Friday, February 25, 2022

Polar Dip participants brave frozen Sebago Lake to benefit 'Feed the Need'

A team from The Windham Eagle newspaper was one of many
groups to dive into Sebago Lake during the Polar Dip event
on Feb. 19 sponsored by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of
Commerce to raise money for 'Feed the Need,' an organization
that assists food pantries in the area. From left are Margo
Burnham, Collette Hayes, Melissa Carter and Marion Duyck.
By Collette Hayes

Adventurous Mainers demonstrated their spirit, courage, and tenacity last Saturday as they jumped into the icy waters of Sebago Lake for “Feed the Need.”

Hosted by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, the 2nd Annual Sebago Lake Polar Dip was held on Sebago Lake near Raymond Beach last Saturday. This year, with 12 teams participating, just under $9,000 has been pledged to benefit local food pantries in Casco, Gray, Naples, New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago, Standish and Windham.

According to Robin Mullins, executive director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, there are still additional donations that have not been received yet. Once all pledges have been turned in, a grand total will be calculated, and this year’s proceeds will be donated to “Feed the Need” which provides support for local food pantries in the area.

“Our biggest fundraising team this year was The Even Keel Committee,” said Mullins. “The team was instrumental in raising $4,000 in donations. Each team member will receive a $40 gift card from Hannaford Supermarket.”

Being accustomed to cold water can be done by swimming in it at least once a week and gradually extending the time in the water and members of the Even Keel team said that they swim in the ocean throughout the year. Some members swim daily in the ocean for at least 10 minutes which is ideal training for the Polar Dip event, they said.

Even Keel Committee Member Peggy Armstrong said that the team took pledges for how long they could stay in the near-freezing 33-degree waters of Sebago Lake. Dressed in colorful costumes, the team kicked off the Polar Dip event by plunging into the lake where ice was carefully removed for the event and for 10 minutes they played a lively game of water basketball.

A foreign exchange student attending Windham High School, Marion Duyck, heard about the Polar Dip earlier this month and decided she wanted to try it.

Duyck, a senior from Thuin, Belgium, said she had never done anything like this before.

“I just wanted to experience what doing something like this is all about,” Duyck said. “There is nothing like this in my country. It was really nice and everyone here at the event on the lake was positive and cheerful. The water we jumped into was pretty cold but it wasn’t all that bad. I’d probably do this again.”

Margo Burnham, one of the family members that manages the Wind in Pines Resort in Raymond said that she would definitely participate again next year.

In 2021, Burnham began participating in ocean dips in the spring and fall with a group of women in Camden. She says that she was drawn to it because it was a fun challenge as well as an opportunity to meet and socialize with friends.

During the winter months, Burnham has dipped a time or two into the chilly ocean waters for about a 10-minute swim which she found to be invigorating and enjoyable.

“I loved the cause for the Polar Dip and when invited by a Windham Eagle staff writer to participate, I was excited to team up and to be a support. It is truly inspiring to see a community of people come together to support a common cause,” said Burnham. “The event was festive and fun having an announcer and a countdown for those jumping. I was completely inspired and awed by The Even Keel Committee team. For novices it made a person aware that it can be manageable to be in very cold water for an extended period of time if an individual finds themselves in that situation.”

Recently Burnham was instrumental in helping to save the driver of an ATV that had plunged through the ice on South Pond. The driver had been submerged in the freezing water for over 10 minutes while he was waiting to be rescued.

“I thought he would be frozen,” said Burnham. “With assistance he climbed out of the water and then was able to walk back to the shoreline. Your body can tolerate cold for a lot longer than I thought, especially if you don’t panic.”

To ensure the safety for those participating in the Polar Dip, emergency medical personnel were on hand from the Raymond Fire and Rescue Department as were divers from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. Volunteer crews directed traffic into the Raymond Beach Boat Launch off Route 302 so participants and their families could park safely.

Mullins said on behalf of the entire Sebago Lakes Region Chamber team she wanted to thank all of those participating in this year’s Polar Dip and all the volunteers for helping make the event so exciting. It was just the second time that the Chamber has hosted the Polar Dip.

