communities in donating so much in such a short amount of time.

Reichmann said she was astounded by the amount of clothing items received, and more than thankful to Windham residents who reached out with their donations.

“If you have the means, whether that is time, physical capabilities, finances, etc., there is always a way to give back,” she said. “Find something you are passionate about and contribute."

Although the collection drive has ended, if anyone still would like to donate to help the victims of the Enso Recovery fire, Reichmann said they can either drop items off at the Augusta Enso Recovery offices or at Maine Needs in Portland.

For further information about Maine Needs, what they are accepting in donations, and what they do to help the communities of Maine, please visit <

Governor nominates Windham attorney to serve on Maine District Court

Attorney Sarah Churchill of Windham
has been nominated by Governor
Janet Mills to serve on the Maine
District Court. COURTESY PHOTO  
AUGUSTA — Maine Gov. Janet Mills has nominated Sarah Churchill of Windham for appointment to the Maine District Court.

Last week, the Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary voted to advance Ms. Churchill’s nomination, which now faces a final confirmation by the Maine State Senate, according to State Sen. Bill Diamond. 

“Sarah is a fantastic nominee to the Maine District Court, who has made her community proud for many years,” said Sen. Diamond. “She is very well qualified for the position, and I’m pleased to support her nomination.”

Churchill completed studies at Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor’s degree in 1999 and graduated cum laude from The University of Maine School of Law in 2002. She has been in private practice for almost 20 years and is an accomplished criminal defense attorney with extensive experience in civil matters, including employment discrimination and personal injury law.

While working for the firm of Nichols & Tucker, PA in Portland, Churchill has also served with a number of professional associations, including the Maine Indigent Legal Services Commission, and is an admired member of the legal community. 

In private practice, Churchill has represented citizens accused of crimes as well as plaintiffs in civil cases ranging from personal injury to civil rights violations. In 2011, she was elected by her peers as the president of the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. In that role, she worked extensively with the legislature and judiciary to improve the quality of Maine’s provision of effective assistance of legal representation for those unable to afford counsel in criminal cases as well as in family law matters.

The Maine District Court consists of 38 judges and is responsible for all matters of family law, with original jurisdiction in non-felony criminal cases, traffic infractions and civil violations. The court also hears foreclosure cases, mental health cases, small claims and other assorted matters, Diamond said.

Appointments to the Maine District Court are for terms of seven years. This court always sits without a jury. <

Recovery during the pandemic; maintaining sobriety during a year of social distancing

By Lorraine Glowczak  

“The effects of the pandemic have been very hard for those of us in recovery, who support each other in maintaining a life free of alcohol and/or drugs,” said Laurie (To honor her privacy, we will only use Laurie’s first name). “Addiction is a disease of isolation. Even if people are around, emotionally you feel alone. For myself, a closet drinker with a definite problem getting sober, desperation led me to a 12-step recovery program.”

Laurie went on to say that it was the love and support of a group of people who accepted her and didn’t judge her missteps that helped her discover and stay on the path of sobriety. Laurie shares her experience about staying sober during a time when public gatherings are prohibited for the safety of all involved.

“There is no one to hug, no one to share meals with, no one to have discussions with, no one to sit and share feelings with.”

According to “Medical News Today”, numerous studies have found that alcohol and drug consumption has increased during the pandemic, and dramatically so for people with depression. With the concerns regarding the increase among those who were not struggling to stay sober, leaders in the field of recovery have become extraordinarily concerned for those experiencing substance use disorder and have taken a closer look at possible increases in accidental overdoses due to the required social isolation.

Gordan Smith, State of Maine’s Director of Opioid Response said that although there have been recent increases in fatal overdoses, studies indicated that the increases began during the final quarter of 2019 before COVID.

“There is something more going on than just the impact of social distancing,” Smith said in an email interview. “Although social distancing likely has had some negative impact, we do not have hard evidence on that point currently and are taking several aggressive actions addressing the increase.”

Cumberland County District Attorney, Jonathan Sahrbeck, who oversees the Rehabilitation and Diversion Program with Coordinator Stephanie Gilbert, states that supportive environments and systems are very beneficial in maintaining a person’s recovery and he suspects social isolation is having a major impact.

