Friday, October 29, 2021

Windham’s annual Trunk or Treat displays creativity, community spirit

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Department's
Disney themed entry was the first-place winner 
for Community Organization trunk during the
annual Trunk or Treat event on Oct. 23 at the 
Windham Mall. Joe Schnupp, Community
Policing Officer, created the trunk for the
sheriff's department. PHOTO BY
By Collette Hayes

More than 220 children, dressed in their hauntingly delightful Halloween costumes, visited Windham’s annual Drive-Thru Trunk or Treat event on Saturday, Oct. 23 and didn’t leave empty handed from the creepy annual event.

As families slowly drove by spooky car trunks loaded with candy, excited children held out bags or plastic pumpkins from car windows to receive pre-packaged treats from trunk hosts.

Trunk or Treat was originally created in 2017 by Windham’s Park and Recreation Department. This year, the Halloween event was cohosted by Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and the owner of the Windham Mall, Jay Wise, who generously provided the use of the mall property where the event was held.

According to Linda Brooks, Windham Parks and Recreation director, six years ago the Department of Parks and Recreation created the Halloween event which has exploded in size and now requires a much larger facility to accommodate more people. The Trunk or Treat aspect of the event was added to efficiently distribute candy to the large numbers attending.

“We were beyond our capacity to serve all of the people,” Brooks said. “We planned to move the event to Windham High School but due to COVID, we offered this as a drive-by event last year. Since the event is held outside, the strict guidelines have lessened. This year we had 26 trunks registered and decorated by businesses, community organizations and families.”

Pre-registration of those attending allows for organization, safety and management of the large number of participants that attend, Brooks said.

“Participants were required to register for a scheduled time slot in order to participate,” Brooks said. “Pre-registration helps so we can run the event in two hours and also to keep a handle on the flow of traffic. We couldn’t do this without the businesses and organizations that help. The Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, the Windham Town Departments and the Windham Mall have been fantastic partners in this. It is well beyond our five-person town department to do this alone.”

Windham Department of Parks and Recreation Youth and Family Coordinator Sarah Davenport said in lieu of an admission fee, donations were collected for the Windham Food Pantry.

All together a total of 1,031 items in non-perishables and cash were collected and donated to the Windham Food Pantry through the Trunk or Treat event.

According to Robin Mullins, Executive Director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, this is the second year they have co-hosted the event with the Windham Parks and Recreation Department and the Windham Mall.

Mullins said she was excited about having 220 children participate in the Trunk or Treat event this year and remarked on how the event brought community organizations closer together.

“It’s great to see the businesses, the nonprofits and the community all working together,” Mullins said. “Yesterday I was in the Chamber office and we had the Windham Police Department, the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber and the Sebago Lakes Rotary all together in my conference room putting bags of candy together for the Trunk or Treat event.”

Joe Schnupp, the Community Policing Officer at Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department, said he was appreciative to the Windham Parks and Recreation Department for hosting the event. He created an impressive Disney themed trunk for the sheriff’s department.

“This is the fourth year that the sheriff’s department has participated,” Shnup said. “This event is all about the kids and I’m happy to have the opportunity to be a part of it. The hosts have done a great job scheduling times so that traffic isn’t an issue.”

Kelsey Crowe, Windham’s Parks and Recreation Department deputy director, said she was impressed with the support of the volunteers that contributed to the success of the event this year.

“We had the Police Department, the Fire Department and the Cumberland Sheriff’s Department all here tonight to support the event,” Crowe said. “Also, the Lions Club judges two different contests for us, The Trunk Contest, where prizes are given to the businesses, the community organizations and Family Trunk Hosts and the Kids Costume Contest.”

First place winners in the Trunk Contest were: The Hart Family’s M&M Trunk, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department’s Disney Themed Trunk; and Willie’s Towing Haunted Tow Truck Trunk. Davenport expressed appreciation to the businesses who generously donated prizes for the trunk hosts: Portland Pie Co. and Smitty’s Cinema.

Submissions for the Parks and Recreation annual costume contest sponsored by Dairy Queen, will be received through Nov. 3. Kids ages 18 and under are invited to participate in the costume contest.

Details for submitting a costume photo can be found on the Parks and Recreation website Parks& <

Raymond’s Jordan-Small Middle School celebrates ‘Tom Gumble Day’

Jordan-Small Middle School seventh-graders Bryce Jarvais,
left, and Zach Gagne thank Groundskeeper Tom Gumble 
after JSMS staff, coaches and the boys' and girls' soccer
and cross country teams honored him on Oct. 25 at the
school for his hard work on the first-ever 'Tom Gumble
By Matt Pascarella

Staff and coaches at Jordan Small Middle School (JSMS) along with students from the boys and girls’ soccer team and cross-country team noticed that Tom Gumble, their groundskeeper for 13 years, wasn’t getting proper recognition and threw him a surprise honoring at JSMS where he was presented with gifts and a plaque stating Oct. 25 was officially “Tom Gumble Day.”
Gumble is not someone you may recognize but has done a lot for the schools in RSU 14, with his main focus being at JSMS and Raymond Elementary School. He’s painted the Windham eagle head on the high school football field and recently painted the Raymond Roadrunner on Jordan-Small’s soccer field.