She said volunteers were instrumental in setting up the event as well as donating heated trailers to keep those participating warm before and after their scheduled jump. <

2022 Ice Fishing Derby thrills anglers

Caleb Slocum of North Yarmouth caught the largest togue
during the 2022 Sebago Lake and Cumberland County Ice
Fishing Derby last weekend. Slocum's first-place catch
from Sebago Lake weighed in at 15.86 pounds and 
measured 36.5 inches in length. PHOTO BY BRIAN BOYT
By Ed Pierce

A few hours of braving the cold and icy conditions together during the Sebago Lake and Cumberland County Ice Fishing Derby last weekend helped forge new friendships among anglers and created some stories that undoubtably will be shared for a lifetime.

Sponsored by the Sebago Lake Rotary Club, the 21st year of the ice fishing derby was more than just an excuse to get outside for time spent fishing, it also was yet another successful fundraiser for charities and nonprofit organizations that the Rotary Club donates to, including “Feed the Need,” which assists with funding for 13 food pantries in the Lakes Region of Maine.

More than 800 participants tried their luck in fishing holes all over Sebago Lake and fishing ponds across Cumberland County this year in the derby as temperatures across the region dipped into the mid-20s with a light drizzle as the weekend progressed.

“There were fewer fish caught this year as fishermen mentioned the togue out of Sebago seemed to be thinner and fewer biting,” said Cyndy Bell of the Sebago Lake Rotary Club. “But contributions of fish from Sebago and all other lakes and ponds in Cumberland County were still top of mind for fishermen.”

Bell said that derby registrations have dipped about 20 percent for the past few years but attributed that to the fact that 38 other derbies were held in Maine this year on the exact same date.

“The free fishing weekend might have contributed to the increased number of derbies that weekend,” Bell said. 

Nevertheless, fishermen continued to donate their catches which were delivered to Nova Seafood and will be processed and delivered to assist in feeding the homeless and those facing food insecurity. 

Bell said that the exact number and weight of fish donated from the derby was still being compiled, but last year a total of 7,500 pounds of fish was collected, flash-frozen and donated to food pantries in the Greater Portland area.

Tom Noonan, a Sebago Lake Rotary Club member, is credited with coming up with the concept for the Ice Fishing Derby in 2001 in cooperation with the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department. 

Since then, the event has grown substantially to become the Sebago Lake Rotary Club’s largest annual fundraising initiative and has supported hundreds of charities over the past two decades, with more than $1 million donated to local causes since its inception.

“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.

Here’s a list of winners from the 2022 Sebago Lake and Cumberland County Rotary Ice Fishing Derby:

Top Prize winners

Grand Prize winner, Alex Sparks of Saco, Windham PowerSports ATV

50/50 winner, Lisa Thibault, $1,915

5HP Mercury Outboard winner, Alan Rouillard of Buxton 


First place, Caleb Slocum, 15.86 pounds, 36.5 inches

Second place, Jonathan Sarbins, 10.55 pounds, 30.5 inches

Third place, Andrew Dalton, 9.80 pounds, 32 inches


First place, Greg Lachance, 1.54 pounds, 14.5 inches

Second place, Michael Breton, 1.42 pounds, 13.5 inches

Third place, Joseph Libby, 1.36 pounds, 12 5/8 inches


First place, Devin Prue, 3.76 pounds, 25 ¼ inches

Second place, Bob Zutaut, 3.64 pounds, 24 inches

Third place, Brian Boucher, 3.5 pounds, 23 inches


First place, Ben Carlin, 9.48 pounds, 35 inches

Second place, Ben Carlin 8.8 pounds, 34 ¾ inches

Third place, Ben Carlin, 7.38 pounds, 31 inches

Ice Shack

First place, Tim O’Neal

2nd place, Sunset Paul Huchro
3rd place (tie), Dakota Dunphy
3rd place (tie), Becky Grooms <

Friday, February 18, 2022

Windham leads in bid to compete in PBS Quiz Show Tournament

Windham High School's Quiz Show Team is going strong
as they compete academically at the state and national levels.
Members include from left, Bryce Vance (senior); Co-Advisor
English Teacher Nicole Densmore; Co-Advisor Math Teacher
John Ziegler; Al Potter (junior); Victoria Lin (junior);
Will Stuart (sophomore); Rosie Lydon (sophomore); Kaitlyn
Farrin (sophomore); Team Captain Greta Paulding (junior); and
Francesca Lomonte (freshman). Not shown are Xavier Bowman,
Alex Pooler, Browin Dieumegard and Logan Alcott.
By Lorraine Glowczak

While most prepared to watch the showdown between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 13, members of the Windham High School Quiz Show Team were in an intellectual battle of their own, competing against top academic high schools throughout Maine and Massachusetts in a Maine Online Winter Tournament.