“Hard data is very valuable in helping us identify a problem and taking positive action, but the lived experience should not be ignored and is a significant factor to consider,” Sahrbeck said. “It is very clear to me as a result of working with the Rehabilitation and Diversion Program that the loss of support systems can lead to relapse and fatal overdoses.”

Although there is currently no firm data available that points to social isolation and overdose – the “lived experience” of recovery during the pandemic speaks to the challenges. It is for this reason that Laurie, who has been in sobriety for 30 years, is willing to share her story.

“I am a retired nurse who lives alone in a small home I love, in the middle of the woods,” she said. “Luckily, I am an introvert, so when we were told to stay at home, it wasn't too big of a change at first. But it soon became clear that not having contact with others in recovery was becoming difficult. I was used to stopping by the recovery center for a coffee and visit a bit with whoever might be there.”

Laurie said that the isolation was also having a negative impact on her PTSD, with increasing anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.

“Before getting sober, I would use alcohol to calm the effects of a PTSD attack,” she said. “But the people I met in recovery with the addition of a spiritual path helped me when alcohol was no longer an option. At moments during the pandemic when my PTSD became unbearable and I began to find myself becoming more vulnerable to having a drink, it was the people at the recovery center who were there for me and helped me stay on the road of recovery.”

But after the recovery center closed due to the pandemic, a virtual support system was immediately put in place.

“Zoom meetings were set up that were and still are available every day,” Laurie continued. “Different kinds of meetings were developed to meet the needs of as many people as possible including phone calls and texts. I'm incredibly grateful for all of the virtual contacts but I miss seeing someone in person. I have no family in the area, so don't have a "bubble" of safe people. I struggle more with the PTSD.”

Laurie’s two sons reach out to her virtually and they meet on Zoom every few weeks. She also has a rescue dog who she enjoys loving and giving attention, but still the days of recovery during the pandemic continue to be a challenge.

“Sometimes I stand outside and realize I have seen no one for days,” she said. “I've even ordered from Amazon so the mail delivery person would drive her jeep down my driveway with a box and we'd chat a few minutes as she worked. Just that little bit of company is precious. When times are difficult, it would be so easy to go buy some wine, and no one would know. Thank God I know what would happen if I did that! And have friends who have the same fears and loneliness and struggles that support me and others to remain sober.”

For those who may be having the same “lived experience” during this year-long social isolation, Laurie offers these final words.

“For anyone who is feeling isolated and struggling during this time, know that there are people going through similar struggles who care and will be there for you as much as physically possible and that it is the right thing to reach out to either your primary [care physician], a hot line, a recovery center or a trusted friend. We need each other for support now more than ever. Remember you aren't alone......reach out. Someone who cares will be there. We're in this together.” <

Help available

If you find yourself struggling to maintain sobriety, whether during the pandemic or otherwise, there are a number of resources available:

** Maine Crisis Hotline, 1-888-568-1112

** The Intentional Warm Line, 1-866-771-9276

** Portland Recovery Community Center, 207-553-2575,

** Lakes Region Recovery Center, 207-803-8709,

Friday, February 12, 2021

Windham Town Council adopts open space master plan with eye on future

Windham has adopted a new Open Space Master Plan which
will guide the town in identifying high priority properties to
protect or acquire, provide land stewardship guidance, identify
ways to expand connectivity between open space assets and
examine ways to create potential recreational opportunities for
future generations of residents. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE     
By Ed Pierce

After months of development, public input and careful consideration of the town’s future growth and potential needs, Windham town councilors unanimously adopted the new Windham Open Space Master Plan during a meeting on Tuesday evening.

The Open Space Plan will serve as a guide for the town to identify high priority properties to protect or acquire, provide land stewardship guidance for existing open space lands, identify opportunities to expand connectivity between open space assets, neighborhoods, and trails and to outline programs, ordinances, and partners that could be instrumental in securing the future of the identified high priority properties, said Windham Planning Director Amanda Lessard. The plan recognizes that rural character is crucial to Windham’s identity as a community. It takes a proactive stance regarding preserving community character and ensures that Windham’s most cherished open spaces will remain available going forward despite strong residential growth pressures.