“The reason you play on such great fields is Mr. Gumble,” said JSMS Athletic Director Jack Fitch. “I feel real fortunate that we have Mr. Gumble here taking care of our facility. You’re awesome.”

Seventh-grader Phinlee Acosta-Afthim said she likes how much effort Gumble puts into making everything so nice. Without him, their school wouldn’t be what it is today. She thanked him for all his hard work and everything he’s done to create a safe and happy environment to play in.

Gumble is originally from Romford, England. He has always loved the outdoors and worked as a fencer and landscaper.

While he and his wife were visiting family in Maine, they were invited to his wife’s nephew’s football practice. Gumble stood on the high school stadium field in 2006 and had a surreal moment. “I don’t know what it was, I was looking around the stadium and was like “I’m going to work here someday,” he said.

When Gumble and his wife moved to Windham, he struggled to find work. He saw an ad for public works and was later contacted by the district facilities department looking for summer help.

Gumble said the rest is history as that summer position became a fulltime one and once Windham and Raymond schools consolidated, he was given the option to be based in Raymond. Though he was hesitant at first, looking back, he said it was the best thing he ever did.

He said it could be easy to say no to a particular task in his job, but Gumble realized he could make a real difference at JSMS.

Anything and everything connected to the grounds from field maintenance to helping an employee clean off their car in the snow, there isn’t much Gumble won’t say ‘yes’ to.

Everyone is appreciative of the time Gumble puts in.

“For soccer games, being able to play on good turf, he’s done a really good job with it. He’s super kind and hard working,” said seventh-grader Zach Gagne. “He’s an amazing guy and is very appreciated for what he does for the schools and it’s such an honor to have him here.”

Cross-country coach John Keller appreciated the work Gumble did for their quarter-mile trail. Gumble made the trail safe to run on.

“It was very root covered and he covered the roots with gravel and crushed stone, that was immense,” said Keller. “Tom works so hard and hasn’t been recognized for it and deserves it. He does the work of three people.”

Eighth-grader Katie Plummer likes that Gumble is a hard worker and nice person.

Gumble sincerely loves the grounds. He said you couldn’t beat the views on the soccer field with the White Mountains in the distance.

He was blown away at the presentation of “Tom Gumble Day.” He said he would forever be indebted to the schools and their employees for doing this.

“I know the coaches, the teachers, we’ve kind of become one big family,” he said.

Gumble said being an immigrant, he tried harder. He realized some of it was circumstance and luck but wanted to tell the kids they are very fortunate to live in a country where if you work hard, you can be anything you want.

He said that he feels a real sense of community and would like to thank RSU 14 for giving him the opportunity to work there, coaches Jim Beers and John Keller, JSMS Principal Randy Crockett, physical education teacher Joni Merrill and all the students, parents and employees of Raymond school system, saying that they’ve all played a part in his success. <

Friday, October 22, 2021

Maine Country Music Hall of Fame inducts local musician Bucky Mitchell

Bucky Mitchell, who is now a booking agent for local venues
such as Lenny's in Westbrook, was inducted into the Maine
Country Music Hall of Fame in April.
By Lorraine Glowczak

Many know and recognize his face at Lenny’s, 1274 Bridgton Road in Westbrook, as he greets and talks with music lovers who arrive early to enjoy their favorite bands. His name is Bucky Mitchell, and he is the gastropub’s booking agent extraordinaire.

But his talent to book best-loved Maine musicians does not stop there – he is also recognized for his highly skilled aptitude as a musician – playing drums in bands that have opened for well-known country artists such as Randy Travis, Emmylou Harris, Porter Waggoner, Freddy Fender, Roy Clark and more, including Maine’s own Dick Curless.

His talent was recognized recently when he was inducted into the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame in August. This isn’t his first rodeo of acknowledgment, however. He was also inducted in the Massachusetts Country Music Hall of fame in 2014.

Mitchell’s story begins at an early age. He was born in Portland in 1951 and has been playing country music since he was 19 where he played drums for a house band, Rick Wells & the Wagon Wheels, at the Wagon Wheel Ranch in Steep Falls in the 1970s. It was this small-town bar experience that catapulted him into the realm of well-known musicians.

“It turns out that the house band also backed up Capitol Records star Dick Curless” Mitchell said. “Dick invited me to go with him to Nashville for a Grand Ole Opry appearance and it was from that experience that I knew music would be my life-time career.”