Like the Rams, the HSQST came out as top contenders in this virtual competition. The team competed again on Feb. 16 in hopes of qualifying for the popular PBS Quiz Show Tournament this spring and results from that event will be known Feb. 28. 

If they qualify, they will compete against 16 other high school teams with a chance to win $1,000 toward their Project Graduation. Runner-ups will receive $500.

The HSQST also competed two weeks ago in the Nationwide Novice Tournament scoring high against top schools from the Midwest to the East Coast. This high-scoring academic group is a relatively new team to Windham High School and consists of scholarly and trivia-loving students. Members include Greta Paulding (captain), Kaitlyn Farrin (alternate captain), Al Potter, Victoria Lin, Francesca Lomonte, Will Stuart, Rosie Lydon, Ralph Leavitt, Bryce Vance, Xavier Bowman, Alex Pooler, Browin Dieumegard, and Logan Alcott.

“The High School Quiz Show Team was founded here at Windham High School in the fall of 2018,” HSQST co-advisor and math teacher John Ziegler said. “Mr. Caron (WHS Principal) put out a call to see who would be willing to sponsor a team, and I, along with Nicole Densmore took over as co-sponsors.”

The HSQST was only a little over one year strong and hadn’t had the opportunity to compete yet when the pandemic hit. Yet, despite the challenges of online learning, the team continued to meet and compete virtually to strengthen their intellectual prowess, preparing to be the team they are today.

Densmore said the weekly meetings not only offered academic fortitude but contributed to much-needed social connections during a time of isolation.

“Our weekly meetings during the height of the pandemic sustained, entertained, and engaged me intellectually and socially,” co-adviser and English teacher Densmore said. “The team often said the meetings were a highlight of their week, and they were for me. They would stay on a Meet for hours after, talking, connecting, and sharing. Those late Friday afternoon conversations and the purpose they gave staff and students alike provide many sweet memories.”

Densmore and Ziegler state that all HSQST members have made profound intellectual contributions to the team’s success this year, adding that Paulding, Farrin and Lin have consistently placed high in all competitions so far. In Sunday’s tournament, Paulding placed 13th, Lin placed 24th, and Farrin placed 40th, out of 100 teams, each consisting between four to seven members.

For many reasons, the HSQST members have come to be a part of and enjoy participating in this intellectual group. Farrin, who the team relies on for her Greek Mythology, pop culture, and the Bronte Sisters knowledge, shares the story of how she became involved with this group.

“Last year during homecoming week I decided to compete for the Class of 2024 in the trivia competition,” Farrin said. “I was only a freshman at the time. The team consisted of one other girl and me, and we managed to beat all of the upperclassmen. That by itself was super cool, but later in the day, while I was in health class, I got a visit from Mr. Ziegler. He had hosted the earlier competition, but I had no clue who he was - I actually thought he was a guidance counselor. He ended up inviting me to join the team, which consisted mostly of seniors at the time. I was a little nervous before joining the first meeting, but when I did, I had a blast and never looked back.”

All HSQST members believe that their greatest success lies in teamwork and their individual strengths.

“One of the most important teamwork aspects of quiz show is accurately evaluating what everyone's strengths are compared to yours,” Lin said. “If there's a Greek mythology question, I'm more careful to ring in because I know there are others on my team who by far will know more than I will. If it's a physics question I'm more confident because I know I'm most likely going to answer for my team.”

Paulding, who excels in history and literature, said that her strengths come from good memory and a love for learning. “I’m constantly seeking out more topics to learn about. As my team’s captain, I also work to encourage my teammates and help them see their strengths,” she said.

Ziegler concurred with the students' views of teamwork, stating that he and Densmore work well together as co-advisors, acknowledging their individual assets.

“It has been a great combination, with us both bringing different strengths to the table. Nicole is more organized and more supportive, while I’m the more competitive side of the duo.”

Team Captain Paulding applauds the work of the whole team and the co-advisors for their dedication and a job well done.