Lessard said that the Windham Open Space Master Plan is the culmination of nine months of work and is the town’s first comprehensive look at Windham’s open space network of conservation and recreational assets.

“The consulting team of North Star Planning and Aceto Landscape Architects worked with town staff to gather input from the community, including town committees and various stakeholder groups, to develop conservation and recreational goals to preserve Windham’s rural character and function, protect the environment, and provide diverse and equitable access to recreational opportunities,” Lessard said. “The plan will have long term implications on the Town of Windham as it will guide future decision making as it relates to managing and improving existing properties and locating and acquiring new properties for conservation, playgrounds, sports fields, and trail systems.”

Specific new open space policies contained in the plan create a framework to guide town leadership well into the future.

Some of those policies include acquiring new properties and developing new facilities, evaluation and improvement of existing properties and open-space assets and creation of opportunities to enhance and expand uses and programming at existing open space and recreational facilities in Windham, and to update existing town policies and practices focusing on recreation and open space in Windham. 

The plan recognizes that the Windham community supports acquisition and conservation of properties that provide recreation opportunities, public access to the water, protect significant habitats and water quality, and maintains the rural character of the town. It notes that the town should be prepared and ready to act when opportunities arise to grow the network of open space and recreation properties. It establishes goals of increasing access to water for residents, including lakes, ponds, and rivers; create new points of access for boating and swimming on Windham’s lakes and ponds; develop linked, long-distance trail system; complete the Mountain Division Trail to Westbrook and lead to creation of formal access to the water and along the Presumpscot and Pleasant Rivers for hand-carry boating access and additional trails for fishing and recreation; places an emphasis on large-scale conservation efforts for East Windham and Southern Windham lands; and to develop neighborhood-scale playgrounds and public spaces in underserved areas.

Under the new plan, other goals for Windham include evaluating all existing town properties for potential to contribute to open space and recreational priorities; maximizes the diversity and mix of activities and uses available in each town activity center; formalizes and protects existing open space and recreational assets; create management plans for town properties; and initiate a signage program for Windham park properties and trailheads.

The new Open Space Master Plan does not identify specific properties for acquisition, but rather provides the criteria needed for the town to make smart and strategic decisions when identifying properties that would fulfill the needs of the community. To that end, new goals also include enhanced protections for surface waters and wetlands, especially in the watersheds most at risk of development and for streams and rivers; developing and maintaining open-space partnerships and relationships; educating and incentivizing private property owners to keep lands as undeveloped open space; and reorganizing some town committees and volunteers to clarify their roles and ensure proper support from town staff. Another goal is the purchase of development rights to keep properties in private ownership, most applicable in situations where the land is used for production, like farming, pasture and hay fields, and woodlots. It emphasizes that the town should be working to make all landowners aware of the “current use” tax programs designed to keep lands in their existing, and undeveloped states.

Across Maine, open space planning has evolved into a crucial topic to towns and municipalities as development impacts the environment and strains open space resources in rural areas and major population centers in the state. Effective open space planning preserves valuable natural wetlands and vital wildlife habitat from Maine communities for future generations while helping to formulate policies used to protect environmental corridors and natural ecosystems.

Lessard said the new Open Space Master Plan aligns with the desire of Windham residents and the Windham Town Council to encourage compatible growth in the future by managing aspects of growth and development and provides long term economic benefits by helping the town avoid costly mistakes of misusing available open-space resources. <

Be The Influence Coalition promotes coping skills, positive choices with virtual programming

By Elizabeth Richards

Unable to conduct in-person prevention programs because of COVID-19, the Be The Influence Coalition (BTI) continues working toward its mission of “promoting community collaboration and positive choices in reducing youth substance use” through virtual programming.

COVID-19 has caused problems for kids in terms of engagement and isolation, said BTI Director Laura Morris.  Substance use, anxiety, depression and suicide are on the rise, so the coalition is trying to find youth engagement activities that, although virtual, offer youth ways to express themselves, building skills to counteract the adversity they face, she said.

Be The Influence Coalition is hosting a series of webinars 
for students called Empower ME through September.
A new collaborative dance program with Windham
Parks and Recreation is also launching in February.