It wasn’t long after that, in 1972 while playing at the Wagon Wheel Ranch, Mitchell was asked to become part of a touring band. He joined and toured the eastern United States for four years while also booking other bands along the eastern seaboard.

Mitchell helped found and played drums for the band, Rick Robinson and the Bayou Boys. The group recorded two albums and 10 singles for Belmont Records, and was named MCMAA Country Music Band of the Year in 1979 and 1980. It was from the Bayou Boys’ experience that Mitchell got to meet the most famous of Country Music.

 “We opened shows for many big-time country acts including Roy Clark, Hank Snow, Eddie Rabbitt, Porter Waggoner, Johnny Paycheck, Emmylou Harris, and Larry Gatlin,” Mitchell said.

Along the way, Mitchell also got to play drums for many big stars, such as The Hager Twins (from the Hee-Haw fame), Dave Dudley, John Anderson, Big Al Downing, Freddie Fender, Barbara Fairchild, and Kenny Price.

Mitchell shares a story when the band ran into a big-name star of that time, Ernest Tubb.

We were at a hotel playing, and Ernest Tubb was staying at the same hotel,” Mitchell said. “He was on a show with Hank Snow down at the local auditorium. Rick Robinson saw Ernest Tubb strolling around the lobby and went to him and asked if something was wrong. Ernest Tubb had missed his bus to the auditorium, as he told the driver to leave at a certain time no matter who was not there. Rick gave Ernest a ride to the auditorium and Ernest had to put five bucks in the band fund jar for being late for his own show. Ernest Tubb always remembered that ride every time we saw him in Nashville after that.”

Although Mitchell’s life on the road was filled with many adventures and he loved every bit of it, he admits the downsides.

“I would miss my son’s baseball games and a lot of family events. Luckily I had a great supportive family but it wasn’t always easy being away from family all the time.”

For those who wish to go into the music business as a professional, Mitchell offers the following advice:

“You have to put a lot of time practicing on your instrument – about five to seven hours a day. If you don’t have the time or passion to do that – then music will be a hobby for you. And – that’s okay! But if you choose music as a career, it will take a lot of commitment on your part.”

Mitchell is now retired and provides promotions for entertainment venues in the area as a booking agent and entertainment consultant, with Lenny’s being among them. <

Neighbors Helping Neighbors organization preparing for another heating assistance season

Watch for information about Windham Neighbors Helping 
Neighbors online auction which will help provide funds
for heating assistance for local families. If you would like
to donate, go to
 By Ed Pierce

If you ask Bill Diamond what’s been one of the most rewarding feelings that he’s ever experienced, he’ll tell you it’s his association with the Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors program.

Diamond, a state senator representing Windham and former Maine Secretary of State, helped co-found Neighbors Helping Neighbors, which helps area residents in need stay warm during some of the coldest months of the year. He served as the organization’s president for 13 years before deciding to let new leaders steer the group.

But Neighbors Helping Neighbors is a source of pride for Diamond and remains a relevant and viable resource in the community as Windham and Raymond approach another winter heating season.

“The community has become totally supportive, much more so than I ever expected which is evidenced by the routine unsolicited donations we receive throughout the year,” Diamond said.

The program provides one-time emergency heating fuel assistance to Windham residents and helps to direct individuals in need to find appropriate resources and to promote a culture of neighbors helping neighbors in the community.

“The community believes in our cause, and we have become the default local charity when groups or individuals want to donate to a good local cause,” Diamond said. “Hopefully the organization will continue to grow and nurture the solid reputation that has been achieved. I have no doubt that will be the case.”

Windham’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors organization was founded in October 2007 by Diamond, Representative Mark Bryant, and former Representative Gary Plummer. It is a 501c3 non-profit and is made up of Windham volunteers who have come together to provide one-time emergency assistance to those Windham residents who require immediate heating fuel.

Patrick Corey is currently serving as the president of Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

The organization itself has no overhead costs whatsoever and all funding goes directly to helping those in desperate need. Every penny that is donated goes for heating fuel and 100 percent of fundraising efforts are used for the purchase of fuel for those who are in dire need.

Diamond says the organization focuses its resources on those who may have fallen through the cracks and either don’t qualify or are in a bureaucratic process waiting for heating assistance from other agencies.

“The most striking and unforgettable case that we helped involved a single mom with two kids and she had serious physical challenges,” Diamond said. “We heard about her needs, so we visited her home in January and discovered she was totally out of heating fuel and in an effort to keep her family warm, she had placed blankets on the doorways surrounding the kitchen, had a small electric heater and they all slept and lived in that space.”

He said that the family slept closely together at night using their body heat to keep them warm.

“This was happening in our own town, not some poverty-stricken country, and it was heartbreaking to see and realize that the struggle to obtain the basics of survival exist here in Windham and no doubt in other towns as well,” Diamond said. “I’ll never forget the expression on her face when we told her we would provide heating fuel for her family, which we did that day. That experience was my motivating force to make Neighbors a highly respected organization that would exist indefinitely for those in our town that need help.”