“I can’t thank my team enough,” she said. “Their astounding knowledge base, support, and sense of humor keep me going through wins and losses. I am privileged to stand by their side. Our coaches, Mr. Ziegler and Ms. Densmore are incredible. Thanks to them, we continued to practice over Zoom last year when other teams stopped meeting altogether. We are so blessed to have such dedicated leaders.”

Densmore notes that the HSQST share lots of laughs and love for all things trivia.

“Ask any HSQST team member about Cleveland, Emu Wars, The Great Molasses Flood, or modern musicals and you'll see what I mean,” she said. “They are very passionate and curious, and they inspire me both in the club setting and in my classroom to go deeper and be more playful with teaching and learning.”

And speaking of trivia, the next time you visit Portland Pie in Windham and answer the “Fun Fact of the Day” correctly, you will have Paulding, who works at the restaurant, to thank as she is the individual who brought the phone trivia competition to her pizza-loving customers. < 

Windham renews contract with Animal Refuge League

The Windham Town Council has
renewed its annual contract with
the Animal Refuge League of 
Greater Portland to provide
shelter services for stray and
lost pets found in the town. 
Windham has contracted with 
ARL since 1990 and the new
Contract runs through the end
of June 2023.
By Ed Pierce

The Windham Town Council has unanimously approved the renewal of a contract for services with the Animal Refuge League for strays and surrendered pets.

During a meeting of council members on Feb. 8, councilors voted to renew the contract from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.

In a memo to the council, Windham Town Manager Barry A. Tibbetts said that councilors needed to review the contract as state statutes  require municipalities to provide shelter at a state- licensed animal control shelter for stray and lost dogs, cats, and domestic pets that are a problem in the community and undomesticated animals that pose a threat to public health or safety, and requires that the municipality also must provide services relating to the humane disposition of said animals in the event they are not claimed by their owners.

Tibbets briefed councilors that the town has contracted with the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland for such services since 1990 and that the rate the town is charged remains unchanged under terms of the new annual contract.

The Animal Refuge League currently collects and reimburses the town a $25 impound fee the first time a pet owner claims a lost animal brought to the shelter by the town animal control officer. A $50 impound fee is imposed for a second offense and a $100 impound fee is charged for repeated housing of lost pets.

In 2021, the Animal Refuge League accepted 102 surrendered pets from Windham, including 79 cats, 18 dogs, four rabbits and a goat. Nine pets were returned to the shelter from Windham after adoption including five cats and four dogs. Some 89 stray animals picked up in Windham were housed at the ARL shelter in 2021, including 68 cats and 21 dogs.

Statistics compiled by the Animal Refuge League show that 131 pets were adopted by residents of Windham in the last year. That includes 89 cats, 34 dogs, two rabbits and six other animals.

The shelter also reported that 26 pets were determined to be dead upon arrival at the Animal Refuge League facility after transport there by a town animal control officer. That figure included 20 deceased cats and six deceased dogs.

From its shelter in Westbrook, the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland provides temporary care and shelter for stray, abandoned, confiscated, and relinquished animals, veterinary services, and places as many pets as possible into responsible and caring homes. It creates awareness and support for the humane treatment of all animals and strives to end animal overpopulation through education and the promotion of spaying and neutering.

In addition to animal care services and adoptions, the Animal Refuge League also offers dog training and hosts humane educations programs through the year.

Animal control services in Windham are administered by the Windham Police Department through an annual budget of $73,104. That amount includes the annual salary for the animal control officer, animal control unforms, equipment and supplies, and the services provided by the shelter. 

Under the terms of the new contract, the town will pay the Animal Refuge League $26,360.64 or about $1.43 per capita for those shelter services.  That amount is based upon the total number of residents of the town as determined by the 2020 census and remains unchanged from the amount charged in the previous annual contract, which expires June 30. <          

Friday, February 11, 2022

WEDC plans role in North Windham infrastructure improvements

The Windham Economic Development Corporation intends
to focus on coordinating upcoming infrastructure improvements
in North Windham over the next five years. The major initiatives
include sewers and road projects for North Windham, shown in
this aerial photo. WEDC will work with property owners and
businesses in addressing concerns and providing information.
By Ed Pierce

The way forward for the Windham Economic Development Corporation over the next five years is crystal clear and that will focus squarely on planned North Windham infrastructure improvements, WEDC officials told the Windham Town Council during a meeting on Tuesday evening.