"The arts have always been proven to help kids’ self-esteem, emoting, exploration,” Morris said, so they created their Arts in Prevention series. In the fall, BTI worked with students in the Katahdin program at Windham High School, teaching them about Van Gogh and the ways he used color, forms and style to express his feelings, Morris said.  Students created their own art pieces while listening to “Starry, Starry Night” and these pieces were transferred into chalk art outdoors.

In February, the series continues with a dance program facilitated by Karen Montanaro. The program is part of DEA 360 Strategy, which “kicked off in Maine in December 2020 to provide lasting impact in communities by partnering with local government agencies, community organizations, schools, Drug Free Coalitions and law enforcement,” according to a fact sheet from the organization.  The dance program is funded by the DEA Education Foundation.  The dance program curriculum uses the Hip Hop dance style and incorporates messages about positive alternatives to drugs and gang violence, building self-esteem, teamwork and resilience. Eriko Farnsworth, Community Outreach Specialist for DEA 360 said, “We’re really excited to be part of Windham’s Arts in Prevention. It’s such a great concept.”

The Windham Parks & Recreation Department will manage the program.

Windham Parks and Recreation is very committed to being an active member of the BTI coalition, with direct involvement geared toward youth engagement,” said Windham Parks & Recreation Director Linda Brooks.  “We are always open to any collaborative effort presented by the coalition that enhances the lives of our young people and provides them with healthy choices during their time away from school.”

The expansion is welcome.

“The youth dance program is a new type of activity for us to offer, but we are pleased to expand the breadth of our programming with the hope that we can reach more kids. Due to the DEA EF’s grant funding, the program is completely free to participants,” said Sarah Davenport, Youth and Family Coordinator for Windham Parks & Recreation. “The primary goal of the program is to provide youth with opportunities to connect with others, be physically active, and learn new skills while having fun during the after school hours. This is especially important during the pandemic when so many young people are struggling with feeling isolated.”

The dance program will run for 20 sessions, from 3 to 4 p.m. on Mondays & Wednesdays beginning Feb. 22.  Registration is through Windham Parks & Recreation at or by calling 892-1905.

“We are pleased to have been able to put all of the pieces in place in order to provide this unique program to our middle school population,” Brooks said.  She added the department has successfully partnered with Morris and BTI in the past to bring a summer theater program to area youth and are looking forward to offering a similar program this spring. 

In late Spring, BTI will partner with Acorn Productions to co-facilitate a middle school theater seminar series. In the five-week program students will create a monologue and learn improvisational acting skills and techniques for presenting the monologue, Morris said.  The theme will revolve around what students do to cope and what makes them happy, so that the monologues will reflect hope, Morris said.

BTI is also presenting a webinar series for anyone in the community titled EmpowerME. Since the coalition can’t do a lot of the things they’re used to doing, she said, focus group participants were asked what their needs were, Morris said.

“Everybody came back saying we need help just understanding isolation, understanding coping skills, how do we reduce stress, how do we engage,” she said. “We identified the things that people really wanted help with.”

They then partnered with the City of Portland Public Health Department and the Maine Youth Action Network, which is part of the Opportunity Alliance, to develop the series of educational webinars. These webinars are free, presented via Zoom or Google Meets.

Most webinars are from 2 to 3 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month. The February presentation will be on Feb. 24 because of school vacation week.  The series runs through September. Topics include vaping, trauma, art programs, grandparents as caregivers, restorative practices, conversation skills around sensitive topics, and the impact of social media.  

“The hardest part is that we offer them because people need them, but we don’t get huge attendance because people don’t want to be on another screen,” Morris said. She said that they try to keep webinars under an hour, make them interactive and easy to understand, and allow people to walk away with real tools to implement.”

The Feb. 24 webinar, “Not Just Blowing Smoke” will discuss vaping and youth use, vaping products and the chemical components, the adolescent brain and decision making, addiction, marketing tactics the vaping industry uses, and more.  Tips and resources for quitting, making healthy decisions and alternative coping mechanisms will also be offered.

Information on future webinars can be found on the BTI website ( or Facebook page.  Participants can register by emailing Morris at <