The heating assistance can be a lifeline for those struggling to stay warm in winter.

“In many cases, Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors help people heat their homes safely without needing to choose between basic needs like heat, rent, medications and food,” Diamond said.

Recipients receive 100 gallons of fuel, and their need can be attributed to many different circumstances. Some are elderly and living on fixed incomes, others may have lost a job or be out of work and trying to reestablish their lives, while some may just have a temporary emergency situation that requires an immediate solution.

The program is confidential and harkens back to a time when neighbors banded together to pitch in and help their neighbors when it was needed the most.

The Neighbors Helping Neighbors organization lines up deliveries to recipients. It provides heating oil, but assistance also can be rendered for those with KI and propane systems or through Bio-Bricks for homes using wood-burning heat.

During the first year of operations for Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a total of 17 families were helped. By 2014, that number grew to 101 families, and that total has since stabilized at about 75 families locally each winter.

The organization continues to serve the community because of countless donations of labor, hours, ideas and funding through contributions of money and goods from concerned individuals and businesses, Diamond said.

For more details about Neighbors Helping Neighbors, visit or call 207-1336. To make a financial donation to the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program, go to To apply for assistance, go to

Friday, October 15, 2021

Surprise parade, celebration honor Windham veteran on his 90th birthday

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Walter Braley, Jr. turned 90 on
Sunday, Oct. 10 and was treated to a surprise parade outside
his home in Windham and several presentations for his 
birthday. Joining Braley following a VFW presentation are
VFW Commander Willie Goodman, right, and Jeff Cook,
VFW Post 10643 Adjutant. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE   
By Ed Pierce

The late American tennis star Arthur Ashe once described true heroism as the urge to serve others at whatever the cost. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Walter Braley, Jr. of Windham can be considered as one such individual.

On his 90th birthday on Sunday, Oct. 10, Braley’s many friends, family, and neighbors in the Cornerbook subdivision turned out in force to show their love and admiration for the Korean War veteran who admitted being surprised that others would give up their Sunday afternoon to throw him a parade and spend time with him on his special day.

“Honestly, I was shocked they did this,” Braley said. “I was told to sit down here by the road, and I did and then all of a sudden people drive by honking and there are fire trucks with sirens going off. I think it’s great to get to be 90 years old, that’s for sure.”

He was born in Somesville, Maine as the only child of the late Walter Braley Sr., and Eva (Cirard) Braley. When he was 10, his family moved to Scarborough so his parents could work in the shipyard there.

In 1947, Braley, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at the age of 17. He completed basic training at Camp Lejune in North Carolina and then was commissioned for active duty by Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith.

During his time as a Marine, Brayley was stationed at bases in Cuba, California and in Korea. While in Korea he patrolled the DMZ, the no man’s land separating South Korea from its hostile North Korea neighbor.

“I walked across the DMZ before Donald Trump ever did a few years ago when he did so with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un,” Braley said. “I did it first.”

While stationed at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, Braley was asked to pick up a fellow Marine, future county music superstar George Jones, who was just about to launch his recording career.

According to Braley, Jones would go out with his friends when they were on weekend leave and perform songs in exchange for drinks and Braley was among the group Jones came to know.

Years later when Jones was in Maine to perform a concert, he introduced the audience to Braley and asked him where he had been since he last saw him in the 1950s.

“Right here,” Braley said.

Because of an injury he sustained in Korea, Braley eventually was discharged from the Marines at the rank of Sergeant and returned to Maine.

He worked for a veterinarian in Saco and spent most of his adult life working for the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook. Since his retirement, he’s been an active participant in the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion in Windham, and he also volunteers extensively.

Windham VFW Post 10643 Commander Willie Goodman said that Braley’s work on behalf of the VFW is inspiring.

“He’s known as our unofficial recruiter and is constantly bringing new members to our organization,” Goodman said.

When Goodman suggested that the post honor him on his 90th birthday with a surprise drive-by celebration and a photo album recalling his time with the VFW post, the response was overwhelming. 

“We had no shortage of people wanting to do something nice for Walter’s birthday,” Goodman said. “Everyone loves this man.”

Among the special visitors who turned out for the birthday celebration were Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce and Cindy Beaulieu of the Quilts of Honor group.

Joyce presented Brayley with special “Challenge Coins” given to those held in special esteem for free coffee or breakfast at a local restaurant while Beaulieu presented him with a special quilt honoring his military service.

“First we honor you for your service,” Beaulieu told Braley. “Second, freedom is not free, and we thank you for your service. We hope this quilt brings comfort to you as you are forever in our thoughts and in our hearts.”