WEDC Executive Director Tom Bartell and WEDC President Larry Eliason briefed councilors about the organization’s plans for 2022 and the years ahead and much of their work will involve interfacing with property owners and businesses which will be affected by upcoming sewer and road initiatives.

“The sewer project will affect every property and business in North Windham, and we will have to meet one-on-one with each of them,” Bartell said. “It will be a major focus for us over the next four or five years.”           

The mission of the WEDC is to encourage economic growth and development in a manner that supports increased prosperity in Windham and improves the quality of life for all residents and along with a heavy emphasis on coordinating the North Windham infrastructure projects, Bartell told councilors that the organization also hopes to bring new senior affordable housing to the town.

Bartell said that the WEDC has been working on developing a partnership between the Town of Windham, the Westbrook Development Corporation, Age Friendly Windham, and the Windham Economic Development Corporation to provide high-quality, subsidized affordable housing for seniors.

“It’s been since 2005 that an affordable housing project was built in Windham,” Bartell said. “We have a couple of projects in mind.”

About 1,550 units of market rate housing have been built in Windham since the last affordable housing project, Little Falls Landing, nearly 17 years ago. Bartell told the council that Windham’s Comprehensive Plan calls for a level of at least 10 percent of new residential development built or placed during the next decade to be affordable. The WEDC’s goal is to develop up to 200 high-quality, subsidized affordable Senior Housing units in up to four projects in Windham with a projected
completion date of Dec. 31, 2027.

Eliason said that WEDC’s Board of Directors are all volunteers and hope to continue to be a part of the process of Windham’s ongoing business climate and economic growth.

According to Bartell, the Downtown North Windham Modernization Program is a series of public investments leading to a 21st Century Downtown better suited for increased private development supporting the residents and businesses of Windham and the Sebago Lakes Region.

WEDC plans to create a maker space for North Windham and is working on obtaining a Community Development Block Grant to do that. A maker space is a collaborative workspace found located in a public or private facility for making, learning, exploring, and sharing purposes that use evolving technology for budding entrepreneurs. Maker spaces are open to all ages and have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, machines, and soldering irons intended to foster new business growth.

“Upcoming public investments in North Windham are a lot, and we just need to focus on them,” Bartell said.

He said WEDC has been working on bringing more manufacturing to the town in Windham and the WEDC is looking for a large space to be able to conduct meetings in North Windham.    

Along with public investments, WEDC is encouraging private investments in the town, Eliason said.

“We do need additional warehouse space from the commercial side,” he said.

Bartell said WEDC is also hoping to bring more commercial space to Windham through private investment. That could mean more commercial space, hotels, professional offices, apartments, increased manufacturing space and redevelopment of existing space.

The WEDC will host a Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Business Break at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Windham Veterans Center, Bartell said.  <

Maine Education Commissioner pays visit to Windham High School

Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender
Makin visited Windham High School on Feb. 7 to
shine on light on work being done by staff and students
and to call attention to the need for communities to
support schools by volunteering and substituting.
By Lorraine Glowczak

The students and staff at Windham High School hosted a special guest on Monday, Feb. 7, when Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin spent the day with students, educators, and staff as well as teachers and students of the Katahdin Program. 

“We are here today to shine a light on the amazing work being done by the educators, school staff, and students in our public schools and to call attention to the need for communities to support schools by volunteering and substituting,” Makin said.

The commissioner, who was the principal of the REAL (Regional Education Alternative Learning) school from 2003 to 2014, of which RSU 14 participated, began her day at WHS at 10:45 a.m., arriving with homemade baked goods as a gift to staff to show appreciation for their dedication during challenging times. She was welcomed and greeted by Superintendent Christopher Howell, RSU 14 School Board Chair Kate Brix, and WHS Assistant Principal Phil Rossetti, who acted as her host for the day.

“It was an honor to have her visit WHS to shed some light on the great things happening in our school and RSU 14,” Rossetti said. “Being a former colleague of so many in the district, it was nice for her to reconnect with so many of us and to see her interact with students which is something she excels.”

After serving lunch, Commissioner Makin visited art teacher Joe McLaughlin’s classroom. She and the students learned about monochromatic artwork and the detailed instructions to lead the students to their first painting of the spring semester.

Makin’s day at WHS ended with a visit with students and staff at the Katahdin program, which was a ‘coming home’ of sorts for the commissioner. As a former principal of the REAL School (prior to the move to the Katahdin Program), she had an opportunity to catch up with former colleagues. Craig Haims, Director of the Katahdin Program, shared his experiences.

“Working with Pender for many years was fun because she created a space where innovation was not occasional, but rather, was a consistent feature of our shared work,” Haims said. “Spending some time together at Katahdin yesterday was meaningful as the students and staff got to explain to her about the many exciting activities and initiatives that are happening now at the Katahdin Program. It was so fun for us all to reconnect."

Makin said that she is in awe of what is transpiring in all the schools, stating that there are so many bright and positive things occurring that go unnoticed. 

Rossetti agrees with Makin, stating that there are a lot of challenges schools have been facing over the last couple of years and there has been a lot of focus on the many hurdles.

“But when you step away from those challenges, there are a lot of amazing things happening in our schools,” Rossetti said. “To have the commissioner visit to help bring to light the great things that are happening and recognize the amazing work the staff is undertaking is powerful. I hope those considering to support schools by volunteering or substituting will consider joining our team - if only for a day. There are many ways to support education as the commissioner highlighted in her visit.”

On Monday, the commissioner made a case for substitute teaching and volunteering. 

“You get to make your own hours, you have the opportunity to be with the most magnificent young people, and you get to learn so much. Education is a symbiotic process—you can’t help but grow your own brain while you’re helping children learn.”

Makin served as a classroom teacher at Fred C. Wescott Junior High School in Westbrook from 1997 to 2003. As principal at The REAL School, Makin and her team supported high risk students from 28 sending school districts through innovative academic and experiential programming. Makin served as the Assistant Superintendent of the Brunswick School Department starting in 2015.  

She was honored as the 2013-2014 Maine Principal of the Year by the Maine Principal’s Association and has also received the Milken Educator Award, a national distinction bestowed upon educators for exceptional educational talent, exemplary educational accomplishments, and an engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students.

As Maine Education Commissioner, Makin leads the state agency that administers both state education subsidy and state and federal grant programs; coordinates the authoring of the rules for Maine State education statutes passed by the Maine State Legislature; provides professional development, information, supports and resources, as well as a system for educator credentialing; and leads many collaborative opportunities and partnerships in support of local schools and districts.

She grew up in Saco and graduated from Thornton Academy. Makin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and a master’s degree in school leadership from University of Southern Maine and received her teacher certification from the University of New England’s Department of Education in 1996. <

Friday, February 4, 2022

New monument to salute Windham’s Public Safety members

Windham firefighters, emergency medical personnel and 
police officers will be honored with a new monument and
courtyard outside the renovated Public Safety Building on
Gray Road once construction is completed in June. From
left, Windham Fire Chief Brent Libby, Windham Fire Captain
Alfred Carter, Windham Fire-Rescue Office Coordinator
Nancy Graves and Windham Police Captain Ray Williams
show an artist's depiction of the monument.
By Ed Pierce


The courage, integrity and commitment shown by Windham’s public safety members is undeniable and soon these heroes who deliver help when emergencies arise, battle deadly fires, and offer residents of the community around-the-clock protection will soon be recognized in a special way.

There may be no proper way to repay members of Windham’s Fire-Rescue Department and the Windham Police Department for their dedicated service as they risk their health and their lives to keep us all safe, but a new monument to be installed outside Windham’s renovated Public Safety Building this spring will pay tribute to these brave men and women for their continued efforts on behalf of the town.  

This week as police officers and fire department administrators moved from the second floor to the newly renovated first floor of the Windham Public Safety Building at 375 Gray Road, work on the $4.3 million facility expansion project continues while plans were announced to create and install a monument outside the building once work is completed there later this spring.


According to Windham Fire-Rescue Chief Brent Libby, the Public Safety Monument will be a lasting way to recognize the contributions that police officers and firefighters have made to the town.


Libby said that the current Public Safety Building on Gray Road was built in 1988 at a time when none of the town’s firefighters were full-time staff members and Windham only had about 15 or so police officers on duty. Through the decades as Windham has grown, the town now employs four professional firefighters and the town’s police force has doubled in size to 30 officers.