She said to date Quilts of Honor has made and presented 280,855 quilts to American veterans, including the one given to Braley.

“I just want to say thanks to everyone for coming out here today and recognizing me in this way,” Braley said. “You’ve made me feel appreciated and you can’t ask for more than that in this life. I’m deeply grateful and to all my fellow Marines, I say Semper Fi.”  <   

Raymond could donate land for site of new community middle school

If RSU 14's Board of Directors accepts a proposal from the 
town of Raymond to donate a 45-acre tract near the Windham
town line for a new middle school site, Jordan-Small Middle
School could close and Raymond students would attend a
combined middle school with Windham students when the 
new school is built and opened in 2026.
By Ed Pierce

The lingering issue for RSU 14 about where to locate the site of the new middle school could be a bit clearer following Tuesday night’s meeting of the Raymond Select Board as members voted unanimously to recommend sending students to the new school when it opens in 2026.

Raymond Town Manager Don Willard said that Raymond Select Board members also voted to recommend to the RSU 14 Board of Directors to provide up to 45 acres of town-owned property at no cost for the site of the new school near the border with Windham and on a proposed connector route.     

This gift is contingent upon and subject to a Special Town Meeting approval as a part of the next Board of Selectmen meeting on Nov. 9 and that the property naturally is to be used as the site of the new school,” Willard said.

The Maine Board of Education has greenlighted construction of a new middle school for Windham and RSU 14 is currently in the process of seeking a site to locate the new school.  

The original Windham Middle School was completed in 1977 and was built for a capacity of 483 students.  In the past year, that number has grown to 636 students, with sixth graders being housed for some classes at the adjacent Field Allen School, originally constructed in 1949.

During a Raymond Board of Selectmen meeting in September, RSU 14 Representative Mike McClellan of Raymond briefed select board members that the state has asked if Raymond would join Windham in sending students to the new school.

McClellan said that if Raymond chose not to do this, it is unlikely that the state would eventually approve new middle school construction for Raymond in the future replacing Jordan-Small Middle School, which now has 192 students total and was built in 1960.

RSU 14 Superintendent Christopher Howell also attended that meeting and told Select Board members that the idea of sending Raymond students to the new Windham Middle School was not part of an agenda to close Jordan-Small Middle School. 

Howell said the state is looking to combine smaller schools and renovations for Jordan-Small Middle School will still be included in the RSU budget, but the state will be unlikely to approve funding for any new construction.

Should Raymond residents decide to send its middle school students to the new school, the Jordan-Small Middle School building will revert to ownership of the town.

Over the two nights of the public hearings, there were roughly 30 individuals from the public who attended.  A majority of those who spoke at the meetings were in favor of keeping JSMS open,” Howell said. “The two straw polls that were taken also supported the idea of keeping the building open.”

According to Howell, the Raymond Select Board’s vote is one step in this process and will be considered by the RSU 14 board as they make this decision.

“I anticipate a decision by the RSU board in early November,” Howell said.

The discussion about the fate of Jordan-Small Middle School comes on the heels of the 2020 referendum in the town of Raymond to withdraw from RSU 14. In that vote, Raymond residents rejected withdrawing from RSU 14 to form its own school district with 2,047 voters saying no to the proposal and 1,018 voting to withdraw. It was the second time in five years that Raymond voters formally rejected a measure to withdraw from RSU 14 with the other rejection taking place in 2015.

“Throughout the public hearings, families shared that they liked being part of the RSU.  Additionally, many shared that they liked the small school feel of Jordan-Small,” Howell said. “Throughout that process, the RSU reiterated that there were not any plans to close the building as part of any district restructuring.  The question facing the town of Raymond is about whether they should be part of this opportunity that has been given to the district.  I feel that I can move forward with a decision that is made in either direction.”

He said that if a decision is made by the RSU 14 Board of Directors board to consolidate, the project’s architects will begin the process of programming for a larger school.

“If the decision is made to keep the building open, we will keep moving forward with the plan to complete the revolving renovation upgrades to Jordan-Small Middle School,” Howell said. “Windham Middle School will continue moving forward as a single-town middle school.” <

Friday, October 8, 2021

Second season of ‘Hearts of New England’ series to premiere in Windham

By Ed Pierce

The second-season premiere of the television series 'Hearts of
New England' will debut at Smitty's Theater in Windham at
6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27. Much of the show is filmed in
and around Windham and the Lakes Region.

Creativity has been the calling card of Justin Fortin since he first chose to become an actor and his dream of creating a television drama filmed in Maine using an all-New England cast became a reality in 2018 with the premiere of the first season “Hearts of New England.” Now Fortin is ready to unveil a second season of the show filmed locally and it will debut at a special event at Smitty’s Theater at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27 in Windham.

The series airs on Great Falls TV, which can be found when subscribing to Maine Event Films on You Tube. The first season of “Hearts of New England” drew reviews from critics all over the world for its authenticity and Fortin is aiming to sell the series to a major network once he completes five seasons of filming.