When construction work is finished in June, the existing 17,000-square-foot building will add a 15,247-square foot renovation including joint space for both the Windham Fire Department and the Windham Police Departments.


The project features a two-story 5,840-square-foot addition to the building that will house five apparatus bays, a public safety decontamination space, bunk rooms, kitchen and offices for the Windham Fire Department and an additional 1,305-square-foot standalone three-bay space for vehicle and evidence storage for the Windham Police Department, along with the creation of a second elevator for the building.


In 2020, Windham residents approved up to $4.9 million in bonds during the Annual Town Meeting for capital improvement projects, including funding the expansion for the town’s public safety building.


Once construction at the facility performed by Great Falls Construction of Gorham wraps up, a new Public Safety Monument will be dedicated, and the public will be able to surround the courtyard around it with engraved paver stones offered by members of Windham’s Fire-Rescue Department.


Windham Fire-Rescue Office Coordinator Nancy Graves and Fire-Rescue Captain Alfred Carter are leading that initiative and say that the 8 x 4 paving stones are available for $120 and can include up to 30 characters. Donations for the project from the public are also being sought. 


“We see this as an area of remembrance of those who have served,” Carter said.


No Windham police or firefighters have lost their lives while on duty over the years, but Windham Police Captain Ray Williams said that the new monument will represent the deep level of commitment that public safety personnel have shown over the decades of service to town residents.


“Officers see it as support for their service and support for their sacrifice,” Williams said.   


Police officers first started using the existing Windham Public Safety Building in April 1990 and the renovated facility will be a significant upgrade for the Windham Police Department, Williams said.


Libby said that four Windham firefighters will be on duty at a time at the Public Safety Building and they are grateful to be able to work in the remodeled building thanks to the support of the public for public safety.

He said that the new monument and its surrounding courtyard with paver stones will be a constant reminder of the heritage and memory of all police officers and firefighters through the decades in Windham. The monument also will have space available to place the names of fallen personnel who are serving in the line of duty if such a tragedy takes place.


“Over the course of the years there have been hundreds of residents who have served, and this remembers the hundreds of hours they put in to serve their community,” Libby said.

To purchase a paver stone or to offer a donation for the monument, call Graves or Carter at 207-892-1911. <  

2008 Windham graduate 'fulfills her soul' on Broadway stage

By Lorraine Glowczak

2008 Windham High School graduate Chelsea Williams
is currently performing in the national Broadway tour
of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' across America.
Chelsea Williams lives her dream as an actor, currently performing on a Broadway national tour in the ensemble of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and being an understudy of the Mary Magdalene role.

The 2008 Windham High School (WHS) graduate got her first big break performing in the role of Sophie on the Broadway national tour of “Mamma Mia” in 2013.

However, Williams wasn’t fully aware of what she “planned to do with her one wild and precious life” as poet Mary Oliver famously asked of her readers. But sometime during her late years at WHS, a certain level of clarity swiftly came into view.

“All I ever wanted to do as a child was pretend act, and it was something I continued to do long after the other kids stopped doing it,” Williams said. “Acting was always inside of me, but the thing is – I had major stage fright, so it never really occurred to me to go into this field as a profession.”

Singing is also a passion of Williams. At age 12, she began taking voice lessons and performing in choirs. She was also a member of the WHS’ Windham Chamber Singers.

Williams found that singing was easier than acting because she could hide in the background without the spotlight focusing on her. It wasn’t until she unknowingly challenged herself during her late high school years that the acting bug took hold and began to soar. 

“I auditioned for my first play in high school because my best friend wanted to try out, and I wanted to do it with her,” Williams said. “We both got a role, and that experience was a game-changer for me. From then on, acting was something I knew I wanted to do – and music was, and continues to be, my religion. Both activities fill my soul.”

As with every meaningful life experience, Williams’ path from Windham to New York City took hard work and courage.

Upon graduation from WHS, Williams earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater from Emerson College in Boston in 2012. She remained in Boston, selling pastries at an upscale bakery during the early morning hours and bartending in the evening while performing at local Summer Stock Theaters and other professional theater groups. Although she dreamed of moving to New York City to make her big break, it took confidence and bravery on her part to finally make a move to the Big Apple.

“I was pretty intimidated by the thought of moving to New York,” Williams said. “Between the competition on Broadway and the cost that comes with living there, it seemed like a huge challenge. But I decided to work my tail off to save money; I took deep breaths and small steps toward action.”