“This series has awesome talent from throughout New England,” Fortin said. “People who watch the second season are going to recognize local businesses and many of their friends and neighbors in the background of scenes.”

A lot of the filming for the second season of “Hearts of New England” was shot at locations around Sebago Lake, including at a number of beaches in both Windham and Raymond, and a scene was also completed at the Windham Barber Shop on Roosevelt Trail.

“Hearts of New England” is created, written, and directed by Fortin and tells the story of a soldier returning home to Maine from serving in a war, only to become embroiled in a war at home as he learns that his father is connected to the mob.

Using local talent, Fortin’s cast has grown from a total of six in the show’s first season to now numbering about 20 to 25 speaking roles for the second season.

Gathering the cast for filming again after the end of the first season proved to a significant challenge for Fortin.

“It’s very hard to film a series because you have to get actors to come back,” he said. “For a feature film or a short film completed in a few weeks that's one thing but getting everyone back for a series is much harder.”

Fortin, who owns Maine Event Films, said a lot of the series cast and production crew was found through local theater groups.

“Many of the actors are people who’ve done theater and community plays before,” he said. “But in filming year-round as we do for this series, a lot of people have jobs and it’s tough to get them during the week. We try to film whenever we can and accommodate their schedules.”

According to Fortin, the second season of “Hearts of New England” is much improved over the first one, which featured 10 installment episodes and last aired original episodes in July 2020.

“This second season is so much better because the cast is in sync having worked with each other for a while now and really knowing their characters,” he said. “The performances for this new season are 10 times better.”

He also said viewers of the second season of the show are in for a major surprise this year.

“We’ll throw a curveball at people and a big finish that people won’t be expecting,” Fortin said. “They won’t expect to see this coming.”

Married and the father of five children, Fortin was born Lewiston and attended high school in Poland. He started acting professionally in 2016 after auditioning and landing a role in the film “Paper City Burnout.”

He works as a manager at Walmart in Windham and films “Hearts of New England” when he can fit it into his busy schedule.

Whatever he’s doing with the show is working. It has been honored as a selection for film and television festivals in 50 different countries and in five different states, including in Reno, Nevada, where the first season of the show was awarded “Best Relationship Drama.”

Fortin and the cast have recently gotten back together and are now filming a third season of the series at locations in Windham and other sites in the Lakes Region.

“The project is 100 percent funded and investment is pretty good,” he said.    

The public is cordially invited to attend the local premiere at Smitty’s on Oct. 27 and many of the actors in the cast from both season one and season two are planning to attend the red-carpet event. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at Event Bright.

“It’s going to be a really good time,” Fortin said. “We’re hoping that many people will come out and support local talent. We feature many people from the area in our filming. There are not many premieres in Maine, so this one is going to be special.” <     

Adopt-A-Family lifts holiday spirits for families in need at Christmas

Volunteers gather prior to the pick-up of gifts for recipient 
families of the 2020 Adopt-A-Family holiday program last
December. Volunteers included Keith Mank, Kaila Mank,
Kelly Mank, Aaron Pieper, Nicole Lewis, Meghan Bisson,
Monica Lewis and Kim MacKaye. This year's Adopt-A-
Family program launches Sunday, Oct. 10. FILE PHOTO  
By Ed Pierce

For the third consecutive year, The Windham Eagle newspaper and the Windham Maine Community Board on Facebook are teaming up to adopt families this holiday season by collecting gifts and bringing smiles on Christmas morning for community members struggling to make ends meet during a difficult time.

The 2021 Adopt-A-Family Program officially launches Sunday, Oct. 10 with applications available for families seeking help this Christmas and those who would like to contribute running through Nov. 12. Adopt-A-Family organizers say they hope to have all families matched by Nov. 14.

“We’re starting a little earlier this year because of shipping times and supply and demand,” said Aaron Pieper of the Windham Maine Community Board. “We’re hoping to do something a little different this year by purchasing wrapping paper for the families so they can wrap their own gifts. Saving some time spent wrapping these gifts means we will be able to help even more families than we have done in the past.”

Pieper said that last Christmas, the Adopt-A-Family Program helped almost 50 local families in need of assistance, and he is expecting to nearly double that figure in 2021.

“We’ve seen significant growth in the few years we’ve done this and each year it seems to double or quadruple,” Pieper said. “This year we hope to brighten the holidays for even more families. There’s certainly more awareness out there about this program in the newspaper, on social media and through word of mouth. We don’t judge anyone. We simply want to be of help to those who need it this year.”

Kelly Mank, publisher of The Windham Eagle, supports the mission of Adopt-A-Family for the community and said she wants to do all she can the make this year’s program a resounding success. 