For one year, Williams said she would often work her morning shift at the bakery and the evening shift at the bar and then hop on the train to New York for an audition.

“I would often travel on the train from Boston to New York at around midnight, arriving in the city around 5 a.m. and then go stand in line for an audition, returning to Boston that same day.”

Within seven months of repeated long-distance auditions, Williams accepted an offer to perform on a Broadway national tour of “Mamma Mia.” She toured for almost two years, playing Sophie in different cities around the U.S.

“Being selected to tour with “Mamma Mia” was the gift that kept on giving,” Williams said. “It was my first national tour and my first show performing in Las Vegas at the Tropicana. Then, toward the end of my second year with the company, I was asked to be a in the ensemble and understudy for the role of Sophie on Broadway. It was at this point I finally made my move to act and live in New York.”

Williams acknowledges that she had encouragement and support from family, friends, and mentors.

“I feel very fortunate and grateful to be surrounded by so many special people who encouraged me to follow my dream,” Williams said. “I had many mentors growing up that included my coaches, teachers, and theater directors.”

Williams made special mention of theater director John Miele, track coach Jeff Riddle, and musical director Dr. Richard Nickerson as a source of inspiration. She also acknowledges her family.

“When I decided to take theater more seriously, I was made to feel like I deserved it. My parents, grandparents, and mentors believed in me and never told me that I should never go into acting even though it is a risk. I have met a lot of people in the industry that were discouraged from acting because it is not an easy path – there is no stability, no retirement.”

Now that she has “made it,” Williams offers inspiration and encouragement to others to follow their dreams. She recently visited WHS to perform as a special guest with the Windham Chambers Singers at their annual American Family Holiday Tradition (AmFam) this past December.

During her performance at the event, she sang with chamber singer and senior Madelyne Hancock, who starred as Sophie in WHS’ performance of “Mamma Mia” this past fall.

“It was such a privilege to be able to sing with Chelsea during AmFam,” Hancock said. “My excitement built up for quite some time because Dr. Nick shared his idea with me while we were early in the rehearsal process for ‘Mamma Mia.’ The day before AmFam, Chelsea came to rehearse, and we got to listen to her sing, and she sounded amazing. We finally got around to rehearsing our medley of songs from ‘Mamma Mia.’ It was such a unique experience because as a junior, Chelsea played Millie in ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ at the high school and got to perform with Susan Eagen, who played the part on Broadway. Chelsea shared so many interesting stories with us and treated each and every one of us with courtesy. She set a wonderful example for me as both a performer and a person.”

Recently, the WHS choral and chamber singers traveled to Boston to watch Williams perform while the tour stopped in Massachusetts. Hancock said it was nice to see Williams’ performance in a different context. Other students expressed their amazement.

“During AmFam, Chelsea showed us a warmup exercise that the cast of JCS uses to connect with one another before the show. Watching the show, it is obvious how close the cast is to one another,” said Teddy Becker, a WHS junior.

Other students agree.

“Even though it wasn’t a traditional ‘happy’ show, I found it very uplifting. Chelsea was amazing to watch,” said freshman Gabriel Morales.

Freshman Riley Yates was inspired by Williams in several ways and was enthralled by the fact that “she once walked the same hallways that we do.”

Williams offers advice for those who wish to follow their dreams, whether in acting or otherwise. She said she would highly advise those who want to make a career in the arts, which tends to be a profession with little stability, is to arrange and plan their future finances so one can be prepared during the lean times. Also, she advises against comparing yourself with others.

“One important thing I still have to tell myself is life and career do not happen the same way for anyone,” Williams said. “It is easy to look at others who appear more successful than you and try to imitate their path. To compare yourself only robs you of your personal joy and can even hinder progress and success. The more you keep your blinders on – the more you stay your own course, the happier you will be. When I don’t compare myself to others, it empowers me to connect with my friends more deeply and be genuinely happy for their successes. Don’t focus on what you are missing or lacking, instead think of all that you have and what lies ahead.”

“Jesus Christ Superstar” just finished its performances in Providence, Rhode Island, and is heading to Cleveland, Ohio, and will be there until Feb. 22. After that, the tour will continue around the U.S., with the last performances of the season to end on Aug. 7. <