“Windham and Raymond are positive, kind and caring communities and we are very fortunate to be able to team up with the Windham Maine Community Board on Facebook again this year to match families who wish to help with those families in need this Christmas,” Mank said. “We’re committed to helping in any way we can.”

One of the Adopt-A-Family organizers, Kim MacKaye of Windham, has watched the program grow from 14 families who were assisted during the program’s first year to more than 45 just a year ago.

The most surprising thing for me is how many people want to help. There is always this nervousness about making sure we can complete every application from submission into their homes for the holiday,” MacKaye said. “And every year we have neighbors and businesses excited to make this happen.”

MacKaye said applicants for help are taken in good faith and the program is open to anyone in Windham and Raymond.

“Everybody has a different level of need, and everyone has a different opinion on what that looks like. Finding the balance in this program has been and will continue to be key,” she said. “The one thing I have heard the most from the community about this program is that many people want to see more collaborations like this. People are excited to find ways to give back in untraditional ways.”

According to Pieper, the outpouring of support from the community is not limited to individuals. He said that many local businesses he’s spoken with remain enthusiastic about doing their part to assist with the community initiative.

“Businesses have been very helpful,” he said. “Thanks to their generosity, we hope to be able to give every single family in need brand new haircuts and toothbrushes from dental practices. Local restaurants have also stepped up and have donated gift cards for meals over the holidays. The businesses I’ve spoken with about the program so far this year have been truly excited to help.”

As in years past, Mank said she has volunteered the newspaper offices at 588 Roosevelt Trail to serve as a collection point for gifts and donations.

“We’re happy to join and be a part of such a significant effort in our community,” Mank said. “We’re hoping everyone who is able to help will do so too.” 

Drop-off and pick-up dates for the program have not been set yet but launching the program early will give families wishing to contribute plenty of time to obtain gifts in time for distribution in December, MacKaye said. 

Electronic forms for those seeking assistance this Christmas and for anyone interested in contributing or volunteering to help with the program will be available this Sunday in an announcement on the Windham Maine Community Board on Facebook.

“We are grateful for the community’s help,” Pieper said. “The need is great, and every little bit helps.”

Gift cards and donations for the program may be dropped off at the offices of The Windham Eagle, 588 Roosevelt Trail in Windham, during regular business hours. If contributing a donation by check, make checks payable to The Windham Eagle with “Adopt-A-Family” on the memo line. <

Friday, October 1, 2021

State approves new WMS construction

Large parcels of land for sale, like this location off Hall Road
in Windham may be considered by RSU 14 as potential sites 
for the State Board of Education to purchase for construction
of the new Windham Middle School. RSU 14 hopes to have a
site identified by October 2022 with the new school building
finished by the fall of 2026. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE 

By Ed Pierce

After a careful review of an architectural study of Windham Middle School, the State Board of Education has chosen to move ahead with construction of a new middle school and a search has been launched to identify potential sites for the new educational facility.

RSU 14 is now actively looking for 40-acre parcels of land that are available for purchase and them would recommend to the State Board of Education which one it would prefer to locate the new school. Because it is a state-funded project, the school district will work with the state to negotiate the project fees and a total cost associated with the construction.

The new school is expected to be ready by the start of the 2026-2027 school year, said Christopher Howell, RSU 14 superintendent of schools.

“The district is looking to narrow down potential sites by the end of this year,” Howell said. “The target would give the district ample opportunity to conduct environmental studies on a location. The final straw poll vote on a potential site is tentatively scheduled for October 2022.”

The original Windham Middle School was completed in 1977 and was built for a capacity of 483 students.  In the past year, that number has grown to 636 students, with sixth graders being housed for some classes at the adjacent Field Allen School, originally constructed in 1949. 

In June, the RSU 14 Board of Directors voted 8-0 to approve hiring the Lavallee Brensinger Company of Portland to serve as architects for the project.  

“Lavallee Brensinger, our architect, is completing a review of existing engineering studies that have been completed for the old middle school building,” Howell said. “There appears to be enough documentation at this time to support a new building for the district.”

In choosing a site for the new school, Howell said the school district, in consultation with the civil engineers on the project, will complete a matrix on all potential sites. 

“The matrix will include elements such as traffic, availability of utilities (three-phase power, public water, sewer), environmental impact, proximity to population density, and purchase price of the property,” he said. “Once a site is determined, a public meeting will be held for a straw poll vote. The RSU 14 board will use the recommendation to make a final vote that will be recommended to the State Board of Education. The state will reimburse the district for the property.  The reimbursement will be based on the average of two appraisals on the property.”  

According to Howell, both the architect and the RSU 14’s civil engineer will help the district with the decision matrix, which will be presented to the public for a straw poll. The results of that poll will be reviewed by the RSU 14 board for a final recommendation to the Department of Education.

In addition to the decision matrix, the district will take into consideration the long and short-term costs of siting a building on a location,” Howell said. “This would include costs associated with student transportation, utilities, as well as possible road and infrastructure upgrades that would be required for the project.”

Other determining factors would weigh the impact to the environment, availability of space for athletic fields/parking and in a location near an existing road that can handle the traffic of a large school.

Howell said the most interesting aspect of working on this project so has been the opportunity to work with the state on a building project. 

“The process has allowed us the opportunity to look at programming across the district to ensure that we are covering all aspects of this project,” he said. “The opportunity to visit other recently completed buildings across the state has reinforced how fortunate we are to have this opportunity.”

After several years of being ranked at Number 5 overall among state-approved and subsidized construction projects, RSU 14 learned in March that the project was moving forward.

RSU 14 first applied for the Maine Department of Education’s Major Capital Construction Program in 2016 for funding for construction and was ranked as the fifth-highest priority among 74 proposed school construction projects statewide each year before gaining approval.

“The program is highly competitive as a positive rating in the process can lead to a significant financial savings for school districts,” Howell said. “A majority of construction costs for school projects selected through this program will be covered by the state.”

Once the school district starts to narrow in on potential sites, it will begin work with the architect on the conceptual design of the building.

“This process will include revisiting some visioning work that has been already completed with middle level staff,” Howell said.

The site selection process will be discussed at the Oct. 6 meeting of the RSU 14 Board of Directors and Howell said in the meantime, the public can forward any potential site locations to him at <

Windham High School joins Dempsey Challenge cancer initiative

Actor Patrick Dempsey, the creator of the 'Dempsey
Challenge,' hosted a Zoom meeting on Sept. 24 with 
Windham High School juniors to thank them for
raising the most money of any class for the initiative 
during homecoming week activities at the school. All
told, WHS students raised $1,715 for the program, which
assists cancer patients across the state and virtually.
By Ed Pierce

When done right, a school helps shape the character and the future of students by motivating them to show respect and to care for others. This premise was at the heart of Windham High School’s homecoming initiative in which students aimed to improve the lives of local cancer patients by raising money for the Dempsey Challenge.

Last week, the WHS freshmen, sophomore, junior and senior classes staged a competition to see which one could raise the most to support the annual fundraiser created by Maine native and actor Patrick Dempsey, who tragically lost his mother Amanda to cancer in 2014 and created treatment centers to help others overcome the disease.

According to Philip Rossetti, WHS Assistant Principal, the school chose to participate in the Dempsey Challenge as a homecoming activity to connect with the community.

“In the past we have done a food drive or change wars to support local food pantries. We have several staff and students that have been impacted by cancer and the Dempsey Center has been a great support to many in the RSU community,” Rossetti said. “Rod Nadeau, a counselor in the Katahdin Program, approached us about the opportunity to participate as a school in the Dempsey Challenge. Administration reached out to Pete Small, teacher and coach at WHS, who also helps coordinate homecoming activities to see if this would be a great fit for our school.”

He said that both Nadeau and Small have been active participants for several years in the Dempsey Challenge, which is traditionally held on the last weekend in September and features a separate run and a bike run for participants.

“When looking at the proposed timeline this meshed well with our homecoming events and is an organization that has and continues to support so many within the RSU,” Rossetti said.

Across the state, more than 2,000 individuals took part in the 2021 Dempsey Challenge event which raised a new record of $1.3 million to support cancer centers in Lewiston and South Portland.

That total includes $1,715 raised by Windham High students with the junior class raising $560, the sophomores $475, the freshmen $355, and the seniors $325.

For their winning efforts, members of the WHS junior class participated in surprise Zoom call with Dempsey himself on Friday, Sept. 24.

Dempsey said he was grateful Windham High students agreed to help with the challenge and said he plans on visiting the school soon and thanking the students personally for their efforts to help others. He praised the junior class for raising the most money overall.

“I certainly can’t thank you enough,” Dempsey said. “You’ve set the tone now in the school and it’s such a remarkable thing to want to help those impacted by cancer by saying we support you.”

Students in the junior class told Dempsey that their parents also got involved in the fundraising effort and that boosted them to collecting the most for the Dempsey Challenge during the week of homecoming activities at the school.

“We’re grateful you did that,” Dempsey said. “I’m just part of a very small team at the Dempsey Center and actions like this create stronger vibrations for everybody associated with what we do.”

He said that the Dempsey Center makes life better for people managing the impact of cancer with locations in Lewiston, South Portland, and through a new third virtual location called Dempsey Connects. Dempsey said all services are provided at no cost and include treatment, counseling, consultations, support groups, grief and bereavement sessions, specialized service for youth, massage, reiki and acupuncture.

“As soon as I can work it into my schedule, I’ll be at Windham High School to thank everyone,” Dempsey said. “Doing something like this is the most satisfying thing in the world and we are grateful for the help.